Pearlyn Phau believes in Singaporeans being the boss of their own financial freedom
Singlife’s group CEO touched on Singapore’s complex insurance market as well as its pain points as a society in the digital age.
Singapore is grappling with the issue of rapid ageing, as approximately one out of every five Singaporeans are presently senior citizens aged 65 and older. Homegrown insurer, Singlife, includes this vital segment of the population when it comes to product invention. By the year 2030, this percentage is projected to increase to nearly one out of every four citizens, thus classifying Singapore as a “super-aged” society.
Consequently, the nation has placed significant emphasis on community and elderly care, ranking them as top priorities within the framework of its healthcare and insurance agenda.
Singlife Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pearlyn Phau expressed this concern during an exclusive interview with Insurance Asia. The group CEO also expressed how persevering she is when navigating through Singapore’s complex environment as a seasoned financial services leader.
How have Singapore’s regulatory framework and policies influenced the insurance sector, and what steps have been taken to protect consumers and maintain industry stability?
We have very frequent interactions with the regulators. Frankly, we’ve always found them to be very fair and firm… with the interests of the consumers and the market at the same time. The insurance industry is tightly regulated as, rightfully, it should be because consumer confidence and the whole financial system will be affected if anything happens to the insurer, or the insured for that matter. We are, after all, a very long-term industry here, not for just a few years, but for lifetimes.
Our policy life span is not in a few years, we’re talking about 25 to 40 years. I think the sustainability of the business is a key concern for policyholders, but also for the regulators. The regulators have always encouraged the industry to innovate. For example, from 2 January next year, insurance policyholders will be able to nominate their beneficiaries online. I think there’s still a lot of innovation and a lot of efficiencies that can be injected into the industry, into the processes of how we interact with customers, in terms of customer journeys. And it’s very gratifying to know that the regulators are also very supportive of this and they’re always looking for ways to collaborate with the insurance — on new ideas or new journeys, on how we can make the whole industry a lot more customer-friendly.
I want to applaud the [Monetary Authority of Singapore] in particular for taking a digital approach, which provides greater flexibility and convenience to our customers whilst also ensuring that strong measures remain in place to prioritise customer protection.
Given your expertise in various aspects of banking, how do you intend to make Singlife a more innovative and agile insurance company?
Whether you come from the banking industry, or whether you come from the insurance industry, at the end of the day, we are all in the service industry. It really all boils down to understanding our customers and knowing what will keep them and what they need – even if they don’t know what they need right now. I think we have to be on top of technology. We have to innovate our products, we have to use the latest systems or new systems to meet customer’s needs.
In terms of mindset, we have to be agile and adopt technology and innovation constantly.
To make the most significant impact on consumers in their financial wellness journey, at Singlife, we have to continuously be looking to offer a more robust product range to meet their needs at every different life stage; and to provide meaningful bundling between integrated insurance and investment solutions. We always say that we don’t believe that their protection and the insurance compensation should be a separate conversation for wealth creation, or wealth accumulation. Integration is important to us.
We also believe very much in healthcare, especially in the ageing society with an escalating inflationary environment. We are also looking for ways to pioneer innovative health partnership models to enable stronger integration and cost optimisation between the insurer and the healthcare ecosystem.
A big part of our distribution network is through financial advisors. We have to continuously look to revamp our financial advisory platforms, both digital as well as face-to-face to offer differentiated and curated products.
And last but not least, it is important in terms of how we communicate to the customers. In terms of product information, we have done a lot of work and will continue to press on to simplify that. With visual insurance initiatives, try to cut down jargon, and make things in simple English to ensure that our customers’ experience is a fuss-free one.
Considering your digital banking background, how will you incorporate technology into Singlife’s insurance offerings to improve the customer experience and streamline internal processes?"
I believe it is important to keep pace with the needs of tomorrow’s customers. By doubling down on omni-channel capabilities with a focus on digital and mobile offerings.
For Singlife, it is empowering our customers and our financial advisors with digital-first touch points like the Singlife app, website revamp, Navigator rebrand to GROW, for example, and enabling analytics and digitised processing and servicing.
I plan to continuously ensure that Singlife remains customer-centric and laser-focused on serving our customers’ financial needs by giving them control over next-generation products and services and insights-driven offerings.
A few examples of what we have done a lot in is, of course, through partnerships. An example is our partnership with Citibank and Black Rock. We are providing customers with a complete portfolio management capability to improve efficiencies, automate controls, and enable a seamless back-to-front experience. Our customers will receive better investing experiences throughout the stages of their investment journey.
These are some of the things that we have been doing. We’ve also been looking to enhance our tech stack so that we can be a lot more responsive when we talk about product development. We’re working with Amazon Web Services to migrate our entire information technology infrastructure to the cloud. These are some of the backend enhancements that will go a long way towards improving the front-end customer experience.
With the future in mind, what are Singlife’s goals and vision, and how does the company plan to meet evolving customer needs and industry expectations in Singapore?
At Singlife, our vision is to be a technology-empowered financial services company committed to a better way for people and our community in Asia. We are driven by the purpose of being the better way to financial freedom by enabling our customers to control their financial well-being at every stage of their lives.
To address our customers’ evolving needs in the long term, we are keenly focused on five key areas that we believe will make a substantial impact: the importance of placing our customers first, innovating for the better, leveraging technology, preparing our people for the future, and operating sustainably to create long-term value.
Lastly, can you share with us your experience as a leader in Singlife and as a seasoned professional who has been in the insurance industry for many years?
My career has spanned roles from consumer banking and wealth management to private and digital banking in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Since my appointment as Group Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Singapore Life Holdings Pte. Ltd. and Singapore Life Ltd. in August 2021 my goal has been to build a new type of insurance company post the merger of Singlife and Aviva — one with the reach and scale of a well-established and deeply trusted brand but with the agility and innovation of a younger, more nimble start-up.
I am excited to have the opportunity to make an impact and shape the development of a business that is very much connected to the lives of many Singaporeans. I also have the privilege of leading a dynamic team that is deeply passionate about reimagining the insurance industry. Singlife’s commitment to innovation and customer-centricity has allowed me to foster an environment where creativity flourishes and new ideas are embraced.
Throughout my leadership tenure at Singlife, I’ve been dedicated to fostering a culture of collaboration, transparency, and continuous learning. I believe that a company’s success lies in its people, and my colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to build a diverse team that is united by a shared vision. By nurturing talent and empowering Singlifers, we’ve been able to drive innovation, launch groundbreaking products, and strengthen our market presence. I brought in leaders ranging from the customer journey, marketing, technology, and fintech, who had a range of skills necessary for us to execute our strategy going forward to build a new company and a new brand.
The insurance industry, in particular, is undergoing rapid transformation, and my role as group CEO has been to guide Singlife through this transformative journey. I’ve learned that adaptability is key in this ever-changing landscape. By embracing change and remaining agile, we’ve been able to leverage technology to streamline processes, enhance customer experiences, and ultimately, position Singlife as a forward-thinking industry leader.