There was no grand plan to join the insurance industry for Peter Crewe. Severely fracturing his leg playing football curtailed the opportunity to train as an officer for the British Army, so he had to find a plan B.
He went for an interview at insurance company Crown Life and was offered a position. “I quite literally limped into the insurance industry on a walking stick,” he reflects.
AIG, the former parent company of AIA, eventually approached Peter and asked him to run one of their offices in the UK. At the time, he aspired to work overseas and as AIG was a global insurer it presented the perfect opportunity, so he accepted the job.
“The cultures of the two organisations were very different,” he admits. “But after settling in, I knew it was the right decision; the calibre of people I worked alongside was outstanding, which convinced me it was the right organisation to be with.”
Peter has now been with AIA for 25 years. In that time, he’s served in various regional and country leadership roles including as General Manager of Brunei, President Director of Indonesia and CEO of Australia. Today, he’s the CEO of AIA Hong Kong & Macau.
“I’ve had to work hard and apply myself but, equally, the company has given me many opportunities and leadership roles,” he says. “I’ve been on a journey and experienced many different cultures, expectations, regulatory environments and political situations. I believe this has made me a more well-rounded person and certainly a more resilient one.”
AIA Group was established in 1919 and started its operations in Hong Kong in 1931. Over the years, AIA Hong Kong & Macau has led the industry with its future vision, offering customer-centric and comprehensive protection and financial solutions, and meeting their needs and aspirations at different life stages.
The company’s website states its steadfast belief in “creating shared value” for different stakeholders as well as society. AIA is committed to playing a key role in driving the economic and social development of Hong Kong and the Asia–Pacific region by helping people “live healthier, longer, better lives”.
In service of its aim to create shared value, AIA states it is “steadfast in extending our cover so more people can get appropriate protection through our products and solutions. Moreover, to truly support customers through every stage of their health journey, we provide a holistic end-to-end experience – from prevention and protection to treatment, recovery and rehabilitation.”
Peter describes the culture of the company as founded on a “can-do spirit”. “I think you must have the correct values,” he says.
“Our philosophy at AIA is to do the right thing, in the right way, with the right people, and the results will follow. I think this epitomises the collaborative spirit.
“Our philosophy at AIA is to do the right thing, in the right way, with the right people, and the results will follow.”
“I want my colleagues to want to do a great job and know they have a voice. Having the right work ethic is important but everyone needs to find the right balance with other important things in life, such as family, learning and their physical and mental wellbeing.”
Peter approaches management with authenticity and poise. “Live the values that you advocate,” he says. “People will see straight through you if you try to be something you’re not. Equally, I think the ability to stay calm, both when things are going well and when they’re not going so well, is an important trait. However, we certainly make sure to celebrate success as well.
“When you see individuals you’ve influenced taking on more senior and prominent positions within the organisation, that’s the greatest sense of achievement you can have in a career,” he adds.
The staff’s loyalty and dedication make AIA stand out in the industry. Peter is satisfied that the company is building a meritocracy, giving genuine talent the opportunity to shine.
“The team’s positive mentality is second to none,” he beams. “Also, 2019 is AIA’s Centenary. We’ve built up tremendous, unprecedented brand equity. We have a heritage that has served multiple generations and we’re very proud of that.
“While we reflect, recognise and celebrate our history, we’re very much looking ahead,” he continues. “As a life insurance provider, we want to go beyond the old perception of insurance and genuinely engage with people to help them live healthier, longer, better lives.”
Though the company has a long heritage, it likes to think of itself as 100 years young. It tops the market in many ways, including in technology. “We have many digital initiatives for our distribution channels and customers,” Peter says. “We have a lot of learning and development programs influencing the way that we conduct ourselves.”
With AIA being a leading insurer in Hong Kong, Peter says that customers will always be at the heart of the business. AIA has an interactive health and wellness platform, AIA Vitality, to create more touchpoints and engage with its customers to encourage them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
The company has a customer service app, called AIA Connect, which enables those in Hong Kong and Macau to manage their relationship with AIA. “They can navigate their whole relationship with us, whether it’s life policies, employee benefit schemes or pension programs.
It’s a platform where they can navigate self-service, which is a leading initiative.”
For its financial planners, AIA has Interactive Point of Sale (iPoS) – a one-stop, end-to-end sales platform. “It offers tools and resources, including financial needs analysis and proposal illustrations, allowing our planners to give one view on an iPad for the application of insurance policies and enabling us to do straight-through processing,” Peter explains.
