Singapore insurance executive reveals what helped her succeed

Insurance Business Elite Women awardee talks about what helped her blaze a trail for women in the industry

Singapore insurance executive reveals what helped her succeed

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

While insurance remains a male-dominated industry to this day, women are breaking through and reaching heights unheard of in previous generations.

Since beginning her insurance career more than 20 years ago, Vanessa Teo (pictured above) has risen through the ranks, beginning as a regional internal auditor for AIG in Asia. After several stops, including a stint in Australia as a business consultant with AIG, she is now chief financial and operating officer of Great American Insurance Company’s Singapore branch.

Teo, who was named one of Insurance Business Asia’s Elite Women 2021, was one of the founding employees of Great American’s Singapore branch.

“I was involved in the full set-up with a small team of five who worked for me in previous employments,” Teo said. “That included negotiating office space, procuring the insurance system, writing finance and operations policies and guidelines, setting up the risk management and compliance framework, and setting up the finance, human resources and other operating frameworks.”

Looking back, Teo credited the success in her career to the opportunities given to her by superiors who trusted in her in the early days.

“I was able to experience many areas, such as internal audit, business consulting, underwriting and claims review, risk management, M&A, etc., in addition to finance and operations,” she said. “This gave me a broad perspective on how insurance companies operate.”

Because of this, Teo believes that it is important to cultivate the next generation of female leaders in the insurance industry by equipping them for success. For women to succeed, there must be a corporate culture that promotes healthy work-life balance, she said.

Teo attributed the success of her branch to setting clear directions and vision, equipping the team with workable tools, and leading by example.

“Adopt a positive attitude and can-do mindset in any challenging situations,” Teo said. “Treat the team with a heart. Be sincere and genuine, as you would like to be treated. To sum up: trust your people; work like a family.”

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