What have been your biggest achievements?

The eyes of the world are on Southeast Asia, and the insurance business is receiving attention, too. I have been in the insurance business for over 20 years, having served for 12 years as the President of Muang Thai Life, where I have consequently witnessed the cycle of uptrends and downtrends for the company. During the crisis in 1997, we were significantly impacted and our ranking dropped from fifth to ninth place in the industry. Even though there were 24 insurance companies at that time, the top ten companies made up nearly 95% of the market share. Thus, if you are ranked ninth; you are almost the last one.

Our biggest achievement is that we did not follow the trends of neighboring countries, where the focus was mainly on providing insurance for middle income and affluent consumers via savings products. We differentiated ourselves from our competitors by reaching all segments of the population. We began to pursue the mass segment of consumers by offering a lower premium, more affordable payment mode, and easier access.

Thailand’s population is over 65 million and insurance companies should be able to provide a life solution to everyone.

In order to do that, we must have a variety of products to approach all segments of the market, also having the right customer insight to fulfill the customer’s need.

We started this process 11 years ago with bancassurance,  which was in the same period that the Bank of Thailand started allowed banks to act as an insurance broker. In 2004, we started the multi-channel strategy and began a business partnership with Ageas, a Belgian insurance company, because we believed in their expertise in bancassurance and investment-linked products.

There are some challenges in terms of reaching the rural and urban local class here in Thailand. How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

In order to face those challenges, we needed scale. We started with the multi-channel strategy, which gave us the competitive advantage to reach a broad range of customers. Insurance is a lot closer to them than most people realize, however with pre-existing perceptions, there was always some sort of denial when it came to insurance. Thus, we tried to step into people’s lifestyle to change their perception towards our products and make them feel familiar with our company and brand. Since people were reluctant to approach the insurance company themselves, we needed to make them feel more comfortable. Hence, we began to create simple and accessible products distributed via Direct Marketing and Telemarketing as the first step in approaching the mass segment.

We also use entertainment and special events to connect with people. Even though our brand is well recognized through these marketing strategies, it still cannot be touched. So through our partnership with department stores we created a variety of programs for different lifestyles.  Our products have to match different segments. We connect with people through our cheerful colors and smiling faces, in order to educate them about insurance. People are no longer afraid of approaching us. Our niche strategy is to provide entertainment events that relate to people through happiness and enjoyment.  These strategies have differentiated our brand from the others.

Could you share any particular way you are reaching the new public?

We reach people through our brand. Ultimately, the brand needs to be noticeable so we can develop proximity with our clients. Insurance is something that is perceived as something very serious and a bit boring, which is why we needed to differentiate ourselves. We would like to be a part of people’s lives to provide a safety net and to bring smiles to their faces when they think of us. We want to ensure their future happiness by having insurance with strong company like Muang Thai Life. In order to get this, we partnered with companies from other sectors, like entertainment or live-event segments, to reduce fear and to generate a more positive perception towards our insurance products and services.

What is your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is the competition. There are many companies targeting Thailand as the perfect geographic and logistics location. We have started to venture into Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. That is nearly 300 million potential customers, but our key location is Thailand because of the strong network that can easily be built from here.

Muang Thai Life used to be a family business, but now we are no longer wholly-owned by family members. There is a saying that “the third generation” is normally the last generation of a family business. However, everything has changed with the opening of the Asian Economic Community (AEC), which creates a great opportunity to expand our business, as there is tremendous potential in our region. Insurance is necessary for people and I believe we could attract new customers in the AEC market.

Still, the new generation of customers are going to create additional challenges, especially in the digital era where technology plays a very important role in every aspect of people’s lives.

Was it your own choice to take your position of leadership?

I grew up in the insurance industry. My grandfather is the founder of Muang Thai Life and my father, Photipong Lamsam, was the CEO for more than two decades. He travelled to many cities and dealt with many insurance professionals to learn about the insurance industry. My father always said ‘if you would like to succeed in the insurance industry, it has to be a choice of your own.’ After his retirement, I became the president of Muang Thai Life. Insurance is a part of me and I love it.