Three key factors that spark senior moves in insurance

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Senior moves between AIA and Great Eastern have been very much in the news.

Here's a recap:

Move 1: GE's Ng Keng Hooi left to join AIA as its regional managing director late last year.

Move 2: This was followed shortly after by GE's chief executive Tan Hak Leh's resignation. He joins AIA as its new CEO this June, reports The Straits Times.

Move 3: It's not a one-way street, however. Last November, Christopher Wei, previously AIA's executive vice president and group chief marketing officer, jumped to GE as its group chief executive.

So what motivates these senior-level musical chairs in insurance?

1) Connections

Insurance professionals in Asia are a highly loyal bunch. So it's not unheard of for executives to bring their former colleagues with them, as could have been the case with the moves from GE to AIA. Patrick Tan, principle consultant, Key International Search & Consulting, says:" For senior talent it's important for them to have colleagues who they are familiar with and who know their working style, so they can focus on macro level issues."

Nevertheless, it's not that easy for top guns to move together. A recruiter who declines to be named says most senior people have clauses in their contracts that prevent them from hotfooting it to another company en masse (usually a minimum allowance of six months to a year is required).

2) Dollars and cents

There could also be the issue of compensation. Broadly speaking, AIA is a better pay master than Great Eastern, says the anonymous recruiter. "It really depends on the specific position and how difficult it is to get candidates. Most insurance companies would pay market rate."

AIA's IPO last October, has made joining the firm even more attractive. Florence Chan, manager, operations, Darwin Rhodes Group says: "Being publicly listed helps to attract top management to join as they would get a good quantity of shares. After public listing, their growth in profit also seems favourable."

3) Career prospects

Chan adds that most senior moves come about because candidates are on the lookout for new challenges. She says: "It could be the new company's business plan and strategy is in line with theirs, or the regional scope and infrastructure of the company."

Other possible pull factors for senior moves are the appeal of Asia (for some expatriates) and a desire to join a bigger company to take on a bigger role, she adds.

The moves to AIA are perhaps indicative of how the insurance company has turned its image around from the financial crisis. Back then, spooked customers turned up at AIA's offices, wanting to surrender their policies because of fears that parent company, AIG, was going under. The firm has since rebounded with a 54 per cent jump in its 2010 net profit, reports Reuters.

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