Insurance Business Asia Elite Women 2021

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Insurance Business Asia spotlights 21 talented female leaders who are delivering stellar results for client and company alike – and blazing a trail for other women to follow



Feature article ..............................................


Methodology ................................................


Elite Women 2021 ........................................


Profiles ..........................................................





THE VIEW FROM THE TOP IN A TRADITIONALLY male-dominated industry, women are increasingly making their mark. In this special report, Insurance Business Asia celebrates 21 women who are not just going above and beyond for their clients and organisations, but are championing diversity in every sense. They’re also giving back to the community and the industry, innovating and driving change, fostering young talent, and striving for professional excellence. It’s no secret that insurance has a long way to go to reach full gender equality, and there has been much discussion around the lack of women in senior leadership roles. Recent research by Swiss Re into the world’s 12 largest insurance markets shows that only 23% of insurance and reinsurance executives are women, and more than 90% of companies in the industry do not have a female board chair or CEO.

However, a glance through IB Asia’s Elite Women list shows how much the landscape has shifted. Not only are women holding – and excelling in – high-ranking roles, but they are also reaching out a hand to those lower down the ranks to ensure the industry continues to make strides in diversifying its leadership. Vanessa Teo, chief financial and operating officer at Great American Insurance Company, is blazing a trail for women in leadership. A core founder of the company’s Singapore branch six years ago, Teo believes that to attract and retain more women, companies must make diversity planning an integral part of their talent strategy. Next, it’s about cultivating the next generation of female leaders by equipping them for success. Finally, successful companies recognise that it’s important for employees to feel included, respected, empowered and enabled


48% C-suite executives

23% CEOs

Tricia Koh, Euler Hermes to perform at their best. That’s why Great American strives to attract a diverse workforce. Today’s professionals must balance work and family commitments, and a corporate culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance is essential to helping women succeed, Teo says. She also believes that to attract a younger generation of tech-savvy workers, “the industry should look into overhauling obsolete IT infrastructure to support innovation”.

Agents of change 10%

Many of the IB Asia Elite Women are doing just that – championing innovation, embracing new ways of working and inspiring others to do the same. For example, Vivien Chua, chief technology officer at Shenton Insurance Brokers

Board chairs

8% Source: World Economic Forum, Swiss Re Institute


“I have been very fortunate to have good mentors throughout my career … This is why I’m passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent”

in Singapore, is spearheading digital transformation of her firm’s direct insurance and reinsurance business. She directs technical teams and resources in product design, development, and delivery; one of her main contributions has been to launch a new insurtech business. Then there’s Lei Yu, CEO for North Asia and regional head of distribution at QBE Asia. Yu is a big advocate of digitisation and leveraging technology to create a better claims experience and helping customers get back on their feet as quickly as possible. “Customers are looking for convenience and want things simple, easy and quick,” she says. “Digital innovations and technology are important means to achieve that. What excites me is the ability to leverage digital technologies to create greater productivity,

management for APAC at Euler Hermes in Singapore, works to attract new talent to the industry by partnering with universities to provide students with internships. She also participates in universities’ mentorship programs and regularly shares her career journey as a guest speaker at their events. “I have been very fortunate to have good mentors throughout my career who have believed in me and provided guidance and support along the way,” Koh says. “This is why I’m passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent.” Koh believes many young people are looking past the outdated image of insurance and seeing exciting opportunities in the digitisation of the industry, innovative cover and the use of AI. Digital marketing professionals are highly sought-after, as

“Beyond mentorship, we should connect women to the right people for their career growth and nominate women for projects to give them experience and opportunities to shine” Joan Collar, Marsh Singapore intelligence, simplicity and value for every party involved in the insurance ecosystem. It also helps us to better manage our customers’ risk profiles and exposures. It’s about realtime connections, and QBE enables digital to be more accessible during every step of the customer journey.” For Yu, mindset and digital skills are two barriers to transforming insurance into a modern, open and transparent ecosystem. “We need to attract more digital-savvy talent to join the insurance industry,” she says, “while providing development opportunities for our people to upskill and embrace modern technology in this transformation journey.” Tricia Koh, regional director of market

METHODOLOGY Starting in May, Insurance Business Asia invited insurance professionals from across the region to nominate their most exceptional female leaders for the inaugural Elite Women list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with or in some way impacted the insurance industry and also have demonstrated a clear passion for insurance. Nominators were asked to describe their nominee’s standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, along with their contributions to diversity and inclusion in the industry and how they’ve given back through volunteer roles and charity work. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account. The IB Asia team reviewed all nominations, examining how each individual had made a meaningful contribution to the industry, to narrow down the list to the final 21 Elite Women.

