You have been in the healthcare and assistance industry for over 32 years. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in that time?
Yes, exactly 16 years in Europe and 16 in Southeast Asia. Well, it won’t surprise anybody when I share what I consider to be the two main changes: firstly, globalisation, with the exponential volume of travellers around the world. I recall figures from The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): 25 million travellers in 1950, 1.5 billion in 2019 (pre-Covid-19). This single data shows how assistance services have become increasingly vital, requiring stronger, more sustainable, and more professional local expertise to serve a growing global business.
Secondly, cost-containment: where payers are more and more mindful about costs incurred to assist their members. These two combined factors have been driving our business decisions: we achieved financial robustness, implemented secured IT infrastructure; built operations on a wealth of experience with our multi-disciplinary team, and thoroughly managed medical providers to prevent unreasonable bills.
Global Assistance services started in Jakarta, Indonesia, where you expanded to having four alarm centres – Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Manila (Philippines) and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea). Why are these locations so vital for the company?
Yes, we have had an alarm centre in Indonesia since 1998, and we have also been servicing Singapore since 2004 and Malaysia since 2009. Regarding our expansion, again, my answer will be twofold. Firstly, Fullerton Health Group is committed to deploy its assistance capabilities in the markets where the group is present, to have consistency in its service offering everywhere (third-party administration (TPA), clinics – outpatient facilities – and assistance lines of business). In addition, we opted for sizeable geographies, both for inbound travellers’ assistance and for opportunities to serve the domestic market. This is true for both the Philippines and for Vietnam.
Regarding Papua New Guinea, there was a dire need for assistance in a very difficult country: logistics and security are daily challenges there, in Port Moresby, and the rest of the country. We are proud to operate the first PNG-based TPA, and now add assistance services for adventurous tourists, the expatriate community, and for local corporations eager to get a professional assistance partner.
In 2024 you are expanding into Cambodia, China and Hong Kong. Why these regions, and why now?
For Cambodia, it is a natural expansion of our Vietnam-based operation. We will serve the country through our HCMC alarm centre, using the existing network of Cambodian medical facilities we have contracts with. Our team in Phnom Penh will provide service on the ground. For China and Hong Kong, we have been reflecting on how to design the best assistance set-up, knowing that these two markets are key for us by their population size, their high concentration of international business, as well as huge national companies. Fullerton Health Group is present in both countries, and also have strong partnerships there. We are currently assessing various options to make sure we will do the most judicious choice for our set-up and service launching in 2024.
Tell us about your teams and how you recruit and retain the best staff for your business.
Well, I am blessed, seriously. There’s a very low turnover with the same operations leadership since 1998 and the same Medical Director that I recruited in 2010. The cumulated experience of our operations team is our greatest asset. They have been involved in tens of thousands of cases in various Asian countries; arranging medical evacuations from any remote location back to relevant medical hubs; assisting tourists, but also helping our own Indonesian, Malaysian or Singaporean members. I witnessed my team’s determination and its creativity to make sure top-notch services were provided despite very adverse situations. Assistance in action – it is still fascinating to me how resourceful and committed people achieve great things. The loyalty of our numerous clients is the best testimony of our service quality. I am grateful to have the opportunity to lead such a team.
What are the company’s plans for the future and what do you think the biggest challenges will be?
On top of expanding our assistance services regionally, we have an ambitious plan in Indonesia to open more clinics (outpatient facilities) across the archipelago to support tourists (i.e. on Bali and Lombok) for our corporate clients wherever they may need integrated healthcare solutions. In Indonesia we serve key-players in the extraction industry.
The challenges ahead? We are staying tuned with all the technologic change and its promising novelties, where IA and some automation can support our growing TPA, which serve a fine mix of international private medical insurance (IPMI), local insurances, and insurtech. But certainly the only really critical challenge is to continue to build our succession plan, and to make sure we continue to transfer our knowledge and experience to the next generation of talent. Having a sustainable business is essential to continue to provide affordable and accessible services.