ITIJ 204, January 2018
travel insurance organisations can encourage travel, as well as share ways to travel differently and prepare for various situations
Senior Vice-President and Chief Administrative Officer
ITIJ spoke to James Page, senior vice-president and chief adminastrative officer of AIG Travel about industry developments, being an ITIJ Award winner, and the year ahead
How did you first get started in the insurance industry, and how did you come to be in your current role?
With a degree in finance from the University of Georgia, I spent the majority of my career, prior to joining AIG Travel, in finance, first working for American Airlines and then moving to Dell.
During my time at American Airlines, I held a variety of roles, including managing airport budgets in operational finance and as a financial analyst. At Dell, I started as a special pricing analysist for large corporate accounts. I then moved into corporate planning with a focus on capital budgets before transitioning to assistant to the CFO, managing board presentations and analyst reviews.
Prior to working at AIG Travel, I hadn’t served in the travel insurance industry; however, a senior executive with whom I had a strong working relationship approached me. At the time, AIG Travel was looking to expand and grow its international travel business and my strong financial, analytical and management skill set, together with my travel industry experience, positioned me well to complement the marketing experience already in place within the team.
We are nearly two decades into the 21st Century – how would you say that the global travel and health insurance landscape has changed in that time?
All aspects of the business are more complex, from distribution and services to product requirements. If you look back 20 years ago, the nature of the insurance provider product distribution model was straightforward. Providers offered travel agents a select number of products to sell, and when a policy was sold, the agents wrote out tickets and then took them to the insurance provider with the cash. Today, because of technological advancements, there is a multitude of ways people can purchase travel insurance. With the industry becoming more digital, the complexity of everything – from benefits, limits and pricing methodology to service delivery and needs – has increased.
This complexity is easily demonstrated through the need for a broader depth of products to accommodate a diverse customer base. For example, the recent incidents of terrorism, natural disasters and other perceived threats have resulted in a shift when it comes to security products. In the past, security products were considered a rare offering, available for major multinationals travelling to high-risk environments. But in the last three to four years, this has certainly changed. Security products and services are considered a standard offering that customers expect to have included in travel insurance packages.
As we begin 2018, what are some of the major challenges – and opportunities – that we can look forward to in the year ahead, from your perspective?
There is a real opportunity for the industry to become more involved in travel safety advocacy. By sharing resources, tools and information, we can help consumers become more educated on how to be safe travellers. We want to help encourage travel, rather than create a sense of hesitation or concern by communicating to travellers about the places to avoid due to increased risks. An educated traveller, who understands the risks and is armed with the right tools, may still be able to have a safe and enjoyable trip to a destination that might otherwise be deemed unsafe.
Using our expertise, travel insurance organisations can encourage travel, as well as share ways to travel differently and prepare for various situations. Taking these steps can help change the conversation from simply listing locations to be wary of, to showing customers how to travel better in areas that have some risks.
Today, AIG Travel has an awareness initiative that offers useful advice and tools to help women make their journey safe and enjoyable. Our women's travel safety initiative is just one example of the kinds of resources our industry can provide travellers, and AIG Travel is continuing to explore how we may further provide this type of service to our customers.
Does AIG have any exciting new ventures in the pipeline for 2018?
We are committed to working with leading organisations in the industry to innovate and grow as a business, while also delivering comprehensive, relevant and accessible coverage options for our customers as they travel the world. In line with this strategy, AIG Travel was recently selected as United Airlines’ travel insurer. As part of the multiyear deal, United Airlines’ customers in the US, Canada, Mexico and many countries throughout Western Europe have the opportunity to purchase AIG Travel’s comprehensive coverage options at the same time their flight is booked. In addition, AIG Travel is working continually to enhance its offerings for consumers and distribution partners by delivering innovative and best-in-class products.
You are also senior vice-president and chief administrative officer of AIG Travel, AIG’s portfolio of travel insurance related services, and have been so for 17 years. Can you talk a little about the development process over that period?
Over the years, AIG Travel has built a broader service infrastructure and expanded the integration between insurance claims and assistance services to become a worldwide leader in travel insurance and global assistance. In the last 20 years, AIG Travel has established a fully integrated product and service offering, including an array of travel, medical, security and concierge services to support our customers before, during and after their trips.
Congratulations to AIG Travel on winning the 2017 ITIJ Award for International Travel & Health Insurer of the Year! What does winning this award mean to you, and how will AIG be making use of the win?
It is an honour to receive this award, and it validates AIG Travel’s vision and strategy to bring everything together under a single brand, delivering our products and services seamlessly to customers. The recognition reinforces that our efforts are working and encourages us to further invest time and focus on niche capabilities, such as offering valuable tools, like the women’s travel safety initiative, to our customers. It also reinforces the opportunity to use our multifaceted knowledge to focus further on the areas of our business that provide additional value to our customers. It is also humbling to be recognised as a subject-matter expert and a leader in delivering a comprehensive product and service offering to our customers.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
A large part of my day is committed to co-ordinating a consistent, high-quality service delivery for our clients throughout our eight customer service centres around the world. I’m working continually with the staff and leadership teams to ensure we are implementing products and programmes that are consistently improving the service delivery for our customers. During the rest of my day, I help review and address high-complexity claims and cases to ensure positive outcomes for our customers.
Which aspects of your role do you enjoy the most, and which are the most challenging?
Helping our customers in their times of need is certainly the most rewarding part of my job. Over the past 17 years, I’ve enjoyed being able to assist people who encounter trouble while travelling. I’ve also found it fulfilling to have helped provide resources and tools that our customers use to prepare for their trips. Insurance is a promise and a commitment to be there for customers when they need us, and we are the delivery engine of that pledge. It is rewarding to utilise AIG Travel’s capabilities, offerings and skill sets to help meet a person’s individual needs.
Finding ways to adapt to the continuing needs of our customers globally is a challenge, particularly given the range of customers we assist, from people taking short leisure vacations to senior executives travelling on dangerous business trips. Customers today also have varying preferences for how they want to interact with us as a business; some prefer to speak on the phone to a customer service representative and others want to communicate only via email or online. In today’s landscape, the mission to deliver high-quality service across different mediums for a broad spectrum of customers must be managed continually.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be and why?
Helping to develop young people who are community-minded and instill in them the skills to become the leaders of tomorrow is something I do now on a volunteer basis through various community service programmes. If money was no object, I certainly would enjoy working with young people in that capacity on a daily basis. ⬛