In Focus
INSURANCE | Staff Reporter, Malaysia
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Shaping up agents with Allianz Life Malaysia's CEO Programme

Chief executive Joseph Gross reveals what it takes to be a leader.

Aside from upgrading their tools and services and coming up with new products, insurers must also take the time to train future leaders within their ranks.

At Allianz Life Malaysia’s Center of Excellence and Opportunity (CEO) Programme, agents undergo a 24-month training which implements focus-coaching and personalised mentoring with the insurer’s management team. Agents will get the chance to become certified estate planners and will receive a monthly financial assistance of $3,000 (MYR12,000).

“I am proud to see the CEO Programme take off as we strive to deliver an ongoing talent development mechanism that serves to enhance people’s skills and knowledge. I foresee the calibre of individuals who will become part of our organisation in the coming years and I am excited at the prospect of welcoming a workforce motivated by passion to serve our community,” Allianz Life Malaysia CEO Joseph Gross said in a press note.

It also felt timely to launch the programme amidst rising unemployment rates in Malaysia, he added.

In an email interview with Insurance Asia, Gross expounded more on the CEO Programme as well as shared aspects of his journey prior to becoming the CEO of Allianz Life Malaysia. He also spoke about his plans for the programme and the future of the country’s life insurance sector. 

Tell us more about yourself. How has your experience in the insurance industry impacted your leadership style as Allianz Life Malaysia CEO?

I have been taking on the role of Allianz Life Malaysia CEO since 2016 and spent over 14 years in the Allianz Group in Germany, holding various senior management positions. My style of leadership is where action, solution and implementation matters, and also having that forward view, anticipating how the business would progress in both short and long-term tenures.

One of the main things I pushed for was digital transformation within the life insurance business which at the beginning was tough, because we didn’t have any benchmark or reference to fall back on. Today, the foresight to digitalise has been proven right with the insurance industry already in a digital mode due to the demands of technology. COVID-19 accelerated this and pushed the digital agenda for insurance companies, quicker and faster than anyone could imagine.

Ultimately for me, it is all about taking care of our customers and giving them top notch services. Take this pandemic as an example. We launched the Allianz We Care Community last year to provide support to the community, including non-Allianz customers, in their time of need. The community has amassed more than 500,000 members to date and this programme provides free COVID-19 and healthcare benefits, including hospitalisation and death benefits, as well as wellness and lifestyle benefits. On top of that, Allianz Malaysia‘s medical plans cover eligible medical expenses incurred from hospitalisations due to the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has to be approved by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and administered accordingly.

This is an opportunity for us to help customers manage their health and wellness, looking beyond offering products and payouts. Customers want compassion, efficiency and flexibility from insurers and the sector must become more customer-centric to come out of this pandemic more agile and competitive at the same time.

What lessons would you impart to Allianz Life agents, especially those who are striving to become leaders someday?

We constantly roll out programmes for agency development to ensure our agents become future leaders. Whilst we provide them with all the training and tools, their success will depend on their initiatives and efforts.

We launched the Allianz Life Changer in 2020 which is about career positioning as an Allianz Life agent and increasing the number of quality agents. We want our agents to excel and stand out amongst their customers and peers. We also launched the Friends of Allianz (FOA) which is a referral programme in which participants can earn an uncapped potential income based on referral fees that are 100% risk-free.

My advice would be that anyone can become a leader provided that they follow our training modules diligently and have their own drive to achieve success.

How did Allianz’s CEO Programme come to be? Can you expound on the model that is being used to nurture and develop leaders?

The CEO Programme is our flagship programme designed to nurture, cultivate a select team of professionals and accelerate talent to excel with the company. The model is very simple: Allianz Life will provide everything, mentoring, training and materials to achieve their goals of becoming a successful agent. Divided into two schemes, individual contributor and team leader, one can choose which scheme they prefer as both are tailor-made to suit one’s preference of what they want to achieve.

An individual contributor’s target is to reach the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) in 24 months whilst those aspiring to be team leader should be the team champion in the same amount of time. Agents only need to go the extra mile and absorb all the teachings we offer if they want to make a name for themselves in the insurance industry.

What does the future look like for this programme, especially given the rapid digitisation and its effects on insurance agents?

The future looks bright for this programme. We offer the best digital solutions to our customers such as delivering a policy to our customers in five minutes whilst customising our CEO programme to suit individuals and team needs in 24-months. Ultimately, Allianz Malaysia delivers from A-Z in life and general insurance.

Every new agent who is joining this programme will undergo a series of intensive training in order to adopt the right working behaviour as an insurance agent from day one by utilising all the digital tools that have been developed to support them in carrying out their duties.

What we are saying is that basically, any new programme we introduce is tailored towards digitalising our approach in training, agents and products. This pandemic has opened the life insurance industry’s eyes towards being more agile and adaptable to change in a short span of time.

In your opinion, what makes an effective estate planner within the ranks of Allianz Life Malaysia?

That person needs to educate, bring awareness and simplify what estate planning is to customers. Profit should be the furthest from their minds. Ultimately, an effective estate planner is someone who stresses on the importance of legacy planning and protecting one’s family income.

Towards this end, Allianz Life and the Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC) have signed a training services agreement which will enable Allianz Life agents to enrol in the Council’s Professional Estate Planning Adviser Programme (PEPAP).

In your view, what has the Malaysian life insurance sector done right in terms of surviving the pandemic? What trends have you noticed that you think will last in the medium to long-term?

Being there for our customers during trying times is crucial and Allianz Malaysia will continue to build on ways to win over customer confidence. We will find ways to offer more definite and meaningful products that relate to the needs of Malaysians and are suitable to the current market appetite.

For our life business, we offered Allianz MoneyBack, a life insurance policy that offers a 15-year protection coverage on a six-year commitment and a money back guarantee when the policy matures. We also launched Allianz 1Cover and Allianz BolehCover which are focused on providing young parents and mature adults, respectively, with affordable life protection coverage, no matter their health condition.

Where is Allianz Life Malaysia headed over the next five years? What particular developments are you keeping a close eye on?

People are becoming more aware that it is important to have good medical coverage during a crisis, especially with a strong and resilient insurer. In view of this, Allianz Life will continue to focus on enhancing our agents’ capabilities, finding new ways for product offerings and simplifying our processes.

In this new norm, although we are forced to adapt to digitalisation, we believe most people still prefer to buy insurance from agents face-to-face rather than online. A website may not always be able to provide answers to every question. Nevertheless, looking ahead, the new normal for the life insurance industry will be increasingly digital, from gaining customers right up to issuing policies and payments made. Our agents in Allianz Malaysia all have tablets which allow them to do everything online.

Whilst the life insurance industry as a whole is in a decline as a result of changing consumer sentiments and lingering uncertainties, Allianz Life has remained resilient, working diligently to serve our customers and rebuild new business to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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