Leaving the life of software technology behind, Hoang Hai, Head of Strategy & Transformation Office (STO) at AIA Vietnam, is now thriving in the business management consulting field.
Bringing with him more than 10 years of experience in the insurance industry, Hoang Hai is leading a team of strategists that specializes in finding solutions to industry problems and proposing innovative solutions to improve business performance. Their work contributes tremendously to the great cause of the organization — ensuring AIA’s leading position in Vietnam.
On the occasion of its 21st anniversary in the country, we talked with AIA Vietnam’s very own strategist, Hoang Hai, to find out more about strategies and transformations here in the company.
How is digital technology transforming the insurance industry?
I used to believe that with a “dinosaur industry” like insurance, where the focus is primarily on sales and deep-rooted processes, technology would only play the role of an enabler factor.
But not at AIA Vietnam, where technology has always been recognized as our competitive advantage, rather than just a simple tool. By the time I started working here in 2013, AIA Vietnam had already implemented the first technological additions, such as iPOS or interactive Point of Sale.
With the help of iPOS, the insurance transaction procedure is fully digitized, which helps reduce our agencies’ workloads extensively. Besides iPOS, MyAIA, our online customer service channel, offers easy and timely assistance. Customers no longer have to visit our service centers to get stuff done. All the boring, complicated paperwork is now just a few clicks away.
On top of that, thanks to technology, communication among our departments have become way more consistent and connected. Technology, in my opinion, does not only improve competency but also emerges as a revolutionary force that shifts the same-old operating patterns of the insurance industry.
What role does the Strategy & Transformation Office play at AIA Vietnam?
STO’s predecessor was the Business Strategy Department, which aims to plan and develop strategies to help AIA Vietnam retain its leading position in the domestic market. To do this, the team must be fully aware of the company’s potential, of the business environment. In order to execute our organization’s vision, this department should also stay sensitive and adaptive to changes in the market, be able to strategize, and evaluate new ideas, business models.
As of 2020, the Business Strategy Department at AIA Vietnam officially “upgraded” with a new function called Transformation Office, or STO. With this new addition, this department is now in charge of planning AIA Vietnam’s total transformation roadmap with an emphasis on digital transformation — TDA (Technology, Digital & Analytics), which promotes and ensures progress implementation and final result.
What is your scope of work as an STO specialist?
Personally, I think the proportion would be 60% of strategy and 40% of transformation.
Here at AIA Vietnam, there’s plenty of departments and teams, with young and dynamic troops that constantly come up with many ideas and initiatives. With that pool of ideas, we then have to decide which one would be implemented, if they are aligned with our vision, or if they need to be improved.
To aid departments in executing those initiatives, what strategists would do is utilizing their knowledge and experience of the market, of the organization’s operation approach, of new technology trends, and the team's ability.
In terms of transformation, my team and I would collaborate closely with each department to identify their transformation goals, figure out how the department would be transformed at each phase; what are their KPI targets in three months, six months, one or two years, would be; and what exactly they need to do in order to achieve their goals.
Could you share some successful strategies and solutions carried out by STO so far?
Although our team is made up of a humble number of members, I feel very proud of what we have accomplished up to now.
The cashless collection idea, for instance, allows AIA Vietnam to give its clients a variety of payment methods other than cash, such as cards, QR codes, or Payoo. This is a huge improvement for the company’s operating process and customer experience, especially in major cities.
Another wonderful extension to AIA Vietnam's operations is Case360, a case management software solution that helps you manage complex business processes to minimize time and paperwork. Thanks to this initiative, the entire process is fully digitalized, with clear procedures and specific KPIs, and can be monitored easily end to end in order to ensure our consumers get the most seamless experience.
Additionally, STO believes that it is necessary to focus on developing new business models to suit the needs of customers in major cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. That is why AIA Vietnam concentrates on promoting life insurance channels through banks (Bancassurance), new professional agency models such as NEST by AIA and Exchange.
What does it take to be efficient in strategy and transformation?
In a nutshell, STO is a fairly diverse department. Whenever Human Resources asks what kind of candidates we're looking for, I simply say, "I need someone who can do anything."
I’m not too concerned about a candidate’s training background as I believe the more diverse one’s experience is, the more capable they are. Someone who is only familiar with business or operations will face quite a lot of difficulties when it comes to financing. They are unlikely to see things from a certain perspective — how their outputs affect other departments and how to optimize inter-departmental processes.
