“It’s been extremely challenging, but we should be proud as a community, as we’ve demonstrated so much resilience to really get through the pandemic.”
Those were the words of AIA Australia and New Zealand chief executive and managing director Damien Mu (pictured), who believes “2022 will be a year of revival,” especially in the area of health.
“[The last two years] have definitely shone a spotlight on the importance of overall health and well-being, both physical and mental,” Mu told Insurance Business. “One of the reasons why I’m confident that we can revive into the future next year, is that we will bring many of those little tools and tips that we learned around health and well-being practices.
“And I really hope that we wouldn’t forget those – whether it’s getting out there and going for a walk, or the mindfulness that we’ve sort of brought in, slowing down of life in certain areas, spending more time with friends and families and appreciating that we’ve got them after being isolated for a long time or in lockdowns. I think we will bring them forward.”
For Mu – whose camp wants Australia and New Zealand to be the healthiest and most protected nations in the world – it’s small steps that will take us there, not extreme changes.
“Human behaviour shows that we can forget easily and move on, but my view is that after two years it is very well grounded in our minds that those habits will continue moving forward,” added the CEO. “Of course, it may not be at the same level, but it’s the small things. How do we continue to take small steps towards healthier, longer, better lives?
“It doesn’t have to be a big run but just continue to just get up and go for a walk, or do a bit of meditation and drink a little bit more water or eat a little bit more home-cooked meals – just little things, and I think we can sustain those. If you try to go extreme, it’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is making small progressive steps towards your healthier, longer, better life, and that’s what we really support.”
This year, AIA released its so-called “5590+” reports for Australia and New Zealand, respectively, examining the five modifiable lifestyle behaviours that impact five of the non-communicable diseases that cause 90% of deaths in the two countries. The reports – which provide the foundation for the insurer’s work on life, health, and well-being – are aimed at encouraging all Australians and Kiwis to think well, eat well, move well, and plan well.
“Our purpose is to make a difference in people’s lives, and that’s why we published the 5590+ report,” stated Mu. “While people are engaged around their health and well-being, I think the opportunity is to build more engagement around prevention.
“While we are there to support when something goes wrong, how can we be engaged in our customers’ lives to give them value from their life and health insurance through the engagement of programmes such as Vitality, where they get rewarded for taking those small steps, but also how can we help them to continue getting value from it by preventing the potential issues that may arise from a health perspective?”
According to the AIA boss, one of the silver linings has been the recognition that things like digital health and digital engagement are critical, especially since, through them, a lot of people can be reached.
Mu went on to say: “While we need to have what I call the analogue services where people still come and see face-to-face a medical professional or go to the office of a physiotherapist, etc., we also know now that we can provide exceptional services and content for different levels of varying health issues through digital means as well.
“That means that, hopefully, we can actually help people to either prevent or recover more quickly. And that’s a real opportunity to be engaged in our customers’ lives, and be able to give them support in the palm of their hands. So that’s where I think the huge opportunity is. What we want to build is a health and well-being ecosystem around predict, prevent, diagnose, treat, recover, and thrive. Wherever you are on that spectrum as a customer of AIA, we want to be able to support you.”
Additionally, for the chief executive, both Australia and New Zealand are blessed in terms of not only resilience, but also infrastructure.
“I know we’re going to continue to have challenges,” he told Insurance Business, “but we should always remain focussed on the fact that we are very fortunate in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve demonstrated great resilience, we have great infrastructure, and now we can engage and connect and help each other. So, I am really excited and hopeful.
“What I’m most hopeful in, is it’s just so wonderful to see the human spirit and how the community came together – that’s corporate, individuals, government – to rally around what was in the best interest of getting the countries back on track.”
Mu asserted: “It was not easy, but during that time I’d say one of the greatest things that came out of it is one of the virtues I hope we bring forward to life, which is kindness – people showing kindness to one another. That was a great gift I hope we bring forward along with all the healthy habits as well.”