08 May 2018

Asia CEO explains his plans for the firm in exclusive interview

Nic Nicandrou came to Hong Kong as Prudential Corporation Asia’s (PCA) chief executive in July last year, having previously held the position of Group Chief Financial Officer at UK-based parent company, Prudential, since 2009. He is also the second-longest serving corporate member on the insurance giant’s board.

In an exclusive interview with Asia Asset Management, Mr. Nicandrou talks about his passion for the insurance industry, his vision for the firm in Asia and some of the initiatives he is currently overseeing in the region.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

On choosing insurance…
I went to Oxford University in the 80s and studied engineering – control engineering, specifically. The amazing thing is that 30% of those that qualified as engineers in 1987 went into accounting, and I was one of them. On graduating, I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers and that’s when I discovered insurance. What I liked about it was its complexity and its social purpose.

I discovered that the insurance industry exists to protect people’s lives and protect the things that are most precious to them, whether it’s their health, their life or their savings. What insurance is about at its heart is a promise: a promise that we are going to be around 20, 30, 40 years from now to pay you back what you’ve put in, and ideally more. And to stand behind you if there’s a loss of life in the family or to help you plan ahead so the people you care most can have a secure future.

I fell in love with this concept and ended up spending 11 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in insurance. At this point, rather than checking people’s homework and consulting, I wanted to do it myself. So, I left and joined Norwich Union in 1997, which subsequently merged with Commercial Union and General Accident to become Aviva, and stayed at the company for 11 years.

When I joined Prudential in 2009, I discovered that it was actually a much better company than I had thought it was as a competitor. At that time, Asia was a fraction of what it is today in terms of business. I thought Prudential was predominantly a UK company but I soon realised that it had a fantastic presence in Asia.

On heading up Asia…
As I was previously involved in mapping the group’s strategy, I always had a say in how we evolved and developed our businesses in Asia. I worked with my predecessors here in Hong Kong to ensure that we were growing in the right places.

In the health space, one of the things we are putting a lot more emphasis on is thinking about the services that we provide. Health is about protection, prevention and then delivering our promise with payment in times of need. Historically we’ve always focused on the protection aspect. I wanted us to expand into the other two areas.

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