John Cai: Ways to stay ahead of the pack

Updated: 2015-05-15 14:04

By Hu Yuanyuan(China Daily USA)

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Big dreams, small steps

Q: All things are difficult before they become easy. How did you sell your first policy?

A: My first client was a professor from Taiwan. He lived in New Jersey, and I lived in New York. Each time I visited him, I rode a bicycle and arrived covered in sweat. He was moved by my sincerity.

Q: You have been in the insurance industry for more than two decades. What is your driving force and the secret of your success?

A: My first experience of dealing with claims settlement changed my attitude toward insurance and even the field totally.

They were a couple from Hong Kong with three children and the husband was the only earning member in the family. Unfortunately, just six months after they bought a life insurance policy, the husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away not long after.

I was worried whether the company would pay up because the whole event happened within such a short time and it was natural to suspect an attempt to bilk the insurer. But the company decided to settle the claim as soon as it had a clear picture of the real situation.

When I brought the indemnity to the wife, I suddenly realized the meaning of insurance from the look in her eyes. Insurance is not the icing on the cake but fuel in snowy weather, through which an insurer can really pass love on to others.

Q: When you joined AIA China at the end of 2009, its parent company at the time, AIG, was caught up in a controversy over the top management receiving extremely generous bonuses following a financial bailout by the US government. Why did you finally make the decision amid such challenging times?

A: I did have many choices at that time. But I finally decided to be the CEO of AIA's mainland business because I believe crises usually go with opportunities. The worst timing, sometimes, could turn out to be the best timing.

Meanwhile, AIA had decided to get listed independently at the time, which indicated a huge development potential in Asia. My former boss at AXA also chose to join AIA.

Q: Did any experience in your childhood or youth have a special impact on your career success?

A: I was born into a family of intellectuals in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. There was nothing special about my childhood. But my grandmother and my parents always encouraged me to be a person of ambition, whether I would like to be a future (Albert) Einstein or (legendary US auto executive) Lee Iaccoca.

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