Big dreams, small steps
A: All things are difficult before they become easy. How did you sell your first policy? 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. You have been in the insurance industry for more than two decades. What is your driving force and the secret of your success? 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
A: snowy weather, through which an insurer can really pass love on to others. 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? 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. Did any experience in your childhood or youth have a special impact on your career success? 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. reform and openness in the sector.
AIA currently has five branch companies on the mainland, covering business in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.
The population in these regions stands at 200 million but they account for a third of the country’s insurance market.
“For quite some time, we preferred to explore the potential in regions where we already had a presence rather than rush to expand to other regions,” Cai said. “But now, we are beginning to look for opportunities to branch out, especially in areas that have been approved to start new free trade zones, such as Tianjin and Fujian.
But life is not all work and no play for Cai — a keen golfer for more than two decades. And he takes on challenges in life in much the same way that he does on the links.
with overwhelming pressures in the initial stages taking on the top job, Cai coped with them in a leisurely manner.
“It is just like playing golf, which allows one to understand themselves better and become a strong self-driven winner at the end,” said Cai.
Karan Zhang, in her fifth year as a corporate communication manager at AIA China, spoke of her admiration for Cai’s integrity and clear thinking.
“He has always emphasized that credibility is the lifeline of a company. It should never be sacrificed for short-term profit,” said Zhang, adding Cai’s personal style has created a good working atmosphere and most staff have been with the company for more than 10 years. Yu Hang contributed to the story. Contact the writer at huyuanyuan@ chinadaily.com.cn