As the CEO and executive director of Blue, Hong Kong’s first entirely digital life insurance company, Charles Hung feels inspired to be at the forefront of a digital revolution which is redefining the frontiers of one of the world’s most widely established traditional industry sectors.
In the same way the digital age has fundamentally changed the way in which consumers buy goods and interact with service providers in other industry sectors; Hung believes that insurtech (a contraction of insurance and technology) is creating opportunities to empower customers with new products and user experience offerings aligned with their needs and expectations. “One of the biggest noticeable impacts of insurtech has been the shift in focus towards the customer,” notes Hung who points out the trend is particularly evident with millennials who increasingly expect tailored offerings and personalised user experiences.
Established in 2018 when the Hong Kong Insurance Authority approved a deal to allow UK insurance giant Aviva to partner with two shareholders, Hung says Blue combines Aviva’s insurance and digital expertise with Asia-based investment management firm Hillhouse Capital’s investment management capabilities and Tencent — one of Asia’s most valuable companies — technology know-how, distribution and customer base.
Because the Blue insurtech business model eliminates the need for brokers and agents, interaction with customers is direct. Furthermore, Hung explains how Blue’s digital platforms provide a constant flow of data which the company is able to utilise to improve the customer experience. “Data analytics puts consumers at the heart of product conception, development and service delivery,” Hung says. “This means we are constantly looking at innovation, new thinking, new content and new ways to engage with customers,” adds Hung who believes that direct interaction with customers can help to reduce a number of pain-points often associated with low customer engagement, an issue which surveys such as the World Insurance Report 2019 attributes to changing customer expectations. According to Hung, pain-points include confusing jargon, inflexibility, product proposition, complexity and poor levels of communication with customers.
As a pioneer in Hong Kong’s fledgling insurtech environment, in addition to providing customers with the products and services they are looking for, Hung highlights that Blue is committed to educating the public about the needs and benefits of insurance products. He explains that Blue has established strategies to achieve its goals by focusing on transparency underpinned by trust and developing dynamic relations with customers. A good example, according to Hung, is instead of using the traditional “push approach” of selling products, a more customer-centric “pull approach” is used to attract customers, driven by providing customers’ with knowledge and understanding of the benefits and solutions insurance products can provide.
While it is still early days for Hong Kong’s insurtech sector, Hung expects the technology-propelled industry to continue to expand. He points out that compared with other Hong Kong financial services sectors, the brokerage sector for example, when it comes to embracing technology, and the insurance industry has lagged behind. However, as the insurance industry landscape shifts towards insurtech, Hung notes there is an accompanying rise in the demand for talent. For instance, citing Blue as an example, to meet its human resources needs, Hung says the company had recruited data analytics, digital marketing and product design professionals from different industry sectors. “We need a diverse workforce to provide different perspectives,” says Hung. At the same time, Hung emphasises that there is still a strong need for professionals with a solid grounding in the insurance industry. “As well as needing new skills sets to optimise data analytics and leverage customer interactions, it is equally important that risk, compliance and regulatory requirements are met,” says Hung who explains for motivated individuals looking for an opportunity to work in an industry sector that is changing the legacy of the insurance industry, insurtech offers a broad spread of prospects.
As well as traditional financial and insurance talent requirements, Hung says with insurtech career options spanning tech areas including analytics, big data, cyber-risk, information technology, e-marketing social media, software development and systems engineers, there are career paths available that might not be expected in the insurance industry. “We are providing our people with an opportunity to innovate, and at the same time, helping to develop a talent pipeline for the industry,” says Hung who is quick to stress while Blue offers dynamic career opportunities, there is no substitute for hard work and a commitment to self-improvement and continuous learning. “To be successful, people need to be prepared to invest in their careers,” advises Hung, who adds that as Blue’s CEO, the same ethos also applies to him.
With more than 25 years’ experience spanning the insurance, asset management and banking industry across Asia, Europe and the US, Hung believes self-improvement and continuous learning provide core platforms for effective leadership. “I see my role as influencing others to deliver their best”, says Hung who is relishing the challenge the insurtech market presents. “Its new, it’s difficult and the implications are significant,” says Hung, who is hoping in ten years’ time to be able to tell his son and daughter — who will be in their mid-teens — that he was part of the insurance revolution that made a positive impact. “I don’t think there are too many opportunities in one’s career to make a significant impact that creates legacy and revolutionises a traditional market,” notes Hung.