During his time with the company, Peter has seen tremendous advancement, especially when it comes to technology and customer experience. “I’ve seen life go from fax machines to smartphones,” he says.
“We have advanced in technology and we consider it to be a core enabler for our financial planners, who we believe to be the best in the industry. It is also for customers who want self-service using a digital platform.
We firmly believe, as a life insurance company, that long-term life insurance is sold, not bought. Also, the ability to analyse data and utilise predictive modelling is driving better outcomes for the customer and for us.”
Peter has also seen the regulatory landscape change significantly. He says regulators are more linked, coordinated and even intrusive. “It adds a different layer of complexity and thoughtfulness to the way we conduct our business,” he notes.
“Risk management was barely mentioned 25 years ago but now a risk mindset is embedded within our leaders and the multiple layers of the organisation. Frankly, it’s making us work in a more considered manner.”
One of the biggest challenges for Peter and his team revolves around a new independent insurance authority in Hong Kong. “We have quite significant regulatory change occurring with the introduction of the International Financial Reporting Standard 17, which details new accounting standards,” he explains.
“We will have new risk-based capital standards coming through. These are significant and will change the way we operate.”
Along with these regulatory changes is the progression of consumer behaviour and expectation. Peter says that as people live longer there are also more complications around their health.
“Of course, advances in medical science result in greater longevity, but this doesn’t mean people lead healthier lives. We must also consider that Hong Kong has an ageing population and medical inflation is on the rise.”
Another element to think about with the changes is the professionalisation of the company’s distribution channel. In 2011, it launched a program called the AIA Premier Academy to cultivate a top team.
“We put an emphasis on attracting university graduates into life insurance, equipping them with skills and making sure they are not just energetic but passionate and professional in the way they deal with customers,” Peter says.
“As a consequence, we’ve had more than 4,000 people graduate through the Academy. We’re starting to see these individuals enter sales leadership roles, which is a tremendous reflection on the Academy and AIA.”
The initiatives the company is undertaking are countless. AIA Vitality redefines the concept of insurance by giving customers instant premium discounts or extra cover for life protection. If customers continue to live an active, healthy lifestyle, they can enjoy more benefits and rewards.
“We launched AIA iShop, which is our online insurance purchase platform, in mid-2018,” Peter says. “It enables our existing customers to find and obtain protection and be able to purchase it in three minutes.
These are for the simplified insurance products. For customers who want more complex, long-term insurance, we have an online-to-offline capability to put them directly in touch with their financial planner.”
Peter attributes an element of his personal success to working with influential people. He says anyone who has the chance to work with good people should listen to and learn from them. “I think this can apply to many people in their careers,” he explains.
“I’ve worked with people who may not have been formal mentors, but I’ve been influenced by them. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some outstanding people. For example, AIA’s Group Chairman has been in the industry for more than 50 years. He’s been very gracious to me over the past two decades, giving me the benefit of his advice. When you get exposed to people like that, it makes a difference.”
Peter is ready for what’s ahead in his professional and personal life. If he had to adopt a one-word outlook, it would be ‘prepared’. “Life can throw you a curve ball or present an opportunity that you least expect, and you need to be mentally prepared,” he explains.
“Life can throw you a curve ball or present an opportunity that you least expect, and you need to be mentally prepared.”
“I will keep learning, try to maintain my fitness and spend more time with family and friends. I want to get better at photography, and I’d like to pick up painting again, which is something my wife and I did together a few years ago.”
Family comes first for Peter. “Justine, my wife, has been my biggest supporter,” he says. “She’s been patient and supportive enough to go on all these overseas assignments with me. We’re very blessed to have a pair of wonderful 12-year-old twins, Amelia and Aiden.”
With his sales background, activity management was drilled into Peter in the early stages of his career so he’s good at organising his time in and out of the home. “I exercise at least three times a week,” he says.
“When I’m with the family, I make sure it’s quality time, so the phone gets put to one side.” He has been CEO of AIA Hong Kong & Macau for almost two years now and feels privileged to lead the largest entity within the AIA Group. The team has accomplished great things, but Peter believes there is a lot more to achieve.
“I work with great people who I’m proud of,” he beams. “However, there is always more to do. I’m focused on the future.”
AIA is the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group – with a presence in 18 markets around the Asia–Pacific region. Its vision is to be the world’s pre-eminent life insurance provider with its service to customers and shareholders. Its purpose is to play a leadership role in driving economic and social development across the region with its service to societies and their people.