In Vietnam, insurance CFO thinks like a marketer with co-working space

Nhon Ly.
Nhon Ly.

Nhon Ly built Nest by AIA to help customers understand importance of life insurance

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM — The world over, chief financial officers are known to be cost- and efficiency-led thinkers capable of sucking the life out of "big ideas." Nhon Ly, CFO at AIA Vietnam, is not only an exception but the driving force behind the Asian insurance company’s retail and work culture revolution in Vietnam.

"The challenge in Vietnam is to reach everyone," Nhon said. "The challenge is to get diverse customer groups to understand the importance of life insurance. In order to meet this challenge we worked on a different kind of distribution model."

Launched in February, Nest by AIA is a work and events space combined with a coffee shop. Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Nest by AIA is also a "customer service center." 

Flexible and community-driven, Nest by AIA lends its space out for free and runs everything from financial workshops to movies nights and fashion shows. With the vibe of a library and co-working space, it also attracts a regular stream of people who just want to enjoy themselves in the space.

"People are coming in here and taking pictures and uploading in to Instagram with a picture of the AIA logo," Nhon said. "This is something you would never normally see in the insurance sector."

The floor plan of Nest by AIA
Nest by AIA has attracted social-media buzz in the same way that any worthy hipster cafe or restaurant might.

"We’ve been lucky with social media, and it’s created a lot of positive word-of-mouth," Nhon sid.  "Many people are also asking whether we’re a coffee shop, a work and events space, or an insurance company. But we like those comments and the fact that people are questioning and wondering what we are. It gives us the opportunity to explain."

As a "destination" and customer service center, AIA serves customers and prospects without a traditional counter; supports non-cash payments (Vietnam is still cash-driven); and issues policy without filling out application forms. "It’s all done with iPads," Nhon said. 

Nest by AIA may appeal to a new market segment for life insurance.
Inspired by the creativity he has seen in Vietnam in recent years, Nhon was confident before opening it that Nest by AIA would appeal to a large demographic in Vietnam. Working closely with Bui Mai-Ly, chief marketing officer at AIA Vietnam, Nhon enlisted local multidisciplinary design firm The Lab Saigon to conceptualize and design Nest by AIA.

"The Lab Saigon is behind co-working space Work Saigon," Nhon said. "And I really liked their work and many of the elements we saw in Work Saigon, we wanted to have in Nest."

According to Nhon, Nest by AIA has been a success internally within AIA, and regional offices are keeping a close eye on the progress of the concept. For now, Nest by AIA will be launching in major cities across Vietnam.

In addition to the new retail concept, Ly in March also helped launch AIA Exchange, an initiative to revamp AIA’s work culture and environment for insurance agents. 

AIA Exchange is an initiative to attract a new breed of insurance agents aged between 25 to 35.

Exchange is attracting a different style of agent, and they’re aged 25 to 35," Nhon said. "What’s interesting is when you put them together with our existing agents you can see the difference in not only age but style. And with a different style of agent, they can reach a completely different market and segment. Having this new model will help us reach everyone in Vietnam." 

AIA Exchange recognizes the needs and measures required to attract a "new generation of agents." "

We want them to feel inspired," Nhon said. "We had to create a very cool space for them to work in."

The goal of AIA Exchange is to create an environment that is not just about sales but that will get AIA’s agents thinking long-term about their own careers and the AIA business. Nhon believes that when the agents have a long-term mindset they will also build customers more slowly, who will grow with them in the long run.

"It’s not about making quick sells for one month or two months. Changing this setup will change the way agents give advice to customers and alter the old mindset of selling," Nhon said.

Citing AIA’s tagline, "The Real Life Company," Nhon said Nest by AIA and AIA Exchange are physical personifications of the brand’s values. "This is not a billboard that our customers or staff just sees," said Nhon. "This is very real, and the spaces created can actually be part of peoples’ lives. 

In this mini-episode of Campaign's #CreativeVietnam video series, Campaign heads to Nest by AIA in Ho Chi Minh City, where Nhon takes us on a walk through the space. (And please enjoy the gratuitous and lengthy opening escalator scene.)

 This article first appeared on

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