Who will be this year’s YAMA winner?

For the first time in history, the Young ASEAN Managers Awards (YAMA) will be held in the Philippines, and insurance executives from all over the region are awaiting the results with bated breath.

The awards night is set on Oct. 25 at the Manila Polo Club during the gala dinner reception for the 36th ASEAN Insurance Council delegates.

Officials from the AIC and the organizing ASEAN Insurance Information and Training Institute will be awarding trophies to the winner who will be chosen from hundreds of nominees from ASEAN member countries.

This year’s nominees were all made to answer five important questions that show the ideal qualities they look for leaders, their contribution to their company’s success, how they intend to improve the domestic insurance industry, and their vision for the insurance industry in the ASEAN region.

The prestigious award was introduced by the ASEAN Insurance Council to honor outstanding young managers for their achievements, contribution, and dedication to the insurance industry as well as to recognize their potential as future industry leaders.

The Philippines has won the award twice, first in 1996 and again in 2007.

In 1996, 33-year-old Sun Life vice president Henry Joseph Herrera bagged the award. He continued to success in the industry to become Sun Life’s president and CEO 10 years later. Last year, at a still very young age of 50, he went on his dream early retirement.

In 2007, Melvin J. Esteban of Philamlife beat eight finalists to win award in Kuala Lumpur. Esteban impressed the judges with his passion for improving the lives of poor Filipinos through microinsurance.

Other former winners of YAMA are very successful in their careers and have continued to spread the importance of insurance in their respective markets. Sara Lamsam, the winner in 2005, is now the President of Muang Thai Life while Vong Bunintreavuth, winner in 2006, is the Managing Director of Cambodia Reinsurance.

Here is a short interview with 2007 winner Melvin Esteban after he received the award:

How do you see yourself now after winning the award?

Receiving the YAMA has lent much credibility to my work and advocacies, and opened up a number of promising avenues for me to share my ideas with the local insurance industry as well as the public in general. It has also strengthened my resolve to pursue my vision for the local and even regional insurance industry, as the regional recognition from such a prestigious body has given me a substantial shot of confidence.  Finally, the opportunities I had over the course of the conference to interact with peers from across the region gave me a glimpse of diverse mindsets and novel perspectives, as well as allowed me to build a network of contacts from various ASEAN neighbours.

Do you think the award is significant to ASEAN Insurance Industry?  Why?

Definitely. The ASEAN insurance industry had traditionally been perceived as conservative and conventional.  With the advent of an award which specifically aims to accord recognition to promising, creative and courageous individuals pushing boundaries and striving to make a difference in the industry, a platform is now available for the recognition of such efforts, further motivating young leaders to excel in their craft.  Moreover, independent of whoever ultimately receives the annual award, this venue for the presentation of, as well as discussion and debate around, pioneering products and innovative solutions, fosters the exchange of ideas, advocacies and success stories, resulting in a learning experience shared by all.

What is your advice to the future young leaders/managers of the industry?

Take advantage of your youth–be bold, creative and aggressive in advocating your ideas and vision.  Do not allow yourself to be boxed in by how things have always been; youth is not a handicap but an asset, do not let it hold you back from working towards what you truly believe in.  Also, find leaders who are willing to mentor and nurture young talent, and seek guidance and support from them when you need it.

From an advocacy perspective, I encourage all young insurance leaders to continue instilling the value of insurance as an indispensable component of one’s personal financial plan.  I truly believe that insurance should be an integral (if not optimal) contributor to individual financial well-being, and I hope that this conviction will one day be shared and advocated by a majority of the insurance professionals in the ASEAN region.

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