In an exclusive interview with The Post, the CEO of AIA Cambodia, Pauline Teoh, outlines the firm’s commitment to the Kingdom.

AIA marked its 100th anniversary last year. You started leading AIA Cambodia just in time for this historic milestone. What is your vision for the company?

The AIA centennial is indeed a significant landmark. AIA has grown to become the world’s largest life insurer – with a presence in 18 markets across the Asia-Pacific region and total assets of $284 billion as of December 31 last year.

However, our centennial is not a destination, it is merely a milestone on our continuing journey – and a perfect time to look forward to our exciting future and to the next 100 years.

It is a future that will see the impact of new technologies driving dramatic change in the insurance sector and to our lives. An exciting future in which AIA is ideally positioned to thrive for another 100 years and beyond. This is our vision for AIA everywhere, including Cambodia.

On the ground, supported and enabled by the Cambodia government, we marked the milestone with many celebratory activities that benefited our customers and communities, such as a comprehensive and permanent insurance coverage upgrade for free, donating high quality football equipment to 100 public schools, reaching out to more than 280,000 people across the Kingdom, and free health check-ups for thousands of people.

These were landmark activities that reflect our commitment to helping people live healthier, longer, better lives.

Though supported by a group with 100 years of experience, you are leading a company that is just a few years old. How has AIA Cambodia grown so far?

The Cambodian Insurance industry is very young. The conception of AIA Cambodia was in itself a major stepping stone. It came about after years of market research to make sure we are here to add value to the country and its people.

Determined to take a leadership role in driving economic and social development under the favourable conditions set by the Cambodian government, we started off by pioneering the first critical illness coverage in the country, and it has proven to be much needed by Cambodians and the industry – with other companies soon following suit.

Our first-of-its-kind life insurance solution has been further positioned to cater to the various needs of different segments of the population – ranging from the most affordable packages to the highest protection.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is being felt everywhere and by everyone. How is AIA supporting the Cambodian public against the shock?

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge. As a result of the outbreak and the various containment measures imposed by governments, millions of families are suffering personal loss or unemployment, and many economies are experiencing severe near-term shocks.

Despite the uncertain near-term backdrop, the awareness of and need for AIA Cambodia’s life insurance solutions and services will continue to grow over the long term. AIA is uniquely positioned with its powerful distribution and financial strength to capture the enormous long-term opportunities in Cambodia’s life and health insurance market.

In response to the ongoing pandemic, we rolled out free to all existing and new customers the much needed coverage of $500 for hospitalisation and $5,000 for death from the virus. This offer is additional to the current coverage which, by its life insurance nature, covers loss of life to any illness, Covid-19 included. The offer was so well received that we extended it until the end of September.

With expected permanent changes to the insurance sector due to the outbreak, how is AIA Cambodia prepared to thrive?

The Covid-19 outbreak has left a permanent mark on every aspect of life, and there will be new norms in living and conducting business.

While others might be rushing to ready themselves for the aftermath of the pandemic, AIA Cambodia has had such preparations fully implemented since the grand opening three years ago.

However, we are continually improving ourselves to stay relevant and in a leading position as the situation progresses.

There will be permanent changes, and we see them as opportunities to grow even further. One of them being that people are now taking greater precautions to safeguard their health.

This perfectly aligns with our efforts to push for public healthcare education for Cambodians.

Echoing the life-saving messages and guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation, we have been working with our Global Ambassador David Beckham and English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur to promote healthy living.

Pauline Teoh hands over a trophy as part of AIA Cambodia’s support of the country’s largest community football programme.

The insurance industry will have to evolve post-pandemic. How do you think the sector in Cambodia will develop in the long term?

The need for life and health insurance is set to increase rapidly – and this won’t be just a temporary spike – as the Cambodian public becomes more health-conscious and knowledgeable in preparing appropriate protection plans for themselves and their families.

When AIA Cambodia’s critical illness coverage debuted in 2017, it was a great additional option in the industry. Now with this foreseeable increase in health-related coverage uptake, I believe more and more insurers will follow this lead. It will no longer be an option, but rather a necessity – a must-have feature the entire industry will have to include in their customer offerings, giving Cambodians even more freedom and choice in critical illness coverage.

This is healthy competition and it will be beneficial to everyone, driving up the life insurance penetration rate from its current fewer than one per cent.

AIA’s brand promise of helping people live healthier, longer, better lives will become the general mantra for the life insurance sector in Cambodia – and we will be proud because, for us, this is the only sustainable way to keep the industry thriving in the long run.

Despite previous shocks of historic scale, AIA has never left any of its 18 markets. During this unprecedented crisis, please describe AIA Cambodia’s resilience.

Once AIA establishes roots in a market, we are here to stay – for our customers and for generations to come – regardless of what to others may seem overwhelming difficulties. Never once have we left customers behind – no matter how tough a situation. The Covid-19 pandemic is no exception.

As the largest life insurer in the world, we are well placed on the firm foundations of experience, expertise and finance. Currently, we are trusted by millions of customers across the region, with the total sum assured of $1.74 trillion.

During 2019 alone, AIA made over 14 million benefit payments, helping customers and their families cope with challenges at different life stages, all while delivering our world-class services.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the whole world, but our unshakable foundations mean AIA is well equipped to not only withstand such a shock, but also help our customers get through this tough time.

The outbreak has highlighted the significance of the resilient operations already put in place, with our centennial vision clearly pointing to the company’s readiness for tech-based operations even beforehand.

Now is clearly an exceptional time, and we are seeing a profound impact on the global economy – but our customers can continue to rely on AIA’s financial strength and our market-leading brand as we help safeguard their health and financial security.