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Careers in a world without borders

Global, September 16, 2015

The digital space has created a world without borders. These days, an idea sparked in New York today, can become a reality in London within the week. To stay ahead companies must look beyond country borders.

Aegon employee Sheau out for dinner during an international assigment in Japan

At Aegon, we're continuously on the lookout for opportunities to match skills with opportunities, whether they're at home or abroad.

Lead platform manager at Aegon in the Netherlands, Sheau Pei Chong, recently completed a one month assignment at Aegon's operations in Japan, providing web portal design expertise and working with the local New Business Development teams to identify and design e-commerce solutions.

"Aegon Japan is relatively young and growing quite rapidly," explains Sheau. "Because of this, they are expanding and professionalizing their information and technology platforms, architecture and processes to support future business expansion."

The downside of a consensus culture

The speed at which this is happening was quite an eye opener. "Working in the Netherlands, I am used to the consensus culture, in which everyone has their say," comment Sheau.

"Meetings are very different in Japan, as they are much more about informing people about what's happening and what the company is planning. If you want to discuss a particular topic, it is easier to approach the stakeholders outside the meeting and even outside working hours."

She noted that while Japanese businesses are very customer focused, they still have some catching up to do in the areas of software and e-commerce. "In the Netherlands, the digital transformation of the financial industry has already progressed significantly, making use of digital channels and new business models to serve customers more directly, more easily and more simply.

Leveraging Aegon's experiences in the Netherlands has enabled our Japanese colleagues to operate more efficiently than their competitors

 

"Financial services in Japan are more conventional and intermediary based. It was therefore a great opportunity for me to pass on my e-commerce and digital experience from the Netherlands.

"Having access to this knowledge accelerated their learning curve and increased the implementation speed of new digital solutions. In addition, leveraging our experiences and sharing our know-how has enabled our Japanese colleagues to operate more efficiently than their competitors in terms of adopting new technology and practices."

One size never fits all, not in this business

 

Sheau is firmly convinced that these international assignments are one of the best ways to exchange knowledge and introduce best practices on a global scale. For one, she says, they help create that feeling of being part of the Aegon family. "You can't beat face-to-face communications for getting messages across and making people aware of opportunities.

"As we showed in Japan, using our experiences from other parts of the group avoids a lot of teething problems and cuts implementation time. And it means we can scale-up solutions a lot more quickly, as long as you're willing to take into account local people and the local culture. One size never fits all, not in this business."

Unparalleled customer centricity

The exchange isn't just a one-way flow if information, concludes Sheau. "The Japanese business culture is extremely customer-oriented. They really believe in understanding customers and the value of being friendly and personal. This approach could provide extremely valuable lessons for Aegon globally, given that insurance is set to be much more of a service than a product in the future."

Written by: Aegon