Issue No. 1 January - March 2010
Message from the PresidentIndustry Events
Industry NewsQ&A with Tan Hak Leh
Q&A with Philip SeahQ&A with Neal Armstrong

Message from the President

LIA PresidentFriends and colleagues

It is a great honour and privilege to be the President of the Life Insurance Association, Singapore. On behalf of Philip, Neal - my Deputies - and myself, I thank members of LIA for entrusting us with the responsibility to lead this organisation.

For the first time in the history of the LIA, we have two Deputy Presidents. It is a move to strengthen our ability to respond to an increasingly complex and demanding business environment as well as to better represent the diverse membership of the Association.

The industry was not spared the adverse impact of the global financial crisis. But the fundamentals of our business remain strong.
 
We are pleased to note an increase in Consumer Satisfaction for the life industry. We are one of the few industries that experienced positive improvement despite the hostile environment, as shown in the latest Consumer Satisfaction Index of Singapore 2009.

However, more needs to be done to achieve our vision, which is to provide individuals with peace of mind and to promote a society where every person is prepared for life's changing cycles and for those situations unforeseen.

Three key focuses

- Promote protection and long term savings
- Raise industry standards
- Increase competitiveness and productivity

Promote protection and long term savings

The life insurance industry is uniquely positioned to provide protection against death, disability, illnesses and the cost of hospitalisation and surgeries. We play an integral role in helping consumers save to meet long term financial needs such as retirement.

Surveys and studies repeatedly show an obvious protection gap. The average working adult in Singapore has life insurance protection of about 3.5 times of annual income, while his needs are closer to 11 times. Of those who are aware of the need to secure their financial future, less than half actually have a plan to do so.

To this end, LIA will be embarking on a series of "Know Your Financial Health Clinics", which will last for three months over mid-2010. We aim to help consumers understand their financial health and urge them to take concrete steps towards securing their financial future.

Raise industry standards

One key role of LIA is to raise life insurers' standards of practice by setting industry guidelines relating to the managing and distribution of life insurance products.

LIA is proud to be the first trade association in Singapore and the region to introduce a needs-based sales process for financial products in January 2001. We also put in place training and competency requirements for life insurance representatives and guidelines on product disclosure.
 
With the current focus on fair dealing, and to respond to changing needs amidst a changing environment, LIA will be embarking on a review of these guidelines to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.

Increase competitiveness and productivity

The long term success of the life insurance industry hinges on our ability to keep on improving our productivity and hence competitiveness.

This requires us to attract talents into the industry. We must also constantly increase the productivity of every individual working in this industry, be they front-line advisers, customer service officers, or back-room actuarial, underwriting or operations people.

LIA aims to play an active role in promoting the rewarding career opportunities offered by the life industry.

LifeWire

I hope you will enjoy reading this inaugural issue of the LIA newsletter, LifeWire, for it is published primarily for you - the employees of all our member companies.

I look forward to keeping in touch with our industry people once a quarter through this column.

 Signature

Industry Events

50th MAS-LIA Industry Discussion (1 February)

The Insurance Supervision Department of the MAS chairs regular general meetings with life insurer-members of the LIA. Over the years, the frequency has reflected a flexible needs basis, commencing as annual discussions, but changing to quarterly and to the current half-yearly sessions.
 
Noticing that we had reached a laudable 50th meeting scheduled for 1 February 2010, LIA sprang a surprise 'coffee and cake' interlude to celebrate the life industry's long and close relationship with the regulator.

MAS ID #50A delighted Ms Teo Swee Lian, Deputy Managing Director, Prudential Supervision Group, quipped - to loud laughter - that some of the people in the room might not be around to mark the 100th Industry Discussion, and others might be in wheelchairs!
 
There was ample chocolate fudge cake left to treat the entire Insurance Department to an afternoon coffee and tea break! 

 

LIA Social Networking Gathering (5 February)

LIA Drink Session (Dec09)  LIA Drink Session (Oct09)  LIA Drink Session (Feb10)

Kicking off in October 2009, LIA held the first of its bi-monthly networking sessions, and we have completed three rounds thus far. It has been well received and our guests have comprised, by turns, members of the media, MAS, association heads of the other financial services sectors and of course the senior management of our member companies.

