After residing in Vietnam for just ten months Mr Pin Yao Lin has made commendable efforts to engender professionalism at Cathay Insurance Vietnam.
As a 52-year-old with nearly 30 years in the insurance industry, Mr Pin Yao Lin never imagined he would one day live in another place outside of Taiwan. But life is full of surprises and things rarely go as planned.
Before Mr Lin came to Vietnam he spent two and a half years in Shanghai completing the important task of setting up and managing the first foreign subsidiary of Taiwan’s Cathay Century Insurance. The experience turned him into a kind of “company builder” who could make a difference wherever he was involved.
With his insurance experience in Taiwan and China, Mr Lin was sent to Vietnam to create Cathay Insurance Vietnam. The company has been established as a part of a “dual-core strategy”, with two main components: insurance and banking. The introduction of Cathay Insurance completes the model Cathay wishes for Vietnam, joining Cathay Life Insurance Vietnam and Indovina Bank.
After just ten months in the country Mr Lin doesn’t speak too much Vietnamese but the speed at which he got the company up and running smoothly is surprising. Since becoming Chairman and CEO of Cathay Insurance Vietnam, he has achieved two milestones. In the first, the company issued its first policy within a very short period of time.
Later, he signed an agreement between Cathay Insurance and Cathay Life Insurance, which is the first cooperation agreement between a life and non-life insurance company in Vietnam. “It proved our promise of bringing our clients the most convenience and professional services,” he said. “Clients can now benefit from either company when they have insurance needs.”
But not everything has been straightforward. Finding good staff is a major challenge for new insurance companies and it concerned Mr Lin the most. “It is not easy to find employees that have both experience in insurance and good foreign language skills,” he said. In order to cope with the challenge, the company paid close attention to its training system and its foreign expertise, but the language barrier still poses some problems.
Casting his eyes over the industry, Mr Lin sees similarities between the Vietnam’s insurance market today and the Taiwanese market of days gone by. “Vietnam’s insurance market at this time is growing dramatically and is very competitive,” he said.
With a young and rapidly growing market of 86 million people, Mr Lin believes that the non-life segment has much room for growth. “The non-life insurance market was estimated at only 0.86 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2010, which is a very low ratio compared with developed countries,” he said. “Vietnam’s insurance market will continue to grow in the long term.”
Changes have arisen in the legal framework, which creates a fair competitive environment for every company and is key in attracting new foreign companies to the country. But Mr Lin suggests that more can be done, such as improving the Ministry of Finance’s role in supervising and managing the insurance market to prevent unfair competition. “The government should also consider fraud as a crime to reduce its occurrence,” he said. “We believe that these actions will help customers have the opportunity to access better insurance services and will protect the rights of both customers and insurance companies.”
For a new company time is of the essence and it seems that Cathay’s expansion plans are moving on the right track. Its Hanoi branch opened in April this year, completing the first step of a long-term project. In the near future Cathay Insurance Vietnam will launch other branches in important economic zones such as Da Nang, Can Tho, Dong Nai and Binh Duong. These results show that thorough preparation in the initial stages put the company in a solid position for the future.
On all these points, Cathay Insurance Vietnam, a relatively new name in the market, has achieved some positive results. Established with charter capital of VND300 billion ($14.5 million), the company now employs a staff of 49, of which two-thirds are Vietnamese. Like many other business leaders, Mr Lin finds time to train his staff and is quite confident that his Vietnamese colleagues, after one or two years, can replace him at the top.
He is also excited by the fact that Cathay Insurance Vietnam has already built a national network of professional agents. By expanding nationwide he hopes that the company can provide all non-life insurance products, such as personal accident, automobile, property, engineering, liability and marine insurance. “We commit to bringing to our clients professional, international-standard, convenient, and trustworthy services,” he said.
It is the combination between a localised strategy and local knowledge that makes Cathay Insurance Vietnam different from others. “It can help us design suitable products for Vietnam’s market,” Mr Lin believes. Moreover, Cathay Insurance Vietnam has also shown its commitment to the community by launching a number of social activities. “Our company operates in a special industry,” he explained. “It was born to ease financial pain. Because of this, social activities are and always will be a part of our destiny, wherever we are.”
Vietnam is, of course, totally different to Shanghai. “Shanghai is more modern and its utilities are better,” he said. “But I love the people here in Vietnam.” Looking at Vietnam in the context of the global economic recovery, Mr Lin agrees that the country’s economy is facing real challenges from high inflation and declining foreign direct investment.
But he is confident that the government’s reaction will improve the situation and the country can achieve long-term economic stability thanks to its people. “We believe in a bright future for Vietnam’s economy because Vietnamese people are active, creative, optimistic and hard working. They are the power that drives the country’s continuing growth.”
The support of his family and friends are what have truly helped Mr Lin build a successful career. “For married people, besides work, you have to take care of your children and even your other relatives,” he said. “They are always behind you, supporting you as you go through difficult situations in life and work. Without their support you could not fulfil a mission or have a successful career.”
In his spare time Mr Lin often goes to a golf driving range to practice his swing. “It’s not only good exercise but also helps me to relax and practice self-control,” he said. He and his wife also take walks near where they live after dinner to watch local people go about their business. His favourite Vietnamese dish is “goi cuon”. “Its taste is delicious and it’s good for your health,” he said. “I love it because it is not just a type of food; it reflects Vietnamese culture in its simplicity, homeliness, flexibility and balance.”
One of the happiest moments Mr Lin has had in Vietnam was when he attended the company’s Tet party earlier in the year. “I found that all of my Vietnamese colleagues were very active and energetic, devoting all their energy towards organising the party,” he said. “We ate, drank, sang, and danced together. Everybody enjoyed the party. I had an unforgettable time that night.”