Sunny Side Up
    Category: Companies & People By : Jeffrey Hutton Read : 958 Date : Tuesday, November 08, 2016 - 15:10:09

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    When asked the inevitable question about women in management dividing their time between work and family, Sun Life Financial President Director Elin Waty has a blunt reply. “If anyone tells you that work life balance is possible, that person is giving you BS,” the 44-year-old declares.

    That means no time to read, cook or fiddle with nanoblocks, a Japanese construction toy that she likes. It also means little time during the week for her 11-year-old daughter (her 17-year-old son lives in the U.K.) much past a ritual blessing the devout Christian bestows before hurrying out the door at about 6:15 am. “I sacrifice myself,” she states.

    More self-sacrifice seems likely. In March, Sun Life Financial’s Canadian parent, Sun Life Assurance Company, bought out Asian financial firm CIMB from their local joint venture CIMB Sun Life for Rp 550 billion, thus boosting the company’s presence in the country. The deal means much more work for Elin, as the merged company continues to implement its strategy of targeting Indonesia’s emerging middle class in second-and-third-tier cities amid a slump in the market. The company already has offices in 64 cities.

    In mid-October Sun Life opened five marketing offices in Solo, tapping into growing incomes and longer life expectancies. At 77 years, government statistics suggest residents of Solo, hometown of the country’s popular President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, have a life expectancy about seven years longer than the national average.

    The company’s expansionary push has Elin go further afield, too, in part because the bigger, more populated areas are already saturated with competition. In a recent trip, Elin traveled 10 hours to reach to the city of Dompu on Sumbawa, population 230,000, where Sun Life was opening a sales office. “The city looks very small, but the potential is very big because no one is touching it,” Elin says.

    Sales of sharia products, which conform to Islamic prohibition against charging interest for loans, is another vein the company is mining. Elin oversaw Sun Life’s build out of its dedicated distribution network for sharia products in 2014, a year after she joined the company. Elin says the approach differs from some of the company’s rivals that may see the sales of sharia products as an add-on business. Instead, Elin’s goal was products that not only reflect Islamic values but also are competitive with conventional offerings. “About 10% of our customers will buy sharia products no matter what. But 80% want a good product. Those people say that if it’s sharia then they’ll take it,” she says. “I want the products to be sharia and good.”

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