FINANCIAL SERVICES | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

How Transamerica Life Bermuda’s new chief plans to ride the rising wave of Asian wealth

Winson Yap shared his three goals.

Transamerica Life Bermuda, has recently appointed an industry veteran Winson Yap as CEO for its Singapore business. Winson, who has 20 years of experience in the industry will lead the company as it capitalises on the growing high-net High Net Worth and Ultra-High Net Worth markets in Asia.

Transamerica Life Bermuda is authorised to do business in Hong Kong and Singapore. It is ranked by Singapore Business Review this year as 12th largest insurer in Singapore based on total assets. It has a total of $2.02 billion total assets as at 2014.

Singapore Business Review caught up with Winson, to talk about how he intends to leverage on a wealth of industry experience and knowledge to build on the company’s success in his new position.

 SBR: What makes you excited about your new position?

Winson: I’ve worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and my experience across multiple divisions, including product strategy, business development and distribution, provides deep business insight and an overarching strategic perspective that I’m excited to bring to the role.

Transamerica Life Bermuda has a tradition of excellence and an outstanding track record. I’m looking to build on that history of success and deliver even better service to our customers in Singapore and across Asia.

It’s an exciting time to be operating in Asia-Pacific. The region presents the largest market opportunity for the High Net Worth (HNW) and Ultra-High Net Worth worldwide, and while there is a growing appreciation of life insurance as a key instrument in the wealth management toolbox, market penetration remains surprisingly low.

As a major financial hub, Singapore is key to Transamerica Life Bermuda’s growth in the region. I’m looking forward to leverage on these trends to drive the company’s growth in Singapore and beyond.

SBR: What three goals are you focused on?

Winson: While our existing relationship with our brokers remains a key focus, we are currently exploring partnership opportunities to broaden our distribution network. In doing so, we’ll be able to extend our reach in Asia and provide life insurance solutions to more High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs)throughout the region.

We also aim to strengthen the capabilities of our team in Singapore. Since embarking on my new role, I’ve been working to build a strong leadership team and culture by empowering employees in key managerial roles and providing them with the autonomy to implement and take ownership for strategic decisions. By enhancing our local competencies in operations and distribution, we will be able to better collaborate across our wider network.

This brings me to my third goal, which is to lead the team in a clear, strategic direction of growth. I believe in a distinction between leadership and management – while it is essential to manage tasks and timelines to achieve key deliverables, a good leader equips a team with necessary critical skills and encourages an environment which brings out the best in people, and inspires and guides them toward a common goal.

SBR: What will you do differently in this position?

Winson: Building on the success of recent years, we intend to expand beyond our current product range and diversify our product offerings. We have plans in the pipeline to explore propositions beyond our existing product portfolio, which respond to the changing needs of Asia’s HNWIs. This is in response to recent shifts in the market such as a growing appreciation for retirement planning as well as multi-generation wealth transfer among HNWIs.

For a business to serve its customers well, I believe that efficiency and effectiveness are critical elements in day-to-day operations. In addition to strengthening our local leadership team, we plan to invest in operations and explore opportunities to create greater synergies and efficiencies across our offices.

At its heart, the Transamerica Life Bermuda story is one of growth. We plan to carry on this legacy by exploring opportunities in new markets. There is a growing demand for life insurance beyond Hong Kong and Singapore, and HNWIs are increasingly looking to Asia as a secure market to invest in. As one of Asia’s leading HNW life insurance providers, we are well-poised to serve their needs.

SBR: What changes are you planning for?

Winson: In the last few years, Singapore has become an increasingly integral part of Transamerica Life Bermuda’s growth strategy. As such, we are looking to develop new offerings and products tailored specifically to Singapore’s HNWIs.

For these changes to take place, I’m looking to redefine our vision and strategy for our Singapore office. We are committed to this market and intend to grow our presence here, in terms of our headcount, our distribution network and the customers we serve out of Singapore.

This is a journey that I’m excited to be embarking on with the team. I’m privileged to be working alongside a team of passionate, hardworking individuals and I have the utmost confidence that we will succeed.

SBR: What are your key business philosophies?

Winson: For me, it boils down to four principles – professionalism, meritocracy, teamwork and purpose.

A key lesson I learnt early on in my career is the importance of upholding the highest professional standards in relationships with all partners, be it with customers, business partners or employees.

I’m a strong advocate of meritocracy at the workplace, and this is a philosophy I share with the company. By rewarding employees who bring their best to their work and peers, this inspires them to deliver even better work and by extension, enables us to build a solid team of talented individuals.

Going beyond the individual, growing our capabilities as a team is integral to success. This philosophy is especially true for Transamerica Life Bermuda as we operate in lean, agile teams where collaboration and teamwork are essential.

Intrinsically, a company cannot exist for the sole purpose of profits or balancing numbers on a balance sheet. There must be a strong sense of purpose and alignment among all employees with a shared mission. I’m proud to lead a company with great clarity in its mission – to safeguard generations of wealth. It is for this purpose that we work to secure the wealth legacies that individuals have built through generations of hard work, and bring them complete peace of mind.

SBR: What previous positions prepared you for this one and how?

Winson: My previous role as the Chief Distribution Officer at Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore was particularly useful in equipping me with a wide breadth of experience and knowledge for my current position.

It was a cross-functional role across sales channel management, product development, operations and training, which afforded a critical perspective of the company’s day-to-day operations.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learnt has been the need for the team to have a clear and articulate voice on management decisions. For a business to operate efficiently, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and rely on a single individual to lead the way. I believe that it is key for all members of a team to voice their constructive opinions toward identifying the most prudent course of action, and implementing the most effective solutions.

SBR: Anything else you’d like to add?

Winson: While we are operating in a climate of economic uncertainty, I am confident that Transamerica Life Bermuda will be able to overcome the challenges ahead. Our strong track record of growth is a testament to our ability to overcome challenges and emerge stronger than ever.

Most recently, our sound financial strength has been reaffirmed by our AA- Standard & Poor’s rating on 12 May 2016. With a line-up of talented and skilled individuals in our team, I believe that we will continue to grow as a company and safeguard the wealth legacies of HNWIs for generations to come.


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