New normal, new bosses. This is what greeted InLifers when the Company announced the new members of the leadership team who will take on the enviable mission of steering the 111-year-old organization towards sustainable growth post-pandemic.
Joining InLife in 2021 and further deepening InLife’s talent bench are Efren C. Caringal Jr., who serves as Chief Operating Officer (COO) with the rank of Senior Executive Vice President, and Marjorie Anne Q. Lee as Chief Auditor.
In addition, three newly promoted senior officers are bringing their wealth of expertise into their new posts: Maria Rosa Aurora D. Cacanando as Chief Finance Officer (formerly Chief Auditor), Gwendolyn D. Kelley as Chief Information Officer (formerly Chief Technology Officer), and Geraldine B. Alvarez, as Head of Agency and Branch Management (formerly Branch Management Division Head).
In these interviews, these new leaders share their insights on their new posts and the challenges ahead.
InLife has been a strong and trusted insurance partner of many Filipino families spanning several generations. Its purpose-driven business model has stood the test of time. I was inspired to be part of InLife and its new leadership team that will usher the next phase of the Company’s successes. InLife is well positioned to be a global Filipino insurer that puts the best interest of its members first.
At the start of my InLife journey, I had the opportunity to help steer and develop our long-term strategic roadmap. I am, therefore, tasked to take action and lead my team in many of the key transformation initiatives. Together, we drive growth and changes within the organization. I believe that the winning insurer must leverage its operating and customer models for digital. As the COO, I will lead InLife to the path of digital leadership and customer excellence.
My experience and core competency is in the area of Operations. My almost 35 years of experience in the field of financial services provide me the skills and understanding on how I can be a team player. I was with Branch Management Division for several years and my exposure with the agency force and responsibilities in Operations allowed me to learn and be more sensitive to the needs of our agents, which made my transition to the new role quite a breeze.
It may not be a direct-selling experience on my part but dealing with the agency force and helping address their needs and concerns have prepared me in this new responsibility. The agency’s expertise in selling combined with my experience in Operations allow all of us to navigate through our day-to-day sales activities. I believe that operating in an environment that is easy, suitable, and accessible is essential in our effort towards growth opportunities and fortifying our business.
Our challenge is managing the new normal as we limit our face-to-face engagement with our customers because of the pandemic. A change in digitalizing our selling and marketing activities was expedited. Our objective is for our agency force to be more effective and professional financial advisors, providing them with added education and training to equip them with the necessary knowhow and skills.
Companies now are into digital transformation and we don’t want to be left behind. Instead, we want to create a culture of innovation as we examine all aspects of our business for a modern workplace.
And with the radical change we plan to make on the agency side, we see, not just agency growth, but a rebuilding of InLife’s market competitiveness. So to be successful, we also have to build a collaborative culture among other units, address customer pain points, and clear any roadblocks that will develop capabilities centered around the customer experience from the ground up.
I think I have come full circle from the time I joined InLife. I was hired as an assistant manager in Finance Division and unexpectedly, I was given the opportunity to rejoin Finance as CFO. I see my role as being an active participant in strategic initiatives, supporting the digitalization strategy especially for the finance function, and further strengthening the finance and control function throughout the organization.
There is a renewed focus on our customers, and we need to re-evaluate how processes are done to give the best service to our external and internal stakeholders.
Other challenges include the digitalization of our processes and systems given the work being done for business as usual (BAU). However, digitalization is the way to move forward so we need to prioritize both areas.
There is also the implementation of new accounting standards IFRS17 and IFRS9 which will mean major changes in our policies, processes, and regulatory reports.
InLife’s strategy includes developing an InLife community and provide this community with complete financial services from life insurance, investments, HMO, non-life insurance, leasing and banking services. Offering digital services to policyholders via payment channels, disbursements of benefits, and various services requested by policyholders will be pursued. I also see opportunities in tapping the women and the Gen Z markets as part of our strategy for the coming years.
When the role of Chief Information Officer was offered to me, the first thought I had was: “I have pretty big shoes to fill.” Indeed, since the IT Division is a big team, composed of a hundred people supporting the broad spectrum of IT needs of the Company — from day-to-day access to devices of all employees, to pursuing strategic, mission-critical projects for the business, to future-proofing the organization. The mandate for me was to make sure that technology has a direct line of sight to the needs of the business. The IT Division needs to enhance, create, scale, or pursue capabilities that would enable InLife to be a truly digital organization.
Information technology is a critical capability that every organization needs to strengthen if it is to realize its vision, ensure growth, and elevate the experience of our customers. Fortunately, for InLife, our Executive Chairman, Ms. Nina Aguas; our President & CEO, Mr. Raoul Littaua; and the rest of the leadership team understand this and is leading the pursuit of digital transformation. We in IT need to:
Insurance penetration in the Philippines, which is among the lowest in Asia, is still at less than 2% of the population because insurance is perceived to be complicated, expensive, and difficult to purchase. Technology and innovation can help address these challenges.
To do this, we must:
I joined InLife because I was impressed by the stability and longevity of the Company, its thrust in digital transformation strategies, and the number of women in the senior leadership positions.
With the rapid change in the Company and in the industry, the Audit Division is slowly transforming from a traditional model into a more agile and proactive business partner. The Audit Division will continue to focus on timely identification and communication of critical and emerging risks as well as enhance the audit process with the use of digital tools and techniques in assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls.