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Joining the big league at Aon
Hilda Poon
update on Saturday, September 10, 2011
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Financial institutions are accelerating their investment in the Greater China region and it’s no wonder – with dynamic advantages from which to benefit on both sides. Risk management services provider Aon Risk Solutions recently appointed banking veteran Owen Belman as chief executive officer of Greater China in a strategic move to enhance its leadership in the region. He swaps e-mails with Hilda Poon.

Why did initially you join Aon Risk Solutions?
For the opportunity to move up the league tables. Aon is the acknowledged market leader globally and across Greater China, and it’s great to be with a winner. That said, Aon still has tremendous upside. Its brand is not widely known outside of the industry, though the sponsorship of Manchester United has helped dramatically. (And my two boys really enjoy spotting “Aon” shirts in Times Square and across the island!)  Aon has an enviable footprint globally, particularly in Asia. Greater China is one of the fastest growing regions in most industries, but especially particularly in brokerage and insurance, where commercial penetration rates are very low. 

What are the key areas of the company’s development strategy in Greater China?

Aon’s objective is to bring distinctive client value, unmatched talent, and operational excellence to its engagements. The same is true in Greater China, but given that many of our clients are operating and investing across the region, capturing cross-border opportunities through seamless customer service is imperative. We need to be the most client-focused firm, offering the best industry talent, for clients focused domestically in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as those operating elsewhere in the region.

Why do you see a need to strengthen leadership capability in Greater China?
More of our clients are accelerating their investment in the region and are looking for risk management partners who can anticipate and serve their needs. We need to rapidly grow our group of leaders across Greater China who can bring the best of Aon Risk Solutions’ global offer to bear in client engagements. Aon has world class practice sharing capabilities, but it takes great leaders to orchestrate delivery across markets, channels, and products. 

How will you empower leaders in the company?
Empowerment starts with putting in place the right leaders which involves recruiting and developing unmatched talent, then supporting them with the right tools, investment, and trust. We ask leaders at Aon to deliver business results with excellence, by living our values, innovating, and developing excellent teams, all with the purpose of delivering distinctive client value. 

What is the current staff count in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland?
Aon has three business units, including Aon Risk Solutions, the insurance brokering and risk management advisory business; Aon Hewitt, the human resource consulting and outsourcing business; and Aon Benfield, the reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of Aon. Aon Risk Solutions has 530 staff across Greater China.

How many more staff, and in which departments, are you planning to hire in the coming year?
This question is important and timely, as we enter our 2012 planning cycle. I am currently visiting our operations in each country to learn more about our people and the Aon business. Recruiting and retention in this region is a challenge across industries, and it is a credit to Aon’s brand and value proposition that we have remarkably low attrition rates. Asia and Greater China are growth markets for Aon, and will receive considerable investment, as a result. We will use a combination of organic growth and targeted external hires to enhance capabilities and expand distribution, particularly in mainland China. 

What do you offer in terms of work-life balance?
Aon Risk Solutions offers paternity leave, employee volunteering leave, and the ARS recreational club. Beyond these programs, we continue to search for ways to simplify and enhance operational efficiency, to limit the time staff must spend internally-focused, freeing them to invest most of their work time on delivering client value.

What can your staff expect in terms of professional development?
Developing unmatched talent is a key strategic focus for Aon.  We are committed to becoming an employer of choice, offering a world-class working environment. We have a number of initiatives underway to sharpen performance management, learning and development, and knowledge sharing.

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