48% of IB Asia’s Elite Women are CEOs

customers are forever craving enhanced product features and customer experience. However, to have wider appeal, Koh believes the industry needs more publicity and good marketing to change its often negative public perception. “The media would be a good place to start,” she says, “by reporting on insurance protecting businesses from going into insolvency, people getting insurance payouts to help minimise hardship, and innovative products [such as] the Wimbledon tennis tournament being covered by pandemic insurance in 2020 with a payout of US$141m, or drought insurance for the farming community.”

48% are based in Singapore

38% are based in Hong Kong




Board positions

C-suite positions

2010 (13%)

2010 (10%)

2019 (26%)

2019 (17%)

Source: Swiss Re Institute

“What excites me is the ability to leverage digital technologies to create greater productivity, intelligence, simplicity and value for every party involved in the insurance ecosystem” Lei Yu, QBE Asia Advocating for other women IB Asia’s Elite Women aren’t just stars of their own organisations; they also contribute to the betterment of the wider industry, always with one eye on the future. Lisa Sun, president and CEO of AIG China, says mentorship has been important to her career, but she believes sponsorship is the way to get more women into executive roles. “It is probably by far the most meaningful tool organisations can deploy to help lift female representation at the leadership level,” she says. “Sponsors can help pave the way for sponsees in gaining access, exposure and visibility to senior leadership. In addition, the willingness of sponsors to take risks on high4

potential female talent is critical to an organisation’s success when it comes to advancing its [diversity, equity and inclusion] agenda.” Sun is also an advocate of formal networks as a way to help women achieve their career ambitions. “I am fortunate to have participated in various women leadership programs, and most recently, I just graduated from AIG’s WELI [Women Executive Leadership Initiative] Program,” she says. “Through these types of programs, women leaders can develop a broad network and deep relationship with other like-minded female professionals. This network can be an immense source of support and peer coaching.”

Joan Collar, Mercer Marsh Benefits leader for Asia at Marsh Singapore, mentors three female colleagues, one of whom has now taken a global role in the company. Collar sees mentorship, along with dedicated personal and professional support networks, as key to helping women progress. “When I started my career, I was a young single mother in Malaysia, and at every critical turn, someone was there, saying to me: ‘You got this. We believe in you. How can I help?’” she says. “Beyond mentorship, we should connect women to the right people for their career growth and nominate women for projects to give them experience and opportunities to shine. I’ve also seen how women get more space to excel in both their personal and professional lives through flexible working arrangements.” Collar uses her voice to champion diversity, equity and inclusion, and she’s been open about her own struggles with mental health to advocate for greater industry attention on the subject. “Being open with my vulnerabilities and failings has encouraged many others to understand they are not fighting their battles alone,” she says. “While many businesses recognise the importance of mental health, the challenge is ensuring there is sufficient funding from our partners and having insurers support the mental health development and cost exposures that companies have. Unfortunately, this is still an optional cover from an insurance standpoint – aside from the international carriers – and there is a limited coverage or understanding around how this needs to be underwritten. Fundamentally, a change is needed from all players in the ecosystem to support the financing aspects of mental health.” Each of the inspirational female leaders on IB Asia’s Elite Women list is innovating, offering top-quality service to clients and pushing the industry as a whole to perform at its best. But perhaps their most important contribution is paving the way for the next generation of female leaders and carving out a future that finds strength in diversity.

