An interview with Steve Monaghan


AIA’s Regional Director and Head of Edge speaks with FST Media about how cloud adoption will evolve in the insurance industry over the next five years.

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

Monaghan: The objective of our AIA Edge team is to explore new sources of competitive advantage for AIA. It is an internal team, mandated to promote business innovation throughout the AIA Group. We have a number of business targets, including talent acquisition, collaboration and transformation which are key priorities for us over the next 12 to 18 months. 

FST Media: How do you see cloud adoption evolving in the insurance industry over the next five years?

Monaghan: Cloud is an important business-accelerator in any industry. We will continue to look for opportunities to accelerate our utilisation of cloud technologies.

FST Media: How will the establishment of AIA Edge support business operations in future?

Monaghan: AIA Edge has a laser-like focus on the customer, as has always been the case with AIA generally. We will continue to align our efforts to further enhance the customer experience and value, with measurable impact within our core business operations.

FST Media: Why should financial services organisations adopt a startup mentality?

Monaghan: It is not the smartest or the largest institutions that survive, but rather the ones most responsive to change; the rate of change is accelerating. Financial services organisations have a lot to learn from the startup community in the way that they adapt to rapidly evolving customer needs. They have a bias to action. Testing, learning and adapting are essential characteristics for the modern corporation.

FST Media: What are you expecting from AIA’s partnership with Nest to launch a 12-week innovative accelerator program?

Monaghan: As the pre-eminent insurance company in Asia, AIA is committed to improving the lives of the people we serve, by focusing on innovation across all our markets.  

We have established relationships with a network of external partners, ranging from start-ups and universities, to research institutes and government agencies. We have also engaged in projects involving commercial opportunities in data analytics and digital health. One of these projects is the AIA Accelerator program, partnering with Nest. We believe this is a great initiative and it creates a bridge between the entrepreneurial community and a highly successful institution. We began the initiative in the context of experimentation, engagement and learning; already it is growing into something even more valuable. It is a great fusion of creativity and successful commercial execution.

FST Media: What is the future of AIA Vitality and how will it develop further across Asia?

Monaghan: AIA Vitality is AIA’s innovative wellness program. This science-backed program enables us to offer protection products designed to encourage and reward sustained changes in lifestyle that promote healthy living, and further differentiates AIA’s protection proposition. Following the initial launch in Singapore in early 2014, we extended it to Australia and received very positive participation during the year. 

FST Media: How does your background in banking bring value to your role in the insurance industry? What are the main differences and challenges?

Monaghan: Banking and Insurance are both industries with great history and legacy. A fresh perspective is perhaps the greatest value in transitioning from banking: not being constrained by the momentum of history, but being familiar with operating in a tight regulatory environment. The main difference is the increased frequency of customer interaction, which presents a greater challenge, but equally a greater opportunity.

FST Media: What role will data analytics play in the overall customer journey?

Monaghan: Data analytics is an essential ingredient when creating context for any customer journey. The smarter we are with data, the easier the journey is for the customer. At AIA, our aim is to deliver the best possible customer experience through a deep understanding of what matters most to our customers. Our ongoing Customer Understanding Programs enable us to better understand customer needs and identify critical success factors in product and service design.

FST Media: How will wearable technology and telematics shape the future of the insurance industry?

Monaghan: We believe wearable technology, telematics and digital health are game changers. They are, not just for the insurance industry, but also for our customers as well as society at large. From an industry perspective, this enables insurers to adapt and re-shape value propositions for customers.

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

Monaghan: Passion, Integrity, Tenacity, Collaboration and Humility (PITCH). We are a team that learns, a team that trusts and respects each other’s capabilities, a team which will fight for the right customer outcome and a team with the humility to recognise failure and learn from it. My team is much smarter than I am, so I think it is really them encouraging me. For us, diversity is the key: cultural, intellectual and geographical. 

FST Media: How do you sustain your level of motivation in a high pressure environment?

Monaghan: Pressure is overrated. We do what we love. We are engaged in our agenda. Better still, more and more of our colleagues and external networks are becoming engaged in our agenda. We are changing the world of insurance and aiming for significant positive social and financial impact.

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

Monaghan: I have always been deeply moved by those who strive for change and work tirelessly to build a better world for others. In a world where it is all too easy to follow a destructive cycle, I can only admire those who choose the wiser path. In my own humble way, I seek to change the status quo, which sees the poorest pay the most for financial services. By increasing financial literacy and changing the cost and revenue dynamics of financial services, I seek to redress some of these inequalities and create new opportunities for the least fortunate in our society.

Steve Monaghan will be speaking at FST Media’s Technology & Innovation – The Future of Insurance event in Hong Kong, in addition to a distinguished panel of executives across financial services on November 18. For more insights and information about the event, register here.