Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I began my career in the insurance industry in 1988 and having been involved in general insurance during the first eight years, I then ventured into Life insurance in 1996. About two years ago, I was hired to set up PruBSN, which was launched on the 8th August 2006.
What does your role involve?
My role involves leading our young team in establishing our presence in the Malaysian Takaful landscape.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement to date is leading and establishing Prudential BSN Takaful as the number one Takaful company (in terms of new business regular contribution) in Malaysia in less than two years after its launch.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Our main contributor is Takafulink, our regular contribution investment-linked plan. We were the first Takaful company in Malaysia to offer a Shariah compliant medical card and it has been well received by Malaysians.
What are the strengths of your business?
Our strengths are:
1. Our shareholders, Prudential and Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN). Their brand presence, awareness and infrastructure availability made our road to the top an easier route. We are able to leverage on the product familiarity and back end infrastructure to get our business going from the word ‘go’.
2. Our agency force — we are able to tap into the best agency force in Malaysia (Prudential Malaysia) and get them excited in promoting our Takaful products. More than 90% of our sales are generated through our agents. Currently, we have more than 9,800 agents nationwide.
3. Our dedicated and committed staff — we have a young but dynamic staff. From a humble beginning of only 20 people in August 2006, we have now a strong, innovative and vibrant team of 188 staff. We would not be where we are today without their whole-hearted commitment and for that, I am thankful.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Two key factors contribute to our success. The first is our decision to promote ‘Takaful for All’ from Day One. We believe that Takaful is for everyone, be it a distributor or a consumer. More than 70% of our agents are non-Muslims and 35% of our certificate holders are non-Muslims. Islamic insurance system is a beautiful system and we shall continue to promote it to everyone regardless of faith, race or color.
Secondly, our values — TRUST — an acronym for Trustworthy, Respect, Understanding, Smile and Teamwork. Through these, we inculcate, nurture and embed in our people (staff and agents) the importance of our values from Day One and they (the values) have become our pillar of strength in running our company and also in selecting people to join us. We strongly believe that if we have people with the right values, the journey to success will be more satisfying and meaningful.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
The key obstacle is the mindset of people. Malaysians still do not treat Takaful/insurance as an important part of their financial management. And the authorities could assist the industry by giving attractive incentives (standalone tax incentives) for people to take up the Takaful/insurance policies. Another obstacle is the perception of Takaful itself. Generally, Takaful is perceived as uncompetitive, slow to respond to market needs and that it is only for the Muslims.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
Personally, I see the Islamic finance industry rising to be at par with or even better than its conventional rivals in the next five years. More and more discerning customers are looking at ethical financial instruments to manage their wealth and being an ethical system, Islamic finance should be at the forefront of attracting this new breed of consumers. However, we need to position ourselves differently than how we are doing today. We must embrace a new approach in order to attract non-Muslim customers and investors to appreciate and invest in the Islamic financial system.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I might stir a hornet’s nest here… but one thing that I would like to see in the world of Islamic finance is dropping of the word ‘Islamic’. We place too much emphasis on the word ‘Islamic’ that it loses the real appeal to the non-Muslims to learn, understand and appreciate our Shariah compliant system.
The Shariah compliant system and framework is a beautiful system and should be shared with everyone regardless of faith or race, but if we put too much emphasis or religious connotation to it, it will scare “followers of other faiths” from learning the beauty of this system.