AIA’s Lee takes CEO post as insurer plots recovery

June 1, 2020.

AIA Group’s new chief executive Lee Yuan Siong began his tenure Monday as the Asian insurance giant sought to recover from depressed revenues driven by lockdown restrictions and months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. 

Lee’s appointment was disclosed in November in connection with the retirement of former CEO Ng Keng Hooi.

AIA recruited Lee from rival Ping An Insurance, where he was co-CEO and chief insurance business officer. He also led Prudential’s China joint venture. 

“Yuan Siong has a superb track record of accomplishment across Asia’s insurance markets, making him the ideal leader to succeed Keng Hooi at an important time in AIA’s history,” Edmund Tse, AIA’s independent non-executive chairman, said in a statement. 

Lee was tapped as AIA began seeing sales lag due partly to the protests that engulfed Hong Kong last year and drove down tourism, the company said in a statement last fall. AIA, which is based in Hong Kong, generates a lot of its sales from tourists visiting from mainland China looking for overseas investment opportunities and better insurance offerings. 

He now faces a 27% dropoff in new business value, which the company reported last month in an earnings report, amid the market downturn. Life insurers globally have struggled to see returns in the low interest rate environment, and AIA said sales have been hurt by lockdown restrictions.

“Containment measures continue to constrain face-to-face meetings, which remain the group’s primary source of new business sales,” Ng said in a statement.

Investors seem to have faith in Lee as someone who can lead expansion in China and drive fintech innovation. After the succession plan was announced last year, share prices rose 3.8%. 

Lee’s contract is for three years and he’ll be compensated $7.03 million annually, including incentives, the company said. 

“AIA has achieved great success over 100 years of history and I look forward to working with my outstanding colleagues to ensure we lead the organization to its next phase of long-term sustainable growth,” Lee said in a statement.