Tan Suee Chieh is a very wise man, and a very wise man is he
March 5, 2012Every now and then, you come across an individual whose vision is stunningly profound. Tan Suee Chieh is just such an individual. Tan is the CEO of NTUC Income, a cooperative life insurance company headquartered in Singapore. Cooperative insurers are organized much like fraternals in that they are owned by their members and driven by a social mission rather than one based purely on profitability. Coop insurers are being created all over the world and provide vivid proof that the cornerstones of the fraternal business model - financial security, membership benefits, and community service - are not confined to North America. We may not realize it, but the fraternal model is considered the cutting edge in many of the world's emerging marketplaces. I read about Tan and NTUC in a recent issue of Voice, published by the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) - an organization that includes the Alliance as a member, and vice versa. Here are a few excerpts from the article that I found compelling. Take a look and see what you think. And don't be surprised if Tan is a featured speaker at a future Alliance Presidents Section or Annual Meeting. His message of revolutionary transformation is one we all need to hear.
- "In Feb. 2007, Suee Chieh took over the reins at NTUC. The company was well known in Singapore but was coming under siege from commercial insurers. His response was to engineer a transformation in the way NTUC operated. 'It rested on cultural change, and by culture I mean people's attitudes and behavior. We were extremely strong in values like trust, but we needed to do much better in terms of professionalism and adopting a more dynamic approach towards running the business.'"
- "This is an issue for all cooperative insurers. Ask what values coops encompass and terms such as stability, security, honesty, and caring come back in response. 'But what is required for our sector is being more professional, smart, energetic, and contemporary.'"
- "His aim is to marry the best practices of corporate business with social enterprise. Commercial companies' reason for being is profit maximization. Ours is more about mutual support and care. The challenge for us is not an either/or, but how to adopt the best of both sets of attributes.'"
- "He uses the words 'honest insurance' to describe what he is pursuing. There is much that is wrong with the way the insurance industry has traditionally operated. The focus has been on strongly incentivized distribution channels, with aggressive sales forces and opaque products. There is also an asymmetry of knowledge between the insurer and its customer, which means policyholders often don't have the understanding to know what is in their best interest. The bottom line is that the insurance industry is not meeting the consumer's real needs. 'Insurance companies have to be transparent in the way they work.'"