Ada Lui Senior vice president, Asia-Pacific actuarial group Allied World Assurance Company

Joan Collar Asia and Pacific regional leader Mercer Marsh Benefits

Roopa Malhotra Regional head of digital, Asia-Pacific Chubb Asia Pacific

Phone: +852 2968 3000 Email: Website:

Email: Website: benefits

Phone: +65 6494 1655 Email: Website:

Lei Yu CEO, North Asia; regional head of distribution, Asia QBE Hong Kong

Vanessa Teo Chief financial and operating officer Great American Insurance Company, Singapore Branch

Chandrani Chakraborty Head of human resources and group head of capability & learning strategies QBE Asia Email: Website: Iris Chan Executive director of construction, Hong Kong and Macau Willis Towers Watson Phone: +852 2195 5500 Email: Website:

Phone: +852 2929 1998 Email: Website:

Lisa Sun President and CEO AIG China Phone: +86 21 3857 8000 Website:

Josianne Robb Chief digital officer, Asia Manulife

Nguyen Thi Nguyet Thanh CEO, Vietnam AIG

Kelly Wong Head of claims, Hong Kong AIG

Sandra Lee CEO, Asia BMS Group

Margaret To CEO Chaucer Singapore

Selina Lau Chief executive The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers

Naulpham Lamsam President and CEO Muang Thai Insurance

Sze Keed Wong CEO AIA Singapore

Phone: +65 6804 6011 Email: Website:

Tricia Koh Regional director – market management, APAC Euler Hermes Tulsi Naidu CEO, Asia-Pacific Zurich Insurance Group Veronica Grigg President, Asia Crawford & Company

Vivien Chua Chief technology officer Shenton Insurance Brokers

Winnie Wong CEO and executive director Asia Insurance Co. and Avo Insurance Co.




VANESSA TEO Chief Financial and Operating Officer Great American Insurance Company, Singapore Branch


t’s been 23 years since Vanessa Teo joined the insurance industry by chance. “As a new graduate, I was lured into insurance by the regional exposure and travelling opportunities,” she says. And in her career journey, Teo has travelled quite the distance, gaining rich experience along the way. Her first role was as a regional internal auditor with AIG in Asia, auditing both life and non-life insurance operations. She then headed the finance department at ACE Insurance before migrating to Melbourne, where she worked as a business consultant with IAG. On her return to Singapore, she was appointed director of finance and operation at MetLife, helping to start up its Asia operation. She then moved over to QBE for new challenges as head of the finance department and was subsequently promoted to chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Six years ago, Teo seized a significant opportunity to start up Great American Insurance Company’s Singapore branch. “I was involved in the full set-up with a small team of five who worked for me in previous employments,” she says. “That included negotiating office space; leading the infrastructure set-up; procuring the insurance system; writing finance and operations poli-


cies and guidelines; setting up the risk management and compliance framework; and setting up the finance, human resources and other operating frameworks.” It was a complex process, but Teo and her team were clear about what was needed. “Getting our fundamentals right from the beginning and implementing a good culture from the onset was crucial,” she says. “Recruiting staff from all over the island and getting them to understand the company mission and values was a must for the critical success of the startup.” As with many tough projects, the experience was invaluable for Teo. “I am glad I took up this challenge, even though it was uncertain if we could even obtain the insurance licence – and I did have roles offered to me by established companies back then.” Now Teo’s mission is to position the Great American Insurance Company Singapore Branch as the first choice for customers and partners “by balancing financial integrity and supporting the future growth of the business and its people to achieve operational excellence”. Her responsibilities include providing leadership in finance, IT, HR, actuarial, risk management, compliance, policy administration and corporate service matters. “I also

work with our CEO and technical teams to build our marine and P&C products with a deep understanding of the risks within different industries,” she says. It’s quite the tally of duties, but for Teo, being appointed chief financial and operating officer of a new startup was an honour. The company is rated A+ by A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and is leading the specialty marine business in its market, she says. As for her own success, Teo puts it down to the opportunities given to her by “good bosses who trusted in me” in the early days of her career. “I was able to experience many areas, such as internal audit, business consulting, underwriting and claims review, risk management and compliance, M&A, etc., in addition to finance and operations. This gave me a broad perspective on how insurance companies operate.” Teo attributes the success of her branch to setting clear directions and vision, equipping the team with workable tools, and leading by example. “Adopt a positive attitude and can-do mindset in any challenging situations,” she advises. “Treat the team with a heart. Be sincere and genuine, as you would like to be treated. To sum up: trust your people; work like a family.”



