Under Wong Sze Keed’s leadership, AIA Singapore is setting new standards for the life insurance industry with her achievements in the past two years.
With almost a decade of experience working in AIA Singapore under her belt, chief distribution officer Wong Sze Keed was the best candidate to assume the position of CEO in the thick of the pandemic in 2020. Wong joined the company in 2013 and had, by then, chalked up close to 30 years of experience of working in the financial services industry.
Two years into her latest appointment, she has already led AIA Singapore into achieving several milestones. This year, the insurer has been recognised as one of the top 15 companies in Singapore by Linkedin. It also attained the rarefied status of being the number one Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Company for the eighth time, while topping the charts in achieving the highest retention rate of MDRT members worldwide.
Continuing to break new ground, the trailblazing CEO herself snagged a host of leadership distinctions, including the Most Inspiring Leader at the Employee Experience Awards 2022, and CEO of the Year at the Insurance Asia Awards 2022, among others. These accolades are a clear acknowledgement of not just an organisation steered in the right direction, but also one that excels at listening to, engaging and supporting their most valuable asset: the people.
Without a doubt, Wong’s vision and purpose are in perfect alignment with what AIA stands for. Just this Feb, the group launched the AIA One Billion campaign, which aims to engage one billion people across Asia Pacific to live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives by 2030.
As the pandemic brought to the forefront a host of environmental and social issues impacting the world, AIA Singapore deepened its commitments to areas such as Health and Wellness; Green Operations; Sustainable Investment; People and Culture; and Effective Governance.
“Climate change is the most critical global issue of our time and is poised to impact the Asia-Pacific region significantly,” says Wong, asserting the World Health Organisation’s position on the greatest health threat facing humanity today. “As the largest Pan-Asian life and health insurer with our legacy of trust, scale and influence, we embrace our responsibility to take a leading role in contributing to the sustainable development of the region.”
In 2021, AIA Group became the largest Pan-Asian life and health insurer to commit to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It had divested from its entire directly managed listed equity and fixed income exposure to coal mining and coal-fired power businesses, and committed to make no new investments in businesses directly involved in coal mining or generating electricity from coal.
In the same year, AIA Singapore pledged $5 million to NParks’ registered charity Garden City Fund to plant 16,666 trees in Singapore’s parks and nature reserves over five years. These trees contribute to NParks’ OneMillionTrees movement, which aims to plant more than a million trees across Singapore over 10 years. To date, AIA Singapore’s contribution is the largest from the private sector.
Building its focus on the local community, AIA Singapore has also launched the AIA Better Lives Fund in 2021. Administered by the Community Chest, it is conceived to raise funds to support children and families in Singapore through its adopted charity partners: Children’s Wishing Well, and Viva Foundation for children with cancer. Monies raised go towards providing greater access and opportunities to education, growth and development for children, youths and their families.
Several signature fundraising events were held in support of AIA Better Lives Fund and Garden City Fund, bringing together donors and participants to do good and enjoy fun-filled, healthy activities. They included the nation’s first Tokidoki-themed charity run for the whole family, as well as the 7th edition of the annual AIA Better Lives Fund Charity Golf and Dinner with a special guest appearance from Tottenham Hotspur legend, Teddy Sheringham.
In fact, the company regularly works closely with its global partner, Tottenham Hotspur, on a myriad fundraising initiatives. This year, Tottenham Hotspur players also wore special-edition AIA Better Lives Fund shirts during their Premier League match against Leicester City. These special-edition shirts, together with other club memorabilia, were autographed by the players and auctioned off. Just this Nov, AIA also hosted the AIA Kids’ Football Clinics, where 500 children spent time with the Spurs’ international development coaches on the pitch. All funds raised from these activities are in support of AIA Better Lives Fund with the aim to help provide positive change and better the lives of the fund’s beneficiaries.
Sustainability, be it environmental or social, is a topic that is very close to Wong’s heart. “I feel very passionate about our responsibility as an insurer to do our part in the transition to a more sustainable future. In doing so, we are also taking care of our communities and enabling them to live heathier, longer, better lives,” she says.
“This is the guiding principle in my personal life, and drives my efforts to become a better mother, wife, daughter and friend,” adds Wong, who believes that being healthier means that one is able to perform all of these roles better.
“When I took on the role of CEO at AIA Singapore in the midst of the pandemic, it was a difficult time for everyone,” explains Wong, who recognises the importance of prioritising the well-being of her employees. “If they are well taken care of, they can better take care of customers and the wider community in Singapore.”
She is instrumental in launching services to support mental resilience among her staff. On the ground, she serves as a prime role model by taking on mentorship responsibilities to non-direct reporting employees. Beyond regular town halls, she also avails herself to staff through various communication modes, helms virtual live “Dialogue with Keed” sessions, and even takes the time to pen “Keed’s Notes” to share her thoughts company-wide.
To muster all that, Wong needs to stay in tip-top shape, and walks the talk of healthy living. She exercises every day, and professes to eating and sleeping well despite the demands of her job. “No matter how hectic my schedule is, I make time for a workout at the gym, the stairs or on walks,” says the fitness enthusiast.
Her passion and positivity appear to be infectious: Whether it is a team-building run or tree-planting activity she organises for the AIA Singapore family, response has been terrific. Indeed, there is really no better showcase of leading by example than this.
This story first appeared in the Dec 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.