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The personal policies of Cigna’s Jason Sadler
Published on Saturday, 14 Feb 2015

Insurer’s president of international markets believes the industry can do more to help clients’ well-being

Some may view insurance as just one element in a balanced investment portfolio, but from Jason Sadler’s vantage point, there is a much bigger picture. 

He believes the sector has a duty to do more than provide protection options and financial benefits linked to medical, life and accident cover. In his case, that centres on promoting exercise, healthier lifestyles and pre-emptive check-ups in the wider community. As president of international markets for US-headquartered Cigna Corporation, he is in the fortunate position of being able to push such initiatives in 10 countries and territories in Asia and Europe. 

“Traditionally, insurance has been bought in case something bad happens,” says Hong Kong-based Sadler, who has been with Cigna since 2010. “But we can’t just focus on helping with problems when they happen. Increasingly, we also have to offer advice on how to prevent them, especially in areas of health and well-being, by engaging with customers and explaining how to reduce the risks of things like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. 

The importance of doing this was brought home again by the results of the company’s recent “360-degree well-being” survey, which looked at key markets in Asia. It compiled scores for five indices, including physical health, plus perceptions of social, family, financial and workplace well-being among members of the public. 

Hong Kong placed last behind the likes of South Korea, Thailand and the mainland. And while 66 per cent of local respondents said they view personal health as highly important, only about a third thought they got sufficient sleep and just 25 per cent claimed to follow a well-balanced diet or get enough regular exercise. Worries about gaining weight, financial security and having to look after elderly parents added to the general sense of strain. 

The results, of course, are based on perceptions. When statistics are factored in, they show that Hongkongers in fact have healthier weights than the regional average and, for example, are less likely to consume alcohol on a regular basis. But the message is clear: community-wide, there is still plenty of room for improvement, and educating people about possible risks and how to avoid them is the best way to start. 

“We are ready to offer practical advice about things like going to the gym or having annual check-ups and put coaching tips online on how to lose weight,” Sadler says. “Lower claims could result in lower premiums down the line, but currently, there is more scope for that in the employer space rather than for individual clients.” 

Another aspect of this is the progressive launch of new specialised products and services. For instance, in South Korea, which often leads the way, the company introduced health coverage last year specifically “targeting” cancer among the elderly. Elsewhere, for the “senior segment”, there are policies covering dementia, with benefits payable when certain symptoms are diagnosed. And plans are in place for tailor-made dental coverage, which would entail regular check-ups and provide suitable benefits in case treatment is needed. 

“All markets have their nuances, but everything comes back to understanding customers and providing policies relevant their needs,” Sadler says. 

“Historically, insurance companies tended to be more focused on the ‘product’, not the customer, but that is changing. To succeed nowadays, you have to be innovative, looking for new market concepts and new channels and, where necessary, working with partners to build a wider range of core capabilities. I still believe there is a lot more we can do, and coming up with new challenges and opportunities is what I thrive on.” 

Inspired by his father, who went from accountancy to managing a consultancy firm, one of Sadler’s earliest ambitions was to run a large company. He took a BSc in business studies in Britain, before starting as a graduate trainee with Allied Dunbar in the early 1980s, a time when the financial services sector was very dynamic. Combining work with study for a chartered management accounting qualification, he was exposed to different parts of the business, including insurance, and proved a quick learner. A series of moves followed. 

 He regards the most significant move as joining Axa Insurance as an audit manager, which gave him a new level of responsibility, and subsequently moving to Asia 15 years ago to work on the launch and bedding down of HSBC’s MPF business.

Although planned, the transfer took place at 48 hours’ notice and led to an exciting and rewarding period, which also marked a significant milestone for Hong Kong when the first annual MPF statements were sent out.

“Each success and achievement was a chance to think about what else I could do,” says Sadler, who admits to being a very driven and focused person who likes to have clear line of sight on what has to be done during the day or week. “Ultimately, I always wanted to be in a position where I was running a business, overseeing the P&L, with the challenge of helping other people do things better.” 

 He believes in good communication, listening to client feedback, and ensuring staff clearly understand the company’s objectives and their individual roles. He aims to be flexible and open to ideas, delegating when possible and guiding where required. 

When not in the office or travelling for business, Sadler may be working out at the gym with a personal trainer or in the family kitchen, where he is ready to try his hand at anything from Indian or Chinese to Italian, French and traditional British fare. 

“I find cooking quite relaxing,” he says. “It can also be a chance to detach and reflect with a clear mind on what needs to be done in the week ahead.” 

