FINANCIAL SERVICES | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

This industry veteran wants to revolutionize the profit-focused insurance sector in Asia

He’s building a community with Singapore as pilot location.

Ideally, the insurance sector has a noble purpose of helping people in the time of adversity but an industry veteran thinks otherwise. George Kesselman, who has been in the insurance industry for over 10 years and has taken senior roles, felt that the noble purpose got derailed by misalignment of interests. “Distributors, shareholders, employees and customers have all differing objectives and what started off as a good intent of insuring customers’ financial well being, ended up ensuring financial well being of pretty much everyone but the customer,” he said.

George, 34, had worked in various departments of both life and general global insurers. His last two roles were as COO of AIG Indonesia and VP Claims Operations of AIG APAC. He believes that it is time to make a difference in the insurance industry. He founded InsurTechAsia, which is aimed at building a community of insurance practitioners, entrepreneurs and industry stakeholders across Asia. It claims to be the only one of its kind across the region which is made possible through a close collaboration between startups and insurers. The core of the community is non-for-profit as George believes that having the profit elements detracts it from the mission and limits the potential impact to the community.

With Singapore being the pilot location in Asia, George and his team gathered a community of over 200 people who are passionate about making a difference in the insurance industry. As this is non-profit, George said that the results are going to be measured by the impact in the years to come, rather than how much they have earned this year.

“So far, we’ve created a strong foundation in Singapore, and have successfully connected local startups to potential industry partners and investors, assisted overseas startups doing regulatory due diligence as part of setting up in Singapore, and helped corporate leaders understand the landscape and best ways to engage with startups,” he said.

To prepare for the official launch of InsurTechAsia, George started talking to a lot of startups while he was still in his last corporate job. He shared that he was completely ‘infected’ with the unbelievable level of energy, speed and passion that he didn’t know existed.

“While in corporate, you get so focused on your day to day job, fire-fighting and politics that the real world completely escapes you. Coming out of the corporate bubble was scary at the first but luckily I gave myself some transition time in-between while learning about the startup world and spending more time in it,” he said.

The timing couldn’t have been better, too. According to George, his employer decided to restructure the regional office and through a pure luck of a draw, he ended up picking up a redundancy package that he considered an absolute blessing. “It gave me an added nudge out of the corporate and at the same time provided with a level of comfort for a period of time. So I guess, in a way, my ex employer did end up helping to fund this,” he said.

Starting a new business has never been that easy, especially for a first timer like George who confessed of having 8 coffees in a day. “Meetings with lots of new startups and VCs seem to gravitate me to "grabbing a coffee". To keep the conversations going java kept on flowing leaving me quite zippy at the end of the day,” he said.

In the next two months, George shared that they are expanding the community across Asia with chapters opening up in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.


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