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An Interview with
Michael Tee
CEO
Grand China Life Insurance Plc

GC Life was granted its life insurance license by the Ministry of Economy and Finance on 18th September 2017 and began operations on 3rd March 2018. Its headquarter based in Phnom Penh. The founding partners are from Macao and China, and the techincal teams are comprise experts from around the world such as US, Malaysia, Macau, China and Cambodia.

Publish Date: 
25 May 2021
Executive Interview
   Executive Interviews   
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Tell us about your background, and what are you most passionate about?

I was born in a small village named Paloh in southern Malaysia. After graduation, I have started my career path in insurance industry until now for 22 years with several insurance companies both local and international player. In year 2017, I was given a chance by the group office in the previous company to came over to Cambodia to setup the Agency Sales department. And then in August 2019, I was invited by the Chairman of GC-Life to assist him to develop the company as Deputy CEO which subsequently promoted to CEO in November 2020.

I am able to sustain in this insurance industry for 22 years basically is because i like to groom people to success in their career in both as corporate staffs with higher position and responsibility, and as successful entrepreneur - agency with strong income and recognation. Most important to see them and their family to have a better life. That is the vision of enriching life for all peoples surrounding me.

I like to provide personal coaching to peoples around me to make them realise the dream and then take action to fulfill their dream.

Describe a time you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.). What did you do and what was the result?

When I joined the company for one month, I came to realise that this company was in the management risk with top management which is not really able to adapt to the local culture and leading the company at the right direction. Therefore, as enturst by the Chairman, I have to voice up the concern on the situation at that moment. The proposal is to restructuring the company organization which had included removing a few top position like GM and CEO. But my concern is how people will interpret it as I was holding the deputy CEO at that moment. So, to avoid the misunderstanding I have suggested another candidate for his decision.

Restructuring on Top Management is not an easy task and it will create morale issue in the company. However, great to have the understanding and support from the Chairman and few keys staffs. The restructuring exercise was able to carry out and now we have engaged the right candidates for those positions and in the right direction of fundamental setup. It is now for branding and business development.

How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?

Different circumstances will need different communication method, but my style is always defined as "Very Direct". I choose to be very direct as i am sincerely treat each one of my stakeholder. What they have done right, I will compliment them directly. But if there is space of improvement, i will point out to them directly even it is horizontal or vertical level of stakeholder. By the way, I also very open minded to acceppt feedback from all colleagues. I will take their suggestion if it is make sense.

I am a person who like to close with every colleagues in the company, as I believe with this approach, we could have a better understanding and stronger collaboration. Listening is the key to identify every single opportunity and hidden risk in daily basis, so that we could catch the opportunities for action and identify & solve the problem/issue fast enough.

However, I will maintain a healthy distance with some protocol when come for credit claim. Example, when someone approach me for a problem/issue, I will always clarify either has the staff already referred the matter to his/her immediate superior. If the asnwer is no, I will encourage them to communicate to their superior. But I promise to pick up the matter and will channel back to them via the immediate supeior instead of going back to the staff directly. And if there is any credit earn, I will tell the staff it is the support from their superior.

Either close or distancing approach, to be effective, we have to apply both for different scenario especially in current high technology era that speed does matter.

How has the industry been changing in recent years? What do you think are the biggest challenges your industry will face in the next 5 years?

In Cambodia, the insurance industry is still new with 9 years old since the life first insurer start the opearation. However, the momentum has speed up a lot when regulator has applied open market and welcome more foreign investor into the country to build the economy. In total there is more than 10 life insurers operate in Cambodia with a number of top international player. However, the penetration rate is still far away with 0.5% of the total population. With increasing in the number of insurer in Cambodia has create a better awareness of the important of insurance in the public, improve in product portfolio that being offered. However, the penetration rate is still far below with 0.5% of the population. The key reason is due to the lack of middle income level who have the ability to pay the premium.

Due to the pandemic, there is a big change has happened in all countries in the world including Cambodia. Digitalization process has been speed up in insurance industry with virtual sales process and long distance remove application process. For Cambodia, regulator has started to explore and enhance their regulation on e-Commerce and e-Service. This will enable the insurer operator to overcome the sales process barrier during the pandemic lockdown.

As life insurance is at the early stage as compare to other countries, thus talent management is another big challenge. The market is lacking of the local talented person. Thus, in order to progress, most insurers need to engage the expat to assist in grooming the future talented person. Thus, cost of operating will be higher at the current moment.

However, the impact of all these challenges will be minimised in the next 5 years period. Thus, the industry will progress for another growth. Nevertheless, who could be the winner will be decided by the talent development process and level of digitalization of that company during the next 5 years. As the income level for the Cambodian will be have good improvement in the middle income, thus penentration rate and premium size will follow to increase. Therefore, company owner must be patient enough during this turnaround time period. So, as the top management, it is crucial to be able to bring the condifent to all stakeholders and to have their fully support.

What personality traits make a good leader?

Adaptability - in order to make things change, we need to adapt first to understand the local situation. Then from there only could decide the right things to do with te right people.

 

Accountability - a real leader is the one who could be dependable with trust. Empoyment to people with accountability will make things progress foward, adversely if to irrespobible person, will cause the failure.

 

Open Minded - Leader with open minded will gain the most. Idea for opportunity, weakness for improvement. Ended, get suppot from all stakeholders as they feel being appreciated.

What does the future hold for your company?

Even GC-Life is fully new born baby in the insurance industry, but with the right people and process in the right place, we have confident that we will progress from nobody to somebody and from good to great as our shareholders has the trust on us and giving us the best support. And our colleagues are fully committed and have the commit to achive our togetherness goal as "will be somebody in 5 years"! The Cambodian will see our sincerity via our services as we are here to inspire and enrich people's lives.

Contact

Michael Tee

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