Therefore, I’d appreciate and would want to have in my team open-minded individuals and critical thinkers, who are aware of the role each element plays in this organization in order to carry out appropriate strategies. On top of that, they should always remain hungry for knowledge and keep their learning curve steep.
How is the transformation going at AIA Vietnam and what role does STO play in it?
AIA Vietnam, along with 17 other global markets, is undergoing a transformation journey known as TDA (Technology, Digital & Analytics). Furthermore, AIA Vietnam is one of the two pilot markets for the “Organization of the Future”. These two transformational procedures are inextricably linked.
When it comes to transformation, most companies will prefer to concentrate on gradually updating small parts of their system. However, in the case of an ambitious organization like AIA Vietnam, this phase is taking place in every department at the same time. If we want to achieve our ultimate objective, we must take large-scale actions, gather and evaluate results, learn from experiences, and move on to the next steps at a rapid pace.
Moreover, without the “Organization of the Future” which Ai Lien Tran our Chief Human Resources Officer has previously discussed, our personnel won’t be able to catch up and work effectively as a whole, wasting the precious time needed to achieve our objectives.
During the transformation, our team has been supporting AIA Vietnam's employees in the following areas:
- Raising awareness about the transformation: by clarifying the route we're taking and the destination we need to reach, we work together to map out a transforming path and set down the necessary building blocks.
- Setting KPI targets: so each employee understands what they need to do, and have a reference for their responsibilities throughout the transformation.
- Providing support with resources and platforms: STO offers assistance to help determine the resources they need, which can be finance, human resources, processes, tools, and so on, to execute the targets they have set out.
What are AIA Vietnam’s transformation goals this year?
In addition to sustaining a high annual growth rate, this year AIA Vietnam will concentrate on laying the groundwork for transformation, testing new operating models, and implementing new technologies and applications such as Cloud computing. We’re also working on automating business processes, like STP (Straight-through processing), to shorten insurance transaction procedures, from a few days to a few minutes, or even immediately. So, 2021 is definitely a pivotal year in which we focus on creating a solid foundation to "unlock" new growth potentials.
Furthermore, AIA Vietnam is now putting more emphasis on Advanced Analytics than ever before. We previously tested Analytics on Bancassurance, and this year we will continue to run a few use cases to ensure that we completely understand it before applying it in other areas of our company.
I believe that Analytics can open a new opportunity to “re-invent” a business model while boosting competency, performance, and growth speed as well.
Do you have any specific numbers to estimate the value of this transformation?
To be honest, AIA Vietnam has set very ambitious goals for itself. Besides business financial metrics, AIA Vietnam also focuses on customer experience. After over 20 years in the industry, AIA Vietnam now serves over one million customers. However, in the next three to five years, we hope to increase this figure to five million!
What is the most challenging and the most wonderful thing about this transformation?
Well, it is the early success of the transformation that always amazes and inspires me. And it is even more interesting to be able to see the different sides of people you’re working with. I find it quite surprising to see some colleagues who appear to be very conservative and conventional on the surface but are actually quite adaptable and open to changes.
As for the challenges, I think the toughest one is changing one’s mind — to convince a group of people to change the way they have worked for 20 years, which is still effective to some extent, is extremely difficult. What works for me is to show them that you’re there every step of the way, through the ups and downs, to change with them, and to show them the accomplishments they have made during the process.
In the next three to five years, what technologies are predicted to be widely adopted in the insurance industry, as well as in AIA Vietnam?
The first thing will be cloud computing. Insurance is a distinctive industry, so when we move all data and processing platforms to the cloud, we can operate more efficiently.
Robotic processing will be another addition. In reality, insurance is heavily reliant on business processes. Using robots to replace certain stages would enable humans to concentrate on what is most critical and achieve the best results.
And of course, AI — the "holy grail" of the life insurance industry. In recent years, AIA Vietnam has had initial success in applying AI to insurance payments, with an accuracy of up to 95%. I’m confident that in the future, AI will be applied to even more aspects.
Last but not the least, there is a technology that is not immediately applicable yet has great potential for the insurance industry, which is blockchain. This technology can effectively collect information, helps process contracts or insurance payments quickly, as well as build more diverse customer care services.
This article is adapted by L A M