9th LIA Annual Luncheon (3 March)

LIA Annual Luncheon - Picture 1  LIA Annual Luncheon - Picture 2

Held at the Raffles Hotel Ballroom, which exuded a lovely genteel old world charm, this year's event drew the lowest ever no show rate - not surprising, as our 200 guests came with expectations of an interesting programme.

It was an occasion comprising many 'firsts':

LIA Committee MeetingLIA announced the election of not one but two Deputy Presidents, namely, Philip Seah (Prudential Assurance) and Neal Armstrong (Zurich International Life).

Tan Hak Leh (Great Eastern Life) who had been the Deputy was elected as the new President for 2010-11.

 

LIA Committee Members

Certificates of Appreciation were presented to the Convenors of LIA Sub-Committees, Work Groups and Ad-hoc Groups in recognition of the critical role they play in enabling the Association to fulfil its mission and yearly objectives.

Certificate of Appreciation 1  Certification of Appreciation 2  Certificate of Appreciation 3

Long Service Certificates were also presented to Convenors who had served for at least three consecutive years.

LIA Door GiftThe LIA logo was refreshed for the first time since it was introduced in the 1950s.

The door gift was an air-flown pristine white lollipop designed and made in the US, bearing the new LIA logo on the wrapper, complete with a pretty satin ribbon in matching green or golden yellow.

A young lady of six asked her mother who brought the lolly home for her if it was bath soap. Actually, why not, it could have been...kudos to little missy.  

LIA QuizA fun quiz on LIA trivia kept many guests buzzing with the hope of walking away with a bottle of wine for each person from the winning table.

No prizes for guessing correctly: The winners were found at the table of Convenors, proving that they are truly veterans who know the Association well.

 

For the speeches by Low Kwok Mun, Tan Hak Leh and Darren Thomson, please go to www.lia.org.sg

Industry News

MAS Consultations and LIA Submissions

MAS 2nd Consultation Paper on Policy owners Protection Fund; and Consultation Paper on Insurance Resolution (January)

The industry had no major concerns, and offered to work closely with MAS on the details of implementation.

MAS Review of the Age of Capacity to Enter into an Insurance Contract (February)

Notwithstanding the proposed requirement for parental consent, LIA advised that the industry questions the wisdom of removing the minimum contractual age capacity of 10 years for entering into an insurance contract. Member companies' concerns were duly conveyed.

MAS Consultation Paper on Regulatory Regime for Listed and Unlisted Investment Products (March)

Member companies' comments were reviewed by the LIA Taskforce for industry positions and views to be recommended. They were endorsed by all insurers and conveyed to MAS.

LIA Developments

LIA Logo Refreshed (March)

LIA Old Logo 

The familiar black and orange logo has been around since the 1950s when the Association was founded.

At the 9th LIA Annual Luncheon held on 3 March, a new look logo was jointly unveiled by the outgoing President and newly-elected President of the Association, namely, Darren Thomson and Tan Hak Leh.

 LIA New Logo

LIA CollateralsBy giving the LIA logo a contemporary look, consumers, regulators and the media can expect to interact with an industry, which the Association represents, that is progressive and engaged with contemporary society.

LIA collaterals were also re-designed.

 

 

LIA Website Enhanced (March)

LIA Website 

www.lia.org.sg

The Association website was overhauled and re-launched on 3 March. We hope you will agree that it is improved in terms of the look-and-feel, ease of site navigation and presentation of information. 

LIA Guidelines

Notification Message regarding CPFIS-included Cash Funds (31 March)

Member companies will adopt a uniformly-worded message in the annual report, semi-annual report and fund switch request form, as follows:

Important Note: The Cash Fund is recommended to be used as a short term holding fund and not as a form of long term investment as the Cash Fund may not yield returns that are higher than the prevailing CPF interest rates. Optional sentence at insurer's discretion, with words to the effect that: If you are in doubt, you should consult your financial adviser. 

