Aetna's Derek Goldberg set on tapping into Asia's growing mass affluent

The Asian mass affluent consumer is expected to hold $43.3t in assets by 2020, and Goldberg eyes leveraging this opportunity.

Derek Goldberg is managing director, Asia Pacific for Aetna International, based in Singapore. In this role he serves as chief executive of Aetna Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., chief executive of Aetna Insurance Company Limited Singapore Branch, and president commissioner of Aetna Global Benefits Indonesia. He is responsible for developing Aetna’s business throughout the Asia Pacific region and has recently been named the CEO of the Year at the 2017 Insurance Asia Awards.

Goldberg joined Aetna in 2006, and during his career with the company, he has led a number of international development initiatives, including the acquisition of an insurance license for Aetna Health Insurance Company of Europe Limited (AHICE) and the implementation of strategic partnerships in various locations throughout the world. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is conversant in Japanese. Find out more about Goldberg in this exclusive interview with Insurance Asia.

What do you consider as your biggest achievements so far as the managing director, Asia Pacific of Aetna International? How has the company progressed under your leadership?
One key area of focus for me has been employee development for the people at Aetna. All employees are encouraged to maintain a development plan with the support of their managers. We have also increased training and development opportunities year-over-year. One of the metrics that points to success is that at least 20% of our team members have benefitted from internal transfer or promotion opportunities within the past two years. We have numerous examples of employees transferring across international borders to take on new roles. This has allowed the talent in Aetna to advance their skills and careers. We intend to build on this going forward.

In terms of business results, I am most proud of our geographic expansion. In Asia, we’ve expanded our presence from three countries to eight over the past five years. Our regional expansion allows us to provide highly localised services, matched with the expertise of our global network. One recent example of expansion is our acquisition in July this year of Bupa Health Insurance (Thailand) Public Company Limited, a large specialty health insurer in Thailand. Adding 300,000 members and over 400 health care providers to our network there is a significant demonstration of our commitment to investing in the Asia Pacific region.

What are your key business philosophies?
This is a people business and there are two groups of people we must never lose sight of, our customers and our employees. With respect to customers, if we look at every business decision through the lens of what is the impact on the customer, we will make better decisions. It sounds obvious, but it is too easy to focus exclusively on process or product and lose sight of the customer. Our strong local presence throughout the Asia region is also key to understanding our customers, as needs vary country-to-country.

With respect to employees, we’re focused on fostering an environment which allows our employees to grow. With a strong commitment to employee development and skills advancement, we seek to equip our team members to provide Aetna’s members with the best possible healthcare services. By ensuring our employees’ needs are met in addition to considering how better health services can be provided to our customers, everyone wins.

What three goals are you focused on for the next 12 months?
Tapping into Asia’s growing mass affluent market: One of the largest and fastest growing wealth segments, the Asian mass affluent, is projected to hold $43.3 trillion in assets by 2020, according to PwC. There’s certainly opportunity to further expand our health insurance offering to target a greater share of the disposable income and medical spending of this mass affluent segment.

Growing our brand: Aetna will be working hard to increase brand awareness in the Asia Pacific region. As we invest further in this region, we also need to invest in getting our story out there, ensuring that we have the recognition required for companies and individuals to benefit from our health solutions.

Putting our people at the centre of our strategy: Talent and team development will remain as one of our key priorities. To cultivate and retain top talent, we will continue to invest and re-invest in our employees, presenting new opportunities for learning and career advancements as well as nurturing the diverse and inclusive workplace we are so proud of.

What is the significance of your win as the CEO of the Year at the Insurance Asia Awards to you and to Aetna International?
A CEO is only as good as his or her team. Rather than a personal recognition, I consider this award to be a validation of the quality of the team we have built in Asia, as well as the progress made by Aetna. This award belongs to the hundreds of team members all around the region who support our customers every day, and continue to strive to do more. I hope they see this win as part of their achievements as well.

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