 

Insurer’s policies

Jason Sadler shares five essentials for building an international business in Asia 

Customers are key “You have to understand their needs and, by recognising emerging trends in the industry, have an insight into what people will want or need in the coming years.” 

Plan ahead “Develop a very clear strategy in terms of where the best opportunities for growth are and what you want the company to achieve against short- and longer-term targets.” 

Step by step “Have a structure and process so staff can work steadily towards each objective and make it happen.” 

Stay focused “Don’t spread yourself too thinly by trying to take on too much at the same time.” 

Be a good employer “Make sure you have good staff. That is fundamental, but it is also one of the major challenges in the Asia market, where there is such demand for talent. As an employer, you therefore have to be proactive and maintain good connections, but I find if people like what the company stands for, they will come to you.” 

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The legal instinct of Jones Day partner-in-charge for Hong Kong Robert Thomson
Published on Saturday, 31 Jan 2015
Robert Thomson
Photo: Fox Woo

City was love at first sight for veteran lawyer

It was a tough choice for Robert Thomson as he weighed up the pros and cons of staying in England, where he could continue to closely support his beloved Manchester United football team, or heading for the bright lights of Hong Kong and pursuing a career in international law.

Asia’s World City dazzled the British lawyer the first time he saw it as he stepped off a plane at the old Kai Tak airport in the 1980s. He was visiting for just one day as a commercial litigation lawyer assisting with a shipping case for the International Transport and Workers Federation. Those 24 hours were all it took to hook him. “As soon as I got off the plane I thought ‘this is great, this is it.’ It was my first time in Asia and I’d been reading Joseph Conrad’s books and the like,” Thomson says.

A few months later, his London-based company asked him if he wanted to relocate. In 1988, he moved here with his wife and baby daughter. “The thing that attracted me about Hong Kong, and still does, is that it is a complete melting pot of cultures and people. It’s got a drive and charm and buzz about it,” he says.

Starting out as a commercial litigation lawyer in London gave Thomson the opportunity to gain a wide range of experiences in many fields. He worked on some big City scandals, including the Guinness share-trading fraud and the collapse of Johnson Matthey Bankers. “That gave me the love of doing complicated, multi-jurisdictional cases. I got into that zone of the all-encompassing work that takes over your life. It appealed to me. I’m fairly disciplined, driven and with the desire to do well,” he says.

At around the same time he became a partner in a large British firm, he married and had the first of three children. He was travelling extensively for cases, including the one he did for Jones Day on that fateful day in Hong Kong. That first visit to Hong Kong was when he first struck up a friendship with Steve Brogan, the then partner-in-charge of the Washington office of US law firm Jones Day. The friendship went on to become a long and important one.

“I returned to London in 1994 – I had a large case in the Cayman Islands, which went on for about 10 years. But we stayed in touch and I would see Steve on and off when he came to town,” Thomson says. He later became the first English lawyer to join Jones Day in its London office just after the English Law Society first allowed foreign firms to form multi-jurisdictional partnerships. For Jones Day, it meant they could absorb non-American partners.

“American firms operate differently from English firms – it’s not always easy to say exactly why, but they are different. But the day I started work for Jones Day I felt as though I’d come home,” Thomson says, adding that the culture of the firm involves cohesiveness, teamwork and intolerance of bad behaviour. “It’s about getting on with everyone for the good of the clients and the firm generally.”

He has been with Jones Day for 18 years and has enjoyed watching it grow and take on an international dimension. The company now operates out of 41 offices in 19 countries.

Thomson also believes in mentorship. “I’ve had three or four down the years, including Steve Brogan, who has been a big mentor to me. I’ve been lucky enough to work and travel with him a lot over the years and it has been very important for me as a person as well as professionally. He has given me enormous encouragement and confidence to do things, which we all need sometimes.”

One of Thomson and Jones Day’s proudest moments recently was when the company received the Best Firm for Diversity by an International Firm award at the 2014 Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards. “It was fantastic,” Thomson says. “We’re very blessed to have some very strong female partners in the office who I was involved in recruiting in many cases and with whom I work closely. We’re delighted they’re getting recognition for the part they play in the profession and their standing in the legal community.”

In the firm’s Hong Kong office, there are seven women out of the 16 partner lawyers and 35 per cent of all Jones Day partnerships are female. In Greater China, 12 of 40 partners are female, which Thomson says is quite unusual.

Regardless of gender, Thomson says intelligence is an important part of being a good lawyer, “but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist”. More crucial are commitment, dedication, hard work, the ability to get on with people and sensitivity. “Because you have to be able to make judgments and follow your instinct,” he says. “I don’t always get it right, but I do more often than I get it wrong!”