The message will appear in the fund switch request form with effect from 31 March 2010.

Furthermore, companies will execute a one-off communication exercise along with their semi-annual report in June 2010. Insurers will specially include an advisory to educate existing policyholders on the objective of utilising a Cash Fund in the context of the CPF Investment Scheme. Only the uniform message will appear in subsequent reports.

Q&A with Tan Hak Leh

Hak Leh & FamilyThe global financial tsunami that swept the financial industry in September 2008 was a tumultuous period for many insurers, including Great Eastern Life (GEL), which Tan Hak Leh helms. However, the industry veteran managed to lead the company out of the financial storm relatively unscathed, making it one of the key achievements in his career. As Managing Director, he is responsible for driving and growing the company's insurance business in Singapore.

In between work, Hak Leh manages to find time to fulfil his duties as President of LIA, working with various stakeholders to promote the interests of the life insurance industry in Singapore.

"Raising overall industry standards has always been high on LIA's agenda," said the fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (UK). "We aim to raise the standards of practice amongst our member companies on a wide range of activities relating to the management and distribution of life insurance products. This will also help to build a more competitive industry."

The Actuarial Mathematics graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is highly analytical. It stood him in good stead throughout his 18-year career, which spans both private and public sectors.

Hak Leh may be an actuary at heart but he has a deep interest for business management and marketing. "I try very hard to learn all about business management and marketing and acquire the necessary skill sets. I think most people wouldn't expect that of an actuary," quipped Hak Leh.

After a days' work, Hak Leh enjoys winding down over a few drinks with his colleagues and friends. He's been married for 16 years to Siew Fay and they have a son, Wei Ler, who is 14 this year.

Q: What keeps you driven?

Achieving the most out of my life keeps me driven. I don't want to lose out on what life can offer. So, I maximise my time and keep myself occupied not only with work, but also with my family and friends.

Q: Tell us about some of your pet peeves.

I dislike it when people are too guarded about sharing information and knowledge at the workplace. We learn much more when we share information. Knowledge-sharing is power. We should all learn to communicate openly.

Q: What do you do for leisure?

Reading ranks high on my list. I am a voracious reader. I read anything from history, science and economics to Chinese literature.

I don't do any rigorous sports but I do enjoy taking a leisure cycle.

I also enjoy travelling. I was recently in Beijing with my sales force for the Great Eastern Life Achievers Club Convention and the trip turned out to be quite an adventure. We had a half-day team building session in the Temple of Heaven and it happened to fall on the same morning when Beijing was hit by a severe sandstorm. It has not had a sandstorm in 6 years! Nonetheless, we took it in the right spirit and had a great time of bonding.

Q: A couple of my proudest moments were...

The birth of my son and prior to that, the day when I concluded my actuarial examinations - I was 28 then.

During my stint with the MAS, I was heavily involved in the development of the risk-based capital framework. When it was finally implemented after 3 years, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. It was indeed one of my proudest moments.

Q: Complete the sentence: I love life because....

Life is great! It is full of challenges.

Q&A with Philip Seah

Philip SeahLIA Deputy President Philip Seah started out as a financial adviser with Prudential in the 1970s, a time when Singaporeans had a lower understanding of the value of life insurance.

"It was a different world then. There was a low understanding of life insurance products and degree of insurance literacy. People were less receptive to financial advisers back then," said the industry veteran. "However, I was guided by a belief that people would open up when you show how much you care. That certainly kept me going." 

His motivation to make a difference in people's lives certainly paid off. The tenacious individual has risen through the ranks and files to become Prudential Assurance Company's Chief Executive Officer today.  He takes particular pride in the trust and confidence given him to spearhead the business, testament to a man who is passionate about this profession.

As LIA's Deputy President, Philip will champion the promotion of fact-find to help pave the way for financial advisers. "Financial advisers have difficulties making headway in getting Singaporeans to go through a fact-find as they are less receptive about divulging personal information. The LIA hopes to address this through consumer education." 