Regional Head of Digital, Asia-Pacific

Executive Director of Construction, Hong Kong and Macau

Chubb Asia Pacific

Willis Towers Watson


n the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roopa Malhotra was appointed regional head of digital for AsiaPacific, and she’s made big strides in leading her team at Chubb to provide innovative digital offerings in the market while navigating a very challenging environment. Under Malhotra’s leadership, Chubb strengthened its partnership with Grab to deliver a digital offering that provides trip delay and personal accident coverage to passengers across the Asia-Pacific region. Malhotra also worked with Chubb’s accident & health teams in Hong Kong and Singapore to launch complimentary COVID-19 vaccine insurance coverage for DBS Bank customers in those areas. Malhotra also led the launch of two technological innovations in Asia: Chubb Studio, a platform that helps simplify and scale the sale of online insurance products through partner channels, and Chubb LifeBalance, a personalised health and wellbeing app that encourages people to incorporate healthy routines into their lives. Malhotra is a thought leader who regularly shares her expertise at industry events and a diversity and inclusion champion who actively encourages up-and-coming female professionals through coaching and mentorship. She gives back to the community in her capacity as one of the APAC regional executives for Chubb’s Global Citizens Fund, which aims to improve lives in local communities. She also regularly volunteers with various charities, including global relief organisation All Hands and Hearts.


ver the past two decades, Iris Chan has been focused on seeking the best risk transfer solutions for construction projects in Asia, with a focus on projects in Hong Kong and Macau. As the leader of WTW’s construction team, Chan provides her team members with the best possible support and resources to ensure they are happy and productive. During COVID19, she communicated with her team regularly to ensure they were engaged and maintained cohesiveness by hosting virtual drinks; she even organised a baking competition to infuse fun. In 2016, Chan initiated the Hong Kong Construction Association Insurance Facility to support SME contractors to obtain necessary project insurance in a timely, cost-effective manner, which helped them avoid the disruption of COVID-19. As a member of the General Committee of the Hong Kong Confederation of Insurance Brokers, Chan cares about how to inject new blood into the insurance industry through initiatives designed to attract young talents to the industry and support young insurance professionals to advance their careers. She also often speaks at industry events to promote insurance knowledge across industries. Chan is an executive sponsor of the WTW Inclusion Network in Asia, regularly exchanging diversity and inclusion trends and best practices with executive sponsors at other locations to actively support and promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace.



ELITE WOMEN 2021 LEI YU CEO, North Asia; Regional Head of Distribution, Asia QBE Asia


s QBE’s CEO for North Asia and regional head of distribution for Asia, Lei Yu is responsible for shaping and driving distribution and partnership strategies to accelerate the company’s growth ambitions. She also serves as the executive sponsor for business development transformation and customer development initiatives at QBE, tasked with leading the design of the end-to-end customer journey. A workplace champion for diversity and inclusion, Yu has led many D&I campaigns at QBE and often shares her perspectives on diversity in leadership and equitable opportunities at industry events. She is also actively involved in initiatives around leadership and learning, rewards and recognition, and workplace culture, and she strongly supports initiatives that address pertinent global topics. In January, Yu spoke at the Asian Financial Forum 2021 about how the insurance industry is responding to climate change risks and building an ecosystem for green and sustainable finance in Hong Kong. Walking the talk, Yu has been leading the QBE Hong Kong team to collaborate with various stakeholders to enact sustainable initiatives to address environmental, social, and corporate governance risks and issues within the business. Outside of QBE, Yu has been involved in promoting Hong Kong as the professional services centre for the Belt and Road Initiative. She is also actively involved in the Hong Kong insurance industry’s initiatives for development in the Greater Bay Area.

