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Career Guide


Passion for life - Insurance value

AmLife Insurance Berhad chief executive officer Paul Low has an innate mission; to plough back his skills and knowledge to the local insurance industry AmLife Insurance Berhad chief executive officer Paul Low has an innate mission; to plough back his skills and knowledge to the local insurance industry

When he decided to make his homecoming move after more than a decade studying and working overseas, AmLife Insurance Berhad chief executive officer Paul Low has an innate mission; to plough back his skills and knowledge to the local insurance industry. It is also because of family ties; to be nearer to his 83-year-old mother and six siblings.

An ardent believer in the values and benefits of “insurance at work”, Low says life insurance policies are recommended for all people and “rightfully there should be insurance plans to protect every family in Malaysia.”

He wants to leverage on his position in AmLife “to offer protection to as many families in Malaysia as possible.”

Low’s priority for AmLife is to rally his staff to work towards AmLife becoming one of the leading life insurance companies in terms of customer satisfaction, products and productivity by 2016.

“We are also building the right environment for a learning organisation where people would be motivated to learn and develop themselves. This could mean the need to unlearn what had been learned in the past in order to relearn new things.

“I would also like to develop young emerging talents. I can’t be the CEO for the rest of my life and therefore, a good succession plan is vital to ensure the company’s continuous success and growth. One day, the younger generation will have to lead the corporate world and the nation. Thus, I believe in developing young talents and always look forward towards sharing my knowledge and experiences with them. Perhaps, to be part of a mentoring or coaching programme,” Low shares with myStarjob.com.

He says the life insurance penetration rate in the country is only 43% (based on number of policies per population), which is still relatively low compared with the other more developed markets. This shows that the prospect for growth in the local market is still high.

The absence of data on the number of insurance policies held by each policyholder, however, hampers more in-depth analysis and planning for the market, he notes.

Low says there is a need to educate the public and raise awareness about what life insurance can do for them in terms of protection.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

His mission is also to help local insurance agents through more holistic training programmes to ensure a higher rate of success in their profession. He believes there is a need for a more systematic training program to arm insurance agents with the necessary skills and knowledge.

“The local insurance industry still lacks a holistic, lifelong training programme to train insurance agents and they are mostly left to their own devices. This has resulted in a rather low retention rate of agents in the country and hence the low penetration rate of insurance in the local market,” Low says.

Having made a success as an insurance agent in the United States that earned him a place in the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), Low certainly knows what he is talking about. For someone who started his career in the insurance line as an agent, he has the necessary practical skills and experience to fall back on.

“But having the knowledge is different from being skillful, and that’s where the difference lies when it comes to being a success or failure. It takes a lot of practical training to succeed as an agent.”

Although he graduated with a degree in building construction, Low only worked briefly in the construction field before deciding to call it quits.

After completing his master’s degree in economics and finance in 1986, he joined Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance as an agent in the United States. He stayed on for three years before joining MetLife Insurance as branch manager in 1989.

“Being in a foreign country, I was the only Asian agent and was surrounded by Americans. To succeed in the insurance line you need to meet a lot of people and the only two people I knew in the United States at that time were my sister and brother-in-law. However, my American colleagues were always willing to help, share and were very positive people. They believed in working using a system and I learned that to succeed I had to be disciplined,” he says.

FUNDAMENTAL VALUES

Low learned a lot from the Americans particularly, their professionalism and value system.

“You have to be professional, ethical and positive. I think these are the values that I learnt on my first job and it helped me throughout my career,” he says.

His most enduring moment of his first job, which was also the turning point in his career, was when he achieved the MDRT. “It helped me to build my confidence level,” he says.

Low recalls that during Christmas eve in 1987, he was short of some production in order to achieve the MDRT goal. On that final day he managed to close five cases. “As I walked out of my client’s house towards my car, I was yelling in excitement because I achieved my goal. I think that incident really helped me to be a goal-oriented and positive person,” he reminisces.

Today, Low has more than 20 years of working experience in various sectors of the financial services industry namely insurance, mutual funds and wealth management abroad, mainly in the United States and China, and also locally.

He has held key positions in AIA, Sime Axa Assurance and Arab Malaysian Unit Trust in Malaysia. In 1998, he was the CEO of BHLB Pacific Trust Bhd before he moved to China in 2006 to take on the role of chief agency officer and then chief operating officer with CITI-Prudential Life Insurance.

He was also involved in the merger of two unit trust companies, manufactured Islamic and non-Islamic funds and working with the agency force and retail banks to distribute Islamic and non-Islamic unit trust products.

In 2008, Low subsequently became the chief distribution officer and deputy general manager of ING Capital Life Insurance in China and his last stint in China was as executive vice-president of AEON Life. In China, Low broadened his role to be an effective influencer in the area of regional expansion and replication of a sales and management system throughout various provinces in China.

To Low, a degree is just a stepping stone to launch one’s career.

“Ultimately, the right attitude and discipline, the willingness to learn and to apply one’s knowledge will be the differentiating factors to determine how far one will go in life,” he says.

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