Philip & Family 1When Philip is not at work, he chills out with his family: Christine, whom he is married to for 27 years now, and his four children - Charmaine, 26; Russell, 22; Brandon, 21 and Darryl, 16.
 
Here, Philip shares with us more about his personal life and little-known facts:  

Q: Tell us about a little-known fact about yourself.

I was a flight attendant with the Singapore Airlines for 2 years. Traveling far and wide has certainly broadened my horizons. The experience has also taught me humility. I have learnt to be appreciative of the service people provide me.

Q: What are some things that irk you?

Customer service staff in Singapore who don't take pride in their jobs. 

I am also irked by self-centered people who think they own the zebra crossings and traffic lights and take their time to cross the roads. It's a deplorable behavior. I think we should replace zebra crossings with traffic lights! 

Q: What do you do for leisure?

I spend time with my family and I play golf. Even when I was an ardent golfer, I would spend the weekends with my family. My family provides a strong balance in my life.

When my children were younger, I would leave the office by 6pm so that I could have dinner with them. After they went to bed, I would log on to my computer to work again. 

My children are all grown up now.  However, we do make an effort to have dinner together at home every Wednesday. We are a close-knit family.

Q: A couple of my proudest moments were...

The day I was asked to be the CEO of Prudential.  It was the most mind-blowing moment in my life. I was up all night due to the sheer excitement of it!

Philip Seah & FamilyWhen Christine and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, our children organized the event that was attended by 250 friends and family members in church followed by dinner. That was certainly one of my proudest moments.

 

 

Q: Complete the sentence: I love life because....

It gives me opportunities to make a difference.

Q&A with Neal Armstrong

Neal ArmstrongJust weeks into his first term, LIA Deputy President Neal Armstrong is already astutely aware that he and his industry colleagues have a big part to play in getting Singaporeans to be more financially savvy - and to seek professional advice on life insurance matters.

"I'd like to work closer with the various associations representing the financial industry professionals. By working together, we can help increase consumer awareness of the value of professional financial advice - whether it's for protection, savings or retirement," said Neal.

As the voice for the Defined Market Segment (DMS) providers in Singapore, Neal also aspires to gain their representation on key issues facing the life insurance industry.

Neal moved to Singapore a year ago when he was given an opportunity to take on a position as General Manager of Zurich International Life's (ZIL) Singapore branch. He now oversees all of ZIL's activities - from distribution, operations and compliance to strategic planning - and cites the delivery of its global bank agreements and global distribution plans as some of his greatest achievements.

Neal & FamilyOn a personal level, Neal rates photography, scuba diving, the great outdoors and a good book among his favourite 'to do' things. As an avid traveler, he enjoys exploring the different cities with his wife Denise, whom he is married to for 6 years, and his 3-year-old daughter, Erin.

We caught up with the Irishman recently to unravel some of his thoughts about Singapore and his life beyond work.

 

Q: What in particular, for better or for worse, surprises you about Singapore?

I love how easy it is to get to work and get around Singapore, plus how easy it is to get in and out of Changi to explore the region. I also like the fact that the weather means you can go outside every day.

Prior to Singapore, I was in Dubai where it's far too hot, and before that, in the UK where it's usually too wet and cold!

I dislike the elevator etiquette, or rather the lack of it in Singapore. I am also irked by drivers who think it's funny to race you at a freeway exit when you are signaling to exit. It's silly and very dangerous.

Q: How do you wind down after a day's work?

I hit the gym most lunch times, so I can relax in the evening. Not sure if bath time with a 3-year-old is winding down, but at least I can't use my blackberry!

I can be found cycling in East Coast Park on some evenings.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

To succeed. I believe that once you give up trying to succeed, life has beaten you and you become an observer, as opposed to a winner.

Q: A couple of my proudest moments were...

Getting married and the birth of my daughter are rated as my proudest moments. My wife, Denise, is most definitely my soul mate.

Q: I love life because....

You never know what's around the corner and opportunities for new experiences are everywhere. You just have to be open to them.

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