CHANDRANI CHAKRABORTY Head of Human Resources; Group Head of Capability & Learning Strategies QBE Asia


handrani Chakraborty joined QBE Asia in 2018 as head of human resources for Asia. In 2020, she took on additional responsibilities as global head for enterprise capabilities, a role that involved defining QBE’s enterprise capability strategy and driving a skills-led transformational approach to capability development. Over the past year, Chakraborty has collaborated with her peers across the Asia Executive Committee to determine both the strategy and longer-term objectives to support QBE Asia’s 2023 ambition. She has also led a people-focused response at QBE Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic, centring on supporting employees’ health and wellbeing as they navigated the extended period of uncertainty and changes to ways of working. A passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Chakraborty’s ongoing focus in this area helped QBE exceed its Women in Leadership targets in 2020. Her leadership also helped QBE Asia secure a spot on Insurance Business Asia’s Top Insurance Workplaces list in 2020. Chakraborty chaired the QBE Asia Foundation from 2017 to 2020 and remains an active member. She is also an executive coach and mentor for Women in Technology India and is a member of the Chief Executive Women Asia Forum.




Asia and Pacific Regional Leader

Senior Vice President, Asia-Pacific Actuarial Group

Mercer Marsh Benefits

Allied World Assurance Company


s head of Mercer Marsh Benefits, Joan Collar leads the single largest and fastest-growing business line for Marsh McLennan in Asia and Pacific. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Collar has spent the past couple of years working on business integration following mergers with two companies, from instilling a single culture and team to establishing the new business across Asia and ensuring the right level of governance, structure and operating model. Collar also steered the business through the challenges of COVID-19. With the health crisis impacting employees across Asia, Collar and her team spearheaded webinars, FAQs, and COVID toolkits and products to enable employers and their employees to manage the uncertainty. A driven, growth-oriented and experienced business leader, Collar is regularly called on to speak at industry panels across Asia and internationally on a variety of topics. Recently, she participated in two webinars on people risk that drew 1,000plus participants across the globe. An authentic leader, Collar uses her voice to champion mental health, diversity and inclusion. She volunteers as a mentor through the Women@Mercer network and regularly speaks in schools to inspire the next generation.


da Lui has spent seven years at Allied World, starting as assistant vice president for the Asia-Pacific actuarial group. Lui’s achievements include supporting a culture of technical, data-driven pricing across all lines of business; developing and maintaining raters for new products and existing lines of business; implementing a more efficient pricing feedback loop; and building and empowering a strong and capable AsiaPacific pricing team. A passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion, Lui participated in Allied World’s D&I focus groups, which helped kick off a range of initiatives for improving D&I within the region. She has also been mentoring up-and-coming female professionals as part of the mentorship program at Allied World. In addition to her responsibilities at Allied World, Lui was part of the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong Curriculum/ Examination Taskforce, which launched the first general insurance exam in 2020. She has also been an active member of the organisation’s General Insurance Committee. “My achievements would not have been possible without my incredible support network – my team at work and my family,” Lui says. “I am very grateful for the many opportunities that Allied World has provided me with over the past seven years.”



ELITE WOMEN 2021 LISA SUN President and CEO AIG China


isa Sun has nearly 25 years of experience in markets of varying maturity and geographic location, and her insurance career has spanned property & casualty, life and health, and consulting. As president and CEO of AIG China, Sun has a wide range of responsibilities, including leadership of a digital and technology transformation. She is an inspirational leader who is passionate about investing in talent through a number of people development programs, leadership training, technical training and other engagement activities at various career levels. A role model for others, Sun frequently coaches, mentors and sponsors diverse professionals inside and outside of AIG. She currently sits on AIG’s Executive Diversity Council, as well as its International Talent Board, where she frequently uses her voice to advocate and lobby for meaningful and actionable change, with a goal of supporting AIG in becoming an employer of choice. She was named the Most Influential Insurance Person by Money Weekly at the 10th annual Shanghai Insurance Industry Awards. Outside of insurance, Sun demonstrates her passion for education as a member of the advisory board of NYU Shanghai and NYU Stern’s new master of science program in organisation management and strategy.

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RECOGNISING THE NEXT GENERATION OF INSURANCE INDUSTRY LEADERS Nominations open 30 August 2021. For more information, visit 10

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