Ashvin Arora is an experienced financial services leader with global experience in life insurance and retirement solutions at senior management levels. Ashvin specializes in product development related to critical illnesses, disability income, wealth transfer products, and annuities.
Ashvin Arora has a Bachelor of Engineering, an MBA (UNSW), and specialized training in Product Innovation (IMD, Switzerland). He has developed financial analysis and actuarial skills as part of his work experience and self-study, motivated by his affinity for mathematics and advanced statistics. Ashvin Arora has a wide range of expertise in many areas including: strategic business planning and execution; managing the product development process; process improvement and transformation; advanced computing, mathematical and financial modelling skills; superior training, presentation, and public speaking skills.
Ashvin Arora is a strong believer in the power of animated video to simplify complex concepts and is now engaged in creating a high-speed learning environment for a global audience with his new Singapore-based company, Visible Life.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
For starters, I knew there was room in the marketplace because everyone needs life insurance. That being said, the policies are usually far too complicated and laced with medical and industry-specific jargon for the average person to understand them. This is partly because insurance products have evolved to become incredibly complex over time, but it’s also because the language and terminology used to explain them is oftentimes arcane and obtuse. I thought that starting a company that creates simple, engaging video animations to explain complicated insurance products and policies in a quick way would be welcomed by the public. That’s why I founded Visible Life.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
What I love most about life insurance is that it helps meet three important needs. First, it helps protect against unforeseen events such as sickness, death, and disability. Second it helps people to save for their future. And third, it provides for retirement needs.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
Ever since I started Visible Life, my day consists of waking up early to brainstorm content ideas and write scripts for my animated videos. I do that from about 4-6am. Then, later on, I busy myself with the usual kind operational work that accompanies starting a new venture. These days, I tend to work pretty late, too. But it’s all part of getting the company off the ground.
What keeps you motivated?
What keeps me motivated is the fact that I can make at least a small difference in the lives of people by providing essential knowledge about life risks which helps them to take steps to protect their future.
How do you motivate others?
People feel motivated by being part of a story which is bigger than themselves and knowing that the work they do makes a difference, so I try to incorporate these elements whenever I have the occasion to motivate others.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I meditate every day and have been slowly trying to increase the time I spend meditating to 30 minutes. I also watch Ted Talks regularly which are awesome for inspiration as you get to listen to people who are some of the best in their fields. Many of the books I read are also a source of great inspiration. Mostly I am inspired by people who have worked extremely hard to gain a level of expertise in their field.
How do you maintain a solid work/life balance?
Some of my hobbies such as street photography are in groups, which means there is a commitment to go out with a group which you cannot break. My wife and I have a routine to do a few things together, such as go for a walk every day and catch a movie (even if on Netflix) and dinner out every week. These commitments help me maintain a healthy work/life balance. Having said that, a startup requires a heavy workload especially in the very early stages.
What traits do you possess that make a successful leader?
I think my enthusiasm for the idea of “simplifying and communicating with speed” can infect others in my team and help to build a team which is enthusiastic about what it does. People tell me I am a good communicator, and I am decisive but only after I have consulted the right people, as I don’t believe I know everything. I am also knowledgeable of the materials in my field, thus I can lead the team in the core subject matter of my business.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
I would define my industry as life insurance and I would say to someone starting out that it’s important to choose a field that really interests you—for example actuarial, product management, or operations—and spend a good number of years to perfect your craft. Don’t be in a hurry to get promoted until you’re on solid footing, and only then make the next move.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
This example is from a job I was in many years ago. One of the most challenging obstacles was setting up operations which involved processing of trades on market close in Australia, sending the files to European operations at the end of day, and receiving back files the next morning in Australia, and then placing orders on market open. This project also involved coordination of operating activities between three very large companies. We did achieve the desired outcome; however it was one of the hardest obstacles I’ve had to overcome.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
This goes back a few years, and I remember this as my biggest accomplishment because of the large number of people involved across seven different operating centers in Australia. The systems were backward, the operating centers were disunited and working at cross purposes, although they were all part of the same company. The number of people involved ran into the thousands.
I developed new systems that were implemented nationally, and they included quality measurements for outputs that were aggregated into a national number. The rewards system was changed so that each team was rewarded on the basis of (1) their local measurement, but also (2) the national result. The results achieved were dramatic in terms of uniting diverse teams towards a common goal, improving morale and pride of performance, and changing the perception of the company in the market.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
Old friendships, my growing love for street photography, and early morning rides on my bicycle.
What trends in your industry excite you?
All the incredible breakthroughs in medical science, agriculture, and bio technology of the last few decades are adding up to significantly increased overall human lifespans, and I find that trend really exciting. Human beings are, generally speaking, living much longer than we used to. Life expectancy is twice as long as it was less than two centuries ago. It is the single most consistent and impactful trend in the life insurance industry.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
The topics of the videos my company will produce concern all human beings, not only Singaporeans. Once the company has proven its business model in Singapore and gained acceptance, my intention is to take the concept to other countries, starting off with English speaking countries such as the UK and Australia, and later using a multilingual approach for other countries. A B2B model could also evolve. Five years is a long time; I hope Visible Life should be transcontinental by then.