EXECUTIVE PROFILES

WOMEN IN REINSURANCE

INSPIRING LEADERS SERIES

ANN CHUA

Ann%20Chua_edited.jpg

Diversity in a practical sense to me is to recognize, tap on and listen to the diverse talent within an organization regardless of gender, age, race, cultural background, sexuality, social mobility, faith, caring responsibilities, mental health and physical impairments.
 
Diversity is important but it’s inclusion that really counts - ensuring that everyone regardless of differences and abilities feels included in the organization. It is also about creating an environment that everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and has an equal opportunity to be successful.
 

Ann Chua​

Head of Asia

AXA XL, a division of AXA

An Interview with Ms. Ann Chua

by MARY SOLYTISIAK | SEPTEMBER 2020

How would you describe your leadership style? 

 

I’d say I have a more engaging and coaching style.  I believe engagement and bringing people along in the journey is essential to achieving optimal results.  I also like to share my experiences with the team and believe in leading by example.

What’s one important leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career? 

 

That a good organization can only be successful with the right talents in place and an important aspect of management is recognizing the various strengths and weaknesses of the team and leveraging on that diversity.  In our business environment, there will always be challenges along the way and changes are inevitable. Having team members with the right attitude and mindset is key
 

 

What are some important things that you have undertaken and have contributed to your success?

Like many of us in the industry, I’ve been through a few mergers and acquisitions and the approach I’ve adopted is to treat each management change as joining a new company but that the advantage I have is it’s not a totally new company to me.  It’s also important to stay positive and focused.

Cultivating meaningful relationships goes a long way and being able to be upfront in discussing challenging issues is important.  The current COVID-19 situation is one good example of the need to be able to discuss and work together with business associates to meet both internal and external expectations.
 

Who are your role models? Who inspires you? and why?

 
I don’t think it’s possible to epitomize a role model in one single person as I respect and have been inspired by many throughout my personal and professional journey.  But what I can say is I admire people with traits of magnanimity, resilience, grit and compassion as I believe these attributes will help us all overcome any situation in life.

What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered? Why and how did you handle it?

 

The global financial crisis in 2008 was probably the most challenging event I’ve been through in my career as XL was downgraded then but fortunately with the strong franchise of the company and proactive communication with the markets, we managed to achieve a high retention of the business.  In circumstances like that, as well as the current COVID-19 environment, staying connected and being visible in the market place is even more important.

 

What are the biggest opportunities you think are available to women today?

I think there are more opportunities in senior positions and middle-management roles for women in Asia today as compared to the past. This is due to an increased corporate awareness and initiatives in promoting D&I especially in gender.  This is also made possible with infrastructure and policies created by the government that allow and encourage more working mothers to have that delicate balance between family and working life.  For example, there is childcare leave, infant care leave and paid paternity leave for eligible working fathers. The family support network in the Asian culture also helps. 

The COVID-19 event has also demonstrated the viability of working from home and brought about more openness by corporations on flexibility with work from home arrangements going forward.  This will certainly benefit the working women with young children. 
 

 

What does diversity mean to you in a practical sense?

 

Diversity in a practical sense to me is to recognize, tap on and listen to the diverse talent within an organization regardless of gender, age, race, cultural background, sexuality, social mobility, faith, caring responsibilities, mental health and physical impairments.

Diversity is important but it’s inclusion that really counts - ensuring that everyone regardless of differences and abilities feels included in the organization. It is also about creating an environment that everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and has an equal opportunity to be successful.
 

 

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?

With the COVID-19 situation, we’ve been conducting our weekly team meeting virtually.  To encourage greater engagement of all team members, we do a draw of the chairperson of the meeting each week.  This also helps to build more confidence especially for the quieter team members.  Whenever possible, work that involves interaction with colleagues outside of the region is also spread out or rotated amongst the team members.

How do you get your leadership team on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives?

I don’t really need to as there’s already a big drive within the AXA Group on D&I initiatives.

 

At AXA XL, we are committed to building a global workplace that works for everyone, through focusing on three areas: drive an inclusive culture, diversify our workforce and support our marketplace and communities.

 

Our five Business Resource Groups (LEAD, Pride, Rise, EnAble and Inclusion Committees) have been busy increasing visibility across our company, organizing events and promoting intersectional diversity.

What would you say is the most difficult part of implementing a D&I program/ culture?

Genuine open mindset across an organization is not easy to achieve – it takes a lot of education and time to make it happen.  However greater

awareness and D&I promotion by corporations these days is a good direction.

What would the person you are today say to the person you were on your first day at work?

Be patient and build a solid foundation of your skill set. Stay interested, connected and adapt as change is a constant.  If your circumstances permit, take up opportunity for a working stint overseas as, if nothing else, it will be great for character building and this will go a long way as you progress in your career.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

Generally, I don’t let the stress get the better of me for too long and I manage the pressure by staying focused on the important aspects of what needs to be done.

 

Brisk walking, swimming or a round of golf (despite my lousy score) also helps to clear the mind and relax.  Most golfers would agree that a bad day at golf beats a good day at work! 😊

What is one interesting fact that we will be surprised to know about you?

I enjoy dancing and it’s certainly a good form of de-stressing!

 

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