 

CLOSING ARGUMENT

Robert Thomson shares what it takes to be a good legal leader

Be obtainable  “The best thing you can do is be accessible to people, be a human and be communicative with everyone in the office, from the oldest partner to the most junior member of staff. Be friendly and show interest in their lives. Don’t be aloof.
Be an early bird  “Come into the office before everybody else. I get up early every morning and go through my emails before I even have a shower. You’ve got to be much more available than you had to be before the internet and mobile phones.”
Be a sharer  “Our mantra is ‘one firm worldwide’ – it means we’ve got one managing partner and one profit centre in one firm, so all the profits go into one pool. That feeling of all being in one firm is absolutely key to us. It’s important to have a sense of community.”
Be a carer  “We make donations to projects such as disaster relief in Haiti. In recent years we’ve been making donations to the furtherment of the rule of law. This is important to our profession.”

 

 

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MetLife Hong Kong CEO Lennard Yong is proud of his success in an industry that helps people
Published on Saturday, 17 Jan 2015
Lennard Yong
Photo: Paul Yeung/SCMP
Lennard Yong
Photo: Paul Yeung/SCMP

Former banker says fresh talent is needed to ensure city continues to lead the way in Asia

Lennard Yong, chief executive of Metropolitan Life Insurance (MetLife) of Hong Kong, switched to life insurance to help people in a key industry for the city. He was trained to be an accountant and started his career in banking before making the switch. “I wanted to do something different, a little bit more personal, so I made the move,” he says.

He explains that many people think Hong Kong’s insurance market is now saturated, with most Hongkongers having a number of policies, be it home, health or life insurance. However, he believes the best is yet to come for local insurers.

“I see Hong Kong as the Silicon Valley for insurance; it attracts big brands from around the world and is a leading market in Asia,” he says. “Many countries in the region look up to Hong Kong for changes in regulations and product development. Insurance people cannot find a better place than here to build their career.”

For the past decade, the industry has recorded double-digit growth. Advances in technology and medical research have opened many new areas that require insurance. “I see that as our society becomes more complex and we have to deal with such a high cost of living, people will have a stronger desire to protect their wealth,” Yong says. “This will bring opportunities to the insurance industry for years to come.”

Yong served in a Dutch insurance company for more than a decade before taking up his role in MetLife. “In my previous job, I had the chance to work in Hong Kong and in the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam. The experience there gave me the chance to meet people from a different culture. Then in 2008, I returned to Hong Kong in the midst of the global financial crisis.”

 This was the most challenging, but also the most exciting, time of his career, because it inspired people to put into practice what they had learned about financial and risk management. “People were dealing with real situations. While I don’t wish for that to occur again, I think we have learned a lot,” he says.

The talent supply for the insurance sector agent has been growing healthily over the years, Yong explains, and more insurance agents are earning professional qualifications such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) that add to the professionalism of the industry.

He sees a strong demand for people with skills in marketing and product design to develop high-quality products for insurers. “We do not necessarily recruit talent with educational backgrounds related to insurance. We want people from different walks of life to join us. The key is sharing with them the career opportunities they will have with insurance.”

Yong predicts Hong Kong will remain the leading insurance market in Asia over the next five to 10 years, as long as it continues to develop innovative products and improve on regulations.

“It is always easier to build a career in a growing industry. It is even easier to build a career in an industry that is growing and is something that people need. From the growth we have had over the past decade, I see there is a demand for better insurance products and services,” he says.

Looking back at his 15 years in life insurance, Yong says he was lucky to have a mentor who taught him how to think positively and to communicate to drive change. “He taught me to always think of [the glass] as half-full rather than half-empty,” he says.

Yong believes a leader is someone who inspires staff to do what they believe is right, not what the boss wants. “Leaders need to give staff a reason to follow,” he says. “In the modern workplace, staff won’t do what the boss tells them because he or she is the boss; they want to know why they should do so and why they should support the boss.”

When communicating with staff, Yong says he never simply barks out instructions. Instead, he put himself in their shoes and tries to tell them what good it would do for them. “I think it is common in companies to see a manager talk and talk and nobody wanting to listen. If the manager changes to think from the staff’s point of view, there will be shorter memos, shorter emails and shorter speeches,” he says.

He points to two books that have inspired him: Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. “Good to Great made me realise that what defines the success of a company is a matter of choice. When facing crisis, a company chooses to struggle or to shine. Seven Habits taught me the importance of prioritising challenges,” he says.

