Former AIA Singapore chief Tan Hak Leh moves from Hong Kong to AIA Thailand

SINGAPORE -Insurer AIA announced group chief risk officer Tan Hak Leh as chief executive of AIA Thailand on Wednesday (Aug 24), subject to regulatory approval.

This comes one year after the firm announced August 2015 that Mr Tan was promoted to group chief risk officer for AIA Group, and a member of the group executive committee, and would assume the Hong Kong-based role in September 2015.

AIA said he succeeds Mr Saloon Tham, who has decided to leave the firm and relocate to Los Angeles to join his family. Mr Tham's last working day is Aug 31.

Mr Tan joined AIA Singapore in June 2011 as chief executive, after leaving rival Great Eastern Holdings as chief executive. A filing with the Singapore Exchange showed he had been appointed to that role in April 2007, with the title of managing director (Singapore) of Great Eastern then.

Sources noted the deployment could have to do with boosting AIA's operations in Thailand, which once was almost 60 per cent or possibly even more.

Asked about Mr Tan's time in Hong Kong and the Thailand market share, AIA provided a statement.

In it, Mr Ng Keng Hooi, regional chief executive of AIA Group said: "Over a career spanning more than 25 years in the life insurance sector, Hak Leh has built up an outstanding track record working in various senior management roles across the region with the last two roles in Singapore and Hong Kong."

Mr Tan added AIA has a rich heritage, long and successful history and maintains a very strong market position in Thailand.

A 2016 Fitch Ratings report noted "AIA Thailand is the market leader in the Thai life-insurance industry, with a 21.9 per cent market share in the first 11 months of 2015 by total premiums written".

In 1995, a study by the World Trade Organisation on opening up Thailand's life insurance sector showed AIA, the biggest and only foreign firm in the sector then, had a 58 per cent market share. In the same year, a Thai journalist wrote: "If anyone is going to lose market share as a result of liberalisation in life insurance, it is AIA."

A report found on the World Bank archives said in 2000, AIA estimated its active policies corresponded to about half of the market share of insurance premiums in Thailand.

A letter obtained by The Straits Times also showed Mr Tony Cheong, AIA regional business development and special projects director, will be appointed group chief risk officer, taking over Mr Tan's role, and will be based in Hong Kong.

Mr Cheong was Great Eastern's group chief financial officer for seven years, appointed to the role in 2009, and left in May this year.