Fine-tuning insurance needs for the wealthiest in Singapore
Sean Goh wants to deepen the penetration of specialized insurance products and services in the HNW market, which has high growth potential
22 May 2019 | Tom King

Despite the continuous marketing campaigns and the millions of dollars spent targeting Asia’s wealthiest, the adoption of specialist insurance products by this group remains low. According to AXA’s Sean Goh, this represents an exceptional opportunity.  

Goh, managing director, Life, AXA Insurance, has been with the firm for seven years and heads a team of 70 based out of the landmark AXA Tower in Singapore’s CBD.

For the past year, he has been responsible for the Life Strategic Business Unit, overseeing life products and investment-linked products, underwriting, claims, and fund solutions for the firm’s customers in Singapore including its ultra-wealthy clients. Last year his firm drew on its position as a composite insurer in Singapore when it launched the AXA Imperial Collection.

The range of products consists of a specially selected compilation of global medical, lifestyle legacy and wealth solutions. All of these are specifically calibrated to match the requirements of ultra-high net worth and high net worth clients in Singapore.

Goh told The Asset that he wants to move the needle and deepen the penetration of specialized insurance products and services to the wealthiest clients.  

The standard universal life insurance product has been utilized across the region by wealthy families and individuals for some time. But as wealth continues to grow in Asia and the generational transfer of assets combined with a surging number of first-generation wealthy, the demographic of traditional insurance clients has been disrupted. A change in approach is essential.

The universal life product is evolving and being finely calibrated in Asia, where the needs are distinctive.

“In Singapore, traditionally, over the past 10 years, more than 90 percent of the solutions sold to high net worth individuals predominantly has a weight in universal life,” says Goh. “So we believe that we could help evolve the market a little bit by offering alternate solutions, complementing what a high net worth individual demands.”

“This includes variant products such as variable universal life which provides the same benefits of universal life, with added benefits such as cost efficiency, flexible premium funding and improved features,” he adds.

Goh elucidates on his passion for working with HNW clients. In his previous role as the Chief Partnership Distribution Officer for AXA, he helped craft a sustainable distribution strategy where the HNW segment was a strategic pillar.

He points out that in the HNW space in the Asia-Pacific region including the Lion City, the population is growing by 10 percent on average. Yet the market for this segment is still underserved. The insurance penetration is weak at about three to five percent.

So, clearly there is huge growth potential and this is where Goh sees a well-defined opening to differentiate his firm.  

“One of our philosophies in AXA is not just to be a payer of claims, but to transform ourselves from a payer to a trusted partner,” Goh says. “We have the resources and talent to be able to create and craft solutions and services that will encourage wealthy customers to continue their journey with us at every stage of their life.” 

So how does he and his team intend to leverage their global brand and local expertise? “We are one of the first insurance companies to offer a concierge service, it's a digital personal assistant, a hybrid of artificial intelligence and human interactions,” says Goh.

Clients are able to access this concierge service around the clock. “As you know AXA is a global brand and we also provide concierge and assistance services through AXA Partners, including emergency medical evacuation. These are some of the services that we have embedded into this concierge offering to support high net worth individuals,” Goh adds.

He explains that judiciously crafting the HNW strategy ensures that AXA is able to add value to the HNW ecosystem, through the international brokers who have robust referral networks with private banks, external asset managers and a growing number of family offices.

Aside from those channels his firm has propriety distribution in the form of its in-house agency that has access to HNW clients. There is also a close working relationship with the Hong Kong wealth team.

“We work very closely with the Hong Kong office, there's a lot of synergy, when we design products, especially with international brokers who have a presence in both financial hubs,” Goh says.

But as the products grow ever more technical and sophisticated, the regulators in the region also sit up and take notice. Goh welcomes this intervention.

“There's a lot of scrutiny, there's an increase in regulation, and controls but when I look at the flip side I think it's good for customers, it's good for the industry and it does safeguard the integrity, stability and reputation of the financial system in Singapore,” says Goh.

“So, yes, I think these are the necessary steps that we have to put in place in order to ensure that we are doing things right for the client,” he adds.

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