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PEOPLE

The Power of Risk with Aon Hong Kong’s Paul Young

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What’s the one thing that motivates you? “The Power Series” offers thought leadership insights from industry experts at Taikoo Place on the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In December, we speak to Paul Young, CEO of Aon’s Commercial Risk & Health Solutions Business, about the power of risk.

Every decision you make is a risky decision – even the ones that are seemingly “safe”.

The biggest, riskiest career decision I’ve made so far was when I took over my current role as CEO of Aon in Hong Kong around four and a half years ago. It was a shift from being a subject matter expert, which I’d been for most of my 20-plus-year career, helping clients in the energy and mining sector to manage and measure their risk; to a leadership and management role, where I’m more of an influencer, negotiator and cajoler with the team of 300 colleagues here. It was risky in the sense that I’d had to unlearn the way I previously operated, as it was a real mindset change from “doing” to “leading”. There have been challenges along the way, but overall it’s been a rewarding journey.
“If you’re so afraid to take risks, you’ll never get to see the amazing views at the peak.”
With growth always comes risk. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. My secret is to think about what the alternative is. Having a back-up plan makes you feel more confident to leave your comfort zone and drive forward with what you want to do. That’s how my wife and I came to the decisions to move country, first from the UK to Hong Kong, then to Singapore, Perth, and eventually back in Hong Kong. We thought to ourselves, if things didn’t work out, we could always move back to the UK. Thankfully, Hong Kong has been a fantastic city to live, and it’s been home for 11 years!

There are, of course, different severities of risks. They can be big or small, positive or negative, yet people tend to focus on those that are more volatile or have higher consequences – or, those with negative connotations. But I’ve always looked at risks as opportunities, as I prefer to think about the positives that can be achieved. This is why I enjoy hiking and trail running – both involve some safety risks, but also bring incredible rewards, particularly that sense of accomplishment when you get to the finish line. If you’re so afraid to take risks, you’ll never get to see the amazing views at the peak.

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Find inspiration by your Taikoo Place neighbours –
Read more from The Mag’s POWER SERIES.  

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Now, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the negatives. It’s about managing risks in a measured way – understanding and balancing the upside and the downside by bringing data into your decision. Then ask yourself, “What level of risk am I happy to retain?” The answer will be personal for every individual and every organisation. Everyone has different levels of appetite for risk, and part of what we do is to help our clients understand their appetite and get a balanced, objective view for their decisions.

As a safety net, insurance helps transfer risk and encourages growth. There’s a negative mindset around insurance services since they’re about protection against what can go wrong – things like injuries, illnesses and accidents. But as new risks emerge, insurance can actually help businesses stay relevant, evolve and grow. To do this, we need to understand what the drivers to our clients’ businesses are and then look at what we can do to help them. For example, we now offer a transaction liability solution to companies buying or selling part of their business to de-risk and facilitate the process. And as digitalisation becomes more common, we’ve developed insurance solutions to use of technology, to protect against cyber risks and data privacy. We can also now provide top-up employee benefits for employers to offer their staff through our AI assistant Lea supported by a digital portal.
In 2020, our company also underwent a huge change: we’ve gone digital. We’ve gone from an office with a large amount of paper and files everywhere in Causeway Bay to our new office in One Island East, where we are completely paperless – documents are no longer retained in a file but are held electronically. Going paperless poses several risks around the technology and customer adoption – there are always people who like to receive physical paper and hence the risk of losing business. But we believe the benefits outweigh these concerns and will bring about better outcomes for both employees and clients, and ultimately the business.

The pandemic has certainly accelerated digitalisation for us. While most of our colleagues were working from home, some people had to come back just to sign various paper forms or certificates and print policies, so we realised quickly that we needed a digital solution for them. It all worked out in the end, and I was impressed by the fact that not only the technology, but also all of our teams have worked really well through this period. We can’t lose track of the fact that the pandemic is impacting companies in Hong Kong hugely, but through the challenges, we’ve also learnt new things and created positive experiences. As we come out of it, the next step will be how we crystalise these gains and make sure we don’t lose anything from what we’ve learnt. 

Trust is the foundation of every decision made – read about the Power of Trust with Mox Bank’s Deniz Güven.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.
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