What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the EB market in Asia-Pacific (APAC)? What’s it like joining a company in the middle of the pandemic? Why is collaboration between brokers and networks so important?
We sat down with Andrew Sim, Relationship Manager in our Asia-Pacific Business Development, team to find out all this and much more.
1. You’ve worked for MAXIS twice now… is it different the second time?
Well my role is a bit different now compared to when I worked for MAXIS before. Eight years ago, when I first joined MAXIS, I was doing a sales role and helping to grow business in the APAC market. But when I rejoined three years ago, during the pandemic, I took over an Account Management role, which means I’m doing more on the renewals side. In the past I was the hunter, now I’m more like the farmer helping to grow our opportunities!
When I came back to MAXIS I wanted to share the experience I’d gained. I thought there was a good opportunity to share what I’d learnt, while leading the Account Management team. So far, I think I’ve been doing ok! I’m happy with what I’m doing now, and I think I bring value to the organisation.
2. How was it re-joining the company during the COVID pandemic? And how would you describe your time at MAXIS so far?
Joining during the pandemic was very different – for the first two years I was working from home entirely. But I’m a very optimistic person and I like to look at the positives – it gave me a chance to spend more time with my family, which was especially important as my son was less than a year old at the time! So, if my wife or my son needed any help, I could give that support.
I’ve been lucky that Juliet, my manager, has been so supportive of me. I can always go to her if I need help – but she lets me run the show! This makes me really comfortable to do my job.
3. Can you tell us about your role and how it has evolved since you started at MAXIS?
I already touched on my role, but I can definitely see changes over the past few years, and since I first worked at MAXIS eight years ago. I think the main thing has been the introduction of the EU Underwriting Hub which has made the renewals process really clear, so it really helps the job I do now.
I’ve also seen the company investing a lot in new technology. For example, we use Monday.com and other tools which are very helpful. It means we can spend more time with our clients and brokers and less time on the administration tasks as they’re much more efficient now.
4. You’ve also worked for brokers in your career… how important is the collaboration between MAXIS and broker partners to deliver a successful EB solution for multinational employers?
I want to make sure I’m not biased towards the brokers – as you say, I was one before! But I think that with the business we do, the broker plays a very important role, and it’s really important to keep a good relationship with them and see how we can help them. I think if a broker reaches out to us, it means they have confidence in us, and if we can come up with a solution to help them, they will only trust us more and know that we are the partner they should reach out to in future.
Strengthening this relationship is really key to our success – when our network is aligned with our brokers and consultants, that’s when we can truly deliver the best results for multinational employers.
5. What trends are you seeing in the EB market across Asia Pacific? And what are the biggest opportunities for multinationals in the area?
Maybe I’ll give some context for Asia-Pacific here. Today, in terms of pooling and captive business, we have a lot of inbound clients (multinationals that are headquartered elsewhere in the world but have local offices here). In terms of opportunities, there’s room to grow a lot of outbound business (these are multinationals headquartered in the region) in Asia-Pacific, particularly in China. At the moment, there are a lot of companies who take their business outside of the region – they might not be aware of the opportunities for pools and captives here. I think this is our biggest opportunity and will be a growing trend. But it’s not a simple process, it could take a couple of years.
6. What challenges are facing the EB market in Asia-Pacific?
We’ve talked about the opportunities so let’s look at the challenges as well… In the Asia-Pacific region, the renewals are never done in one round, there are always multiple conversations around pricing, and this is a huge challenge. There’s a lot of negotiation – we want to give the lowest rate, but medical inflation in this region is so high that reducing our pricing isn’t always sustainable.
7. What’s the best thing about working at MAXIS? I know that you’re based remotely in Singapore – how do you find collaborating with your colleagues online?
The best thing for me at the moment is that I can save commuting time. But, of course, this can have its downsides too where I might tend to work outside of 9-5!
You mentioned that I’m based remotely – I find collaborating with colleagues online great, although sometimes we have to be mindful of time differences, particularly where I work in a regional role – it can be difficult when I try to speak with colleagues in America.
The funny thing is, I only met most of my Asia-Pacific colleagues for the first time in March, when we met in Hong Kong and Japan. I only met my boss Juliet for the first time in December!
I still think that meeting up in person is very important when it comes to our business – it’s proven that we can work virtually, but I think we still need to meet up with colleagues, clients and partners in person and go out into the market – this gives us a chance to enhance our relationships. What I’m most looking forward to is meeting all my MAXIS colleagues at our global MeetUp in September!
8. What do you like doing when you’re not at work?
In the past, before I had a family, I would hang out with my friends, go to the movies, play sport. But now I have a family, when I’m not working I just want to spend time with my kids and my wife. It can be something simple like just lying on the sofa, looking at them watching the TV or playing with their toys after a long day of work – these are the best moments.
9. Final question… tell us something we don’t already know about you!
Sure! I wanted to share something about my name. As you know, I call myself Andrew Sim, but I created this myself, Andrew isn’t actually my name. The reason I chose Andrew is that 10 years ago I had the opportunity to travel to the US, but my name is very Chinese and no one could pronounce it, so I gave up and said “how about you just call me Andrew?” and that’s why that’s my name.
But I wanted to share my Chinese name, which is Shen Zhen Feng. Shen, which in English is Sim, is my family name. Zhen Feng means “gold” and “mountain”. In Chinese this means prosperity and wealth. Basically, it means it gives you lots of money! This is something very unique that I wanted to share with everyone.