Yong sees insurance as a safety net for society. People fall ill, lose their loved ones, and are in need of support. Insurance, therefore, is not just a product – it serves a social good. “Insurance helps people when they are the most vulnerable – people in the industry need to live up to that promise,” he says.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > GT won the Hong Kong Awards for Industries: Technological Achievement Certificate of Merit
GT won the Hong Kong Awards for Industries: Technological Achievement Certificate of Merit
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

GT won the 2014 Hong Kong Awards for Industries: Technological Achievement Certificate of Merit. The Hong Kong Awards for Industries (HKAI) was officially launched in 2005 by merging the former Hong Kong Awards for Industry and Hong Kong Awards for Services, established in 1989 and 1997 respectively. Championed by the Government, the HKAI aims to recognise the outstanding achievements of Hong Kong enterprises in pursuit of high technology and high value-added activities, and to commend excellence in various aspects of their performance.

http://www.hkindustryaward.org/en/winners/2014.html#c6

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > GT fully supported Orbis : CHOCOOLATE Moonwalkers
GT fully supported Orbis : CHOCOOLATE Moonwalkers
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

As like the pass few years, GT fully support and be the sponsor for Orbis’ fund raising event, Orbis : CHOCOOLATE Moonwalkers. GT not only support for the Moonwalkers app development and all the technical issues, our staff also be the volunteers for on site support for the event night. Thanks very much for all the participants and volunteers for leading to the great success of the event.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > Welcome our New Intern Mike~
Welcome our New Intern Mike~
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

GT has a new Intern Mike, who has joint our Mid-Autumn Festival party and the senior management meeting. Mike fits in well in GT, makes lots of friends in GT. He has not only been learning from different departments, but he also brings us lots of great creative ideas and fun.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > GT be the speaker for the HKAIM ABC4CMO seminar
GT be the speaker for the HKAIM ABC4CMO seminar
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

Our CMO, Jacqueline Chong, be the speaker for the HKAIM ABC4CMO seminar on 26 November, to share the new use of our new product Storellet for the new era of Loyalty program.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > GT be the speaker of WTIA Career Talk "就業講座及博覽 2014:新媒體x 創新 x 工作"
GT be the speaker of WTIA Career Talk "就業講座及博覽 2014:新媒體x 創新 x 工作"
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

GT be the speaker of WTIA Career Talk “就業講座及博覽 2014:新媒體x 創新 x 工作” on Dec 6, 2014. There were about 300 participants for the events, mostly are students who are interested in the Technology industry. Our CMO, Jacqueline Chong, shared about our GT Story “我們不妥協的創新故事”, our senior technical staff answers questions about GT and the career in the industry in the exhibition as well.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > GT be the speaker for the HKITF Mobile Enterprise Solution Day
GT be the speaker for the HKITF Mobile Enterprise Solution Day
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

Our CMO, Jacqueline Chong, be the speaker for the HKITF Mobile Enterprise Solution Day on 24 November, to share the new use of Teamwork for the enterprises.

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Home > Top Employers > Green Tomato > [PCM Biz IT] 創新公司爆多 員工有前途
[PCM Biz IT] 創新公司爆多 員工有前途
Published on Monday, 29 Dec 2014

員工晉升空間大,有得上位

打工仔加入創新公司最大的風險是「唔穩 陣」,不過現任GreenTomato市場總監莊芷坤證明 自己無揀錯。從一個小小的市場營銷部職員,經過4 年努力,當上市場總監。該公司於2003年成立, 主要設計及開發應用程式,目前較著名的有Hong Kong Movie及TalkBox Voice Messenger。

她表示,當年在大公司廣告銷售部工作, 預見將來沒有晉升空間,工作熱誠大減,毅然 辭職。及後到GreenTomato應徵,跟行政總裁郭 秉鑫大談項目推廣,感到這公司制度彈性,老闆允許員工實踐自己的想法,決定加入。

在創新公司做了幾年,她認 為只要清楚自己的目標及性格、 有勇於承擔及挑戰自己的心 態,在細公司反而更容易找 到自己的位置,以及接觸更多層面,得著比在大公司工作更多。

她指出,大公司看似福利待遇較好,但所學到的東西始終有限,若只求安穩的工作,反而很難適應創新公司的節奏。另一 方面,因為細公司資源有限,很多時沒有明確分 工,以業務匯報為例,當中除了包含推廣策略,還 會接觸其他範疇,如她比較擅長市場推廣,但財務 策劃,以至實際的簡報設計技巧都要重新學習。不過,能夠接觸不同人,建立更廣的人際網絡,對自己往後的人生獲益匪淺。

現在,她雖然已是市場總監,但同事各自擁有出色的技能及專長,工作時都會互相交流學習。

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