Fred Has You Covered, Whether You Are Protecting Your Business, Family Or Passions
What’s your story?
Growing up in France, with no connection to Asia, I have somehow always been attracted to this part of the world. So, in 1997, during my Master Degree program, I chose to do a “gap year internship” in Myanmar. I was 20 at that time, and the country was very confined. Schools and universities were closed due to political situations. Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was still in home detention and still fighting for democracy.
I was thrust into a completely different world. No internet, fast-food or mobile phones. Men were not wearing pants, women were using “Thanaka cream” on their faces. It seemed that spirituality was 200% of the country, and I fell in love with it.
During my internship, I was given a lot of responsibilities and management opportunities, which I loved. However, I realised that my potential corporate career would always be lacking the kind of liberty that would allow me to become an entrepreneur. Therefore, in June 2002, when I was 25, I took a job that moved me to Singapore.
What excites you most about your industry?
The creativity of insurance. Similar to textiles that are made for fashion, you can “tailor-make” insurance plans to cover anything. There is absolutely nothing that CAN’T be insured. For instance, I received a request to insure the “legs” of a professional soccer player, and was asked, by a cellist in Paris, France, to insure a very unique “cello.”
I love the innovation in this industry, and I feel we are at the beginning of a new insurance industry disruption. The industry has been operating using a 20th century business model and the Covid-19 crisis will have a strong impact, and will influence our distribution approach as intermediaries. Opening up new markets and addressing new marketplaces by going 100% digital, will offer efficiencies the industry has never known. Our “InsureTech” approach will allow us to simplify processes, and provide economies of scale for our clients.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My first mentor was the CEO of a successfully established health business in Myanmar and across the region. He hired me when I graduated, relocated me to Singapore, and gave me a position as a regional manager, at age 25! I was living a dream, my dream. I have since started my own business in Singapore, gotten married, and have started a family.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
For business, it is a no brainer. SINGAPORE. It is the perfect place to set-up and grow a business. Everything is so efficient and there is so much energy and creativity here.
When I first arrived in Singapore, there were fewer than 3,000 French people living here. Now there are more than 20,000 French, most of whom are entrepreneurs.
Recently, when Singapore Airlines chose me to be part of their new business class advertising campaign, I realised that I very much belong here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Become who you are.” Trusting and believing in yourself, and following the flow of life as it unfolds, is a long process, but it is so rewarding when you finally feel perfectly aligned with your true self.
Who inspires you?
Entrepreneurs and artists, who, to me, have similar journeys in their career paths. I have so much admiration for them, their courage, their faith, their capacity for resilience, and their desire to change the world.
I am also inspired by the youth in this generation. They are ambitious, hard working, and they believe so much in our company’s growth potential. It is thanks to them that we have implemented so many digital processes, and this is just the beginning.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That we can twist a challenging situation, such as Covid-19, into a tremendous opportunity. These past two months of confinement have forced us to implement new working processes, and now, we have become much more efficient and organised.
In every difficult time we are given choices: You can accept a potential negative fate, or you can react with determination to move forward, pivoting toward new and positive opportunities.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely start my own business much earlier in life. In your 20’s, there is so much you can learn, and failures are so much easier to recover from.
How do you unwind?
I play the cello and piano daily, which takes my mind away from business, for a while. I