An Interview with Johan Van Rooyen


FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Van Rooyen: My team is keenly focused on a specific goal. As a partner to the AIA operations in the Asia Pacific region, our job is to ensure that Vitality-enabled insurance products are launched where it makes sense to launch these, and to achieve and maintain success where we are already in the market.

FST Media: What will be the most significant challenge facing insurance in the year ahead?

Van Rooyen: The people in this region, including in Australia, are (on average) under-insured. That means the average person and their family would not be able to sustain their lifestyle if a breadwinner passed away or suffered a severe illness. In the insurance industry, we say there is a significant insurance protection gap. To close that gap, we believe that protection insurance should be relevant in the lives of the customers: responsive life and health insurance, ideally with a wellness focus that puts consumers in the driving seat, instead of death and sickness insurance that is unresponsive to healthy lifestyle habits.

FST Media: How has AIA Vitality delivered value to AIA across Asia and how will you measure success?

Van Rooyen: Like any business, we measure business success in the numbers. But we find that perspective limiting. Our core purpose is to make people healthier, in other words, measuring how people become engaged in wellness activities and then achieving better health outcomes.

Across the Vitality world in South Africa, the UK, the USA and in China and now also in Singapore and Australia, Vitality members walk more, go to gym more often, go for more regular check-ups and are eat (or at least buy) more healthy food. Perhaps most pleasingly, the academic research in respect of the South Africa program is clear; engaged Vitality members are less likely to develop severe illnesses, are admitted to hospital less frequently and, when admitted, are discharged sooner than people who don’t belong to or don’t engage in Vitality. Engaged Vitality members also live longer.

FST Media: What role will wearable technology play on the insurance industry – and how can insurers take advantage of these new technologies?

Van Rooyen: Wearable technology that encourages people to be more active, sleep better and eat more healthy food, has always played a part in the Vitality programme. We have watched this space heat-up and think it will continue to grow, perhaps exponentially. I think this trend has the potential to democratize wellness, making a healthy lifestyle accessible and ubiquitous, instead of an elite activity. Innovative insurers will embrace this trend and find a way of building the use of these devices into their products.

FST Media: How do you balance the move into wearable tech initiatives with customer privacy concerns?

Van Rooyen: Firstly, people provide their consent and simply do not give us their data if they choose not to.

Secondly, once we are custodians of that data, we protect those data to the best of our ability and according to the norms set by legislation and regulation.

FST Media: How do you leverage data and analytics in order to deliver targeted messages, promotions and products to customers using AIA Vitality?

Van Rooyen: We have a proprietary triggered communications system that encourages clients, based on their behaviour, to engage in the program and to make optimal use of its benefits and enjoy its rewards. To give you a sense of this, a new member is typically encouraged to start engaging by completing an online Vitality Health Review. That review will produce a wellness prescription; physical activity, weight loss, smoking cessation and eating advice, for instance. The communications engine will then send well-timed engagement reminders and congratulatory notes to the member, aware of the member’s activity at Vitality’s partners and on the website or mobile device.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Van Rooyen: We have carefully cultivated a values-driven culture. At the heart of this culture lie the related values of great people, liberating the best in them and innovation. It is a moment-by-moment focus for us.

FST Media: What information sources do you consider invaluable for your job, and why?

Van Rooyen: I read widely and eclectically; social media, newspapers, other periodicals and books, so I am up-to-date on all developments in the insurance and wellness industries. I think social media and my professional network are perhaps my most valued sources of news.

FST Media: What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?

Van Rooyen: I have played a role (albeit sometimes a minor one) in the launch of Vitality in every market that it operates in today. Therefore I feel that I continue to play a role in making Vitality members healthier. What could be more satisfying?

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?

Van Rooyen: This is an excellent question. I strongly agree with this general statement. I would like to be remembered for the role I played in rolling out Vitality to the world, getting the wellness message out there, making people healthier.