According to Vuong Thi Minh An, Senior Director and Head of Aon Reinsurance Solutions in Vietnam, a great insurance leader has the skills of listening and imparting appreciation as well adding value as a habit.
REFLECTING ON LEADERSHIP
‘I’ve come to realise over the years that true leadership is not about power, experience, or position but the value you create, not only for yourself but also for others,’ Minh An says.
‘The insurance industry commonly uses the term “value add” when it comes to products, services, or experiences, but if you are trying to add value to a person or business that does not feel valued in the first place, there is little you can do to make an impact.’
Minh An believes adding value starts with listening.
‘It would be almost impossible to lead anyone or anything when you have not listened enough to know how to best serve them,’ she says.
Equally, great leaders demonstrate appreciation.
‘I identify what I appreciate about the team members around me, then make sure to express my gratitude,’ she says. ‘Be kind! This practice has also helped me develop the individual strengths of team members.’
A CULTURE OF LEARNING
For her part, Minh An therefore pursues a leadership style of active listening as well as inspiring and empowering her team to achieve the best results for clients and colleagues.
‘Recognising contributions and express care to team members lifts their mood, makes me happier and spreads appreciation,’ she explains.
Born and raised in Nghe An province in Central of Vietnam, Minh An says she benefitted greatly from the local culture of valuing learning and higher education that the region is famous for.
A NEW DISCIPLINE
After graduating from high school in 1991, she moved to Hanoi and enrolled in the Faculty of Insurance at Vietnam’s National Economics University.
‘Insurance was a new discipline at the time and my class was the second batch to graduate from this Faculty,’ Minh An relates.
‘I was inspired by my professor whose passion for insurance encouraged me to confidently choose this subject as my specialty.‘Having graduated in 1995, I returned ten years later to pursue my master’s degree.’
Minh An credits her position as president of the Faculty’s student union with offering the various social activities needed to develop an insurance network, which she says helped her career considerably.
Her first insurance role was an intern at Bao Viet Insurance, the largest insurance company in Vietnam (and prior to 1994, the only insurance company in Vietnam).
‘During my internship, I received rigorous training and got recruited by Bao Viet upon graduation,’ she tells.
‘I always enjoyed working as a broker, in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment which requires the ability to multitask.’
FIRST IN VIETNAM
After close to ten years at Bao Viet, Minh An was invited to lead the reinsurance business at Aon Vietnam Limited, a global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions.
She is extremely proud to have been the first local Aon Reinsurance Solutions employee in Vietnam, with the opportunity to develop and lead a team from the ground up.
‘In these past few years, our team has distinguished itself as one of the most talented and dedicated teams among reinsurance brokers in the country,’ she says.
‘Thanks to our team, Aon is now the market leading reinsurance broker in Vietnam and continues to deliver outstanding quality service to our clients and other stakeholders.’
BEST RESULTS FOR CLIENTS
As Head of Aon Reinsurance Solutions, Minh An says her priority has always been the best results for clients.
‘This core value is shared by all our team members, who have different backgrounds and experiences in various lines of business including marine, non-marine, healthcare and speciality, to name a few.’
Minh An says her the local reinsurance team of eight people work closely with 20 regional experts, effectively functioning as one Aon Reinsurance Team to provide services for clients in Vietnam.
‘My goal in the next five years is to continue developing stronger sub-teams for healthcare insurance and specialty classes to respond better to the market’s emerging trends and needs,’ she says.
A VOLATILE MARKET
Minh An observes that challenges, risks and opportunities are always there in the market, which remains volatile
‘Aviation, travel and cargo insurance, which accounted for about six per cent of the total non-life insurance premium revenue, were heavily affected by COVID-19 in the last two years,’ she says.
‘However, health and life insurance products have recovered fairly well after a period of social distancing.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic is driving technology, and Vietnamese insurers are racing to digitise workplace, sales and servicing platforms,’ she says.
THE ROLE OF REINSURANCE
She asserts that the industry can do better to support businesses and communities recovering from increasing natural catastrophes—and the international reinsurance markets play a vital role.
‘For example, in 2020, only 36 per cent of global economic losses as a result of natural disasters were indemnified,’ she says.
‘From my point of view, reinsurers could add considerable value by working with regulators to drive insurance awareness, access and affordability to individuals and businesses as well as ensuring better risk management for future systemic risks.
‘Reinsurers could also advise regulators on providing guidance to insurance companies about equipping themselves with adequate reinsurance protection for catastrophe risks.
RISK BASED CAPITAL
She adds that reinsurance is the means to enhance the capital held by insurance companies.
‘Risk Based Capital Governance (RBC) is a useful tool providing data and insights to regulators on whether insurers’ capital has met the minimum requirement or not,’ she says.
‘Regular and in some cases real time data will help the insurance market to balance and maintain its optimal capital level and identify gaps that reinsurance could fill.’
WORK LIFE BALANCE
As a woman in insurance, Minh An shares that she is constantly challenged by the need to balance work and family, especially when it comes to finding time for her children.
‘I live in a traditional family with an institutional bias "men make house, women make home" which implies my responsibilities are with housework. I have no other option but to work more efficiently to free up time for myself and my family.’
She has two suggestions to increase the participation of women in executive roles.
‘Firstly, we need to manage unconscious bias. Research states that “the male and female brain are far more alike than different’, and that it is social expectations that cause people to act according to gender roles.
‘Building cultures that manage these biases would be a good start increasing women in executive roles.
‘Companies should make recruitment and promotion decisions based on data analytics and performance evaluation regardless of gender and this culture should be a directive from the top to ensure governance and adoption.’
Secondly, women need support from and for their families.
‘Women would be more confident to take visible roles if they have the strong support of their families,’ she says. ‘Shared parenting and housework ease the burden on women and should be encouraged in all families.’