Established in 2007, Infinity General Insurance is the largest locally owned insurance company in Cambodia. The Post talked with Michael Girling, CEO of Infinity General Insurance Plc. After a long insurance career in Australia Girling arrived in Cambodia in March 2013 to initially assume the role of Chief Operating Officer before being appointed CEO of Infinity in 2014.
Infinity has grown to be the largest employee health insurer with a dominant market share of over 40 per cent. In what other product sectors does Infinity get involved?
Historically, employee health insurance has very much been our core product followed by motor insurances. However, Infinity handles all classes of general insurance – such as property, casualty and liability insurance and we even have strategic regional relationships with world class insurers and reinsurers offering all sorts of products from financial lines, directors liability, professional indemnity to insurance against hole-in-ones occurring at golf tournaments.
The historical development of Infinity as a dominant player in claims frequent business is a double edged sword though. On the one side it allows us to differentiate ourselves by demonstrating a proven claims handling ability thus providing leverage to obtain claims infrequent business such as fire and liability insurances where the claims handling ability rarely gets tested. The downside is that by continuing to focus on the growing claims frequent business is that it can put the insurer under pressure.
As premium growth in these classes of business demand increased staffing levels in claims administration. Ultimately it’s a matter of ensuring that your portfolio is well balanced and supports your strategic goals.
Infinity is the largest Cambodian owned general insurance in the Kingdom, do you consider that an advantage or disadvantage when trying to attract customers to insure?
When a client takes out insurance with any insurer they are basically purchasing a promise that if something unforeseen happens then the insurance company will honour the promise and most importantly, has the financial ability to pay every legitimate claim. All insurance companies need to ensure that they have the financial strength and reinsurance support to ensure that their financial obligations are met regardless of the size of an insurance loss. At Infinity we are very proud to be the largest Cambodian owned insurance company. We are equally proud that we boast the support of a reinsurance treaty panel where all members have a Standard & Poor’s or Best’s financial rating of A or better – Infinity is the only general insurer operating in Cambodia which can claim such solid security. Being Cambodian owned is actually an advantage: The Kingdom is growing and with it we are there not only to support the investment in nation building but all profits made in Cambodia by Infinity stay in Cambodia helping to invest in growing not just our company but our most important asset – our people.
You mentioned that your people are your most important asset, how important are they in your strategy for growing Infinity?
In many developed markets insurances (particularly personal insurances) are commoditized and available online without any direct interaction between the consumer and the insurer. With business insurance – whether it be for SMEs, NGOs or large corporations – the relationship to the insurer plays an important part in the insurant’s choice. In Cambodia over 90 per cent of business is currently transacted on a face to face basis so relationship is very important. Our people therefore need to not only know the products and services that they are offering but also demonstrate to consumers that they have such knowledge. When faced with a price competitive market they need to have the skill sets that allow them to confidently differentiate our products not on price but service and quality. At the end of the day every customer has their own perception of what service levels they require. Our challenge is to provide our staff with skills and motivation to exceed such expectations.
Infinity is the only insurance company in Cambodia to support the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) in educating its employees. Why did Infinity choose ANZIIF over other education service providers?
Insurance in Cambodia is still in its infancy so having a pool of qualified and experienced insurance personnel has been a challenge for many insurers. With a growing industry we have a responsibility to not only grow our company but to grow our people. Insurance is a people industry and it is essential that as an important asset, they have the best opportunity to grow their skills and knowledge. To Infinity, it was an easy choice, whilst there were cheaper providers available only ANZIIF came from a mature insurance market, only ANZIIF had been voted ten out of the last 11 years as Asia’s number one education service provider and only ANZIIF has worldwide recognition as playing a vital role in the development and enhancement of professional standards in the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN integration occurs at the end of 2015 and the fact the ANZIIF courses having been studied by over 12,000 students in Asia (over 7,500 from East Asia, 4,500 from Southeast Asia) we can take comfort in knowing that our staff are receiving the high standard of insurance knowledge that our counterparts throughout Asia are also receiving through ANZIIF.