Set a measurable goal for your insurance career

Identifying concrete targets and an appetite for learning are key to success, says finance leader of two decades

Set a measurable goal for your insurance career

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Given insurance’s nature of dealing with numbers, it’s only right that insurance professionals set measurable goals for their careers in order to achieve success, according to one finance veteran of 20 years.

Edmund Lee (pictured), trade credit, political risks and surety underwriter at Tokio Marine Kiln (TMK) in Singapore, spoke with Insurance Business and shared his journey in the financial industry, as well as the qualities needed to be successful in one’s insurance career.

“I chose an insurance career due to its opportunities and I believe I can make a difference in this least understood industry, especially in the trade credit, political risks and surety business,” he said. “Additionally, I like the challenges and responsibilities of overseeing TMK’s business growth in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Interestingly, he revealed that his career has taken him on a round trip, having seen various sides of the trade credit ecosystem.

“My insurance journey has come to a full lifecycle, having the opportunities to first market trade credit, political risks and surety insurance solutions to clients as a broker, using and benefiting from these insurance solutions as a bank user for credit and capital relief, and finally as an underwriter/senior credit officer approving such products,” he explained.

Before joining TMK, Lee was part of Standard Chartered Bank’s trade asset management/global trade product team. Before that, he worked for various financial institutions, including Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) and AIG, focusing on trade credit and political risk solutions.

Lee recalled an experience in 2006, during his time with Standard Chartered, as a pivotal moment of his career. There, he was selected as one of the pioneers helping to set up the global trade asset management, distribution, and insurance team with strong support from the overall manager.

“It was an opportunity to leave my comfort zone in the insurance industry and learn more about the wider financial industry including banking and finance and understand how they organized themselves for scalable growth,” he recounted. “I learnt a lot of technical, management and leadership skills during my career in Standard Chartered Bank and also made a lot of friends there.”

In fact, Lee believes that if he never entered the insurance industry he would most likely be into trade credit, just on the opposite side, for example as a leader of a solution structuring team within transaction banking or a trade distribution/credit insurance team within capital structuring and distribution in a bank. 

In true technical fashion, Lee shared his advice for professionals new to the insurance industry.

“Set a measurable goal of what you want to achieve from your insurance career – review and refine them periodically,” he said. “Additionally, it is important to be proactive and do more than expected in whatever tasks you are doing.”

He also stressed the importance of paying it forward.

“I believe in contributing back to our society and provide training for the next group of business leaders,” he said.

As an underwriter, Lee has encountered his fair share of challenges, among which is having to process a lot of data and events, especially in global trade.

“You need to read very widely across various industries, businesses, and geopolitical situations in order to have a good appreciation of the credit and political risks we are reviewing,” he said. “You also need to have absolute clarity on the clients’ motivation of procuring credit and political risks insurance, how the risks are selected, and if the value proposition of the insurance-backed transaction matches the objectives of the ultimate clients or corporates.”

And, of course, taking these into consideration, the business must be able to achieve scalable and profitable growth.

According to Lee, these challenges should be met by keeping an open mind across various industries, as well as being willing to learn and take advice from industry leaders. Next was hiring a strong team with robust skill sets and members sharing the same vision of scalable, profitable growth in Asia-Pacific.

“While we are presented the positives and strengths of each risk, we should also focus on the mitigating risk factors, availability of securities, and operational efficiency of insuring each transaction,” he said.

Lee holds a Bachelor of Business Studies degree from Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and is a Chartered Insurance Practitioner and ACII of the Chartered Insurance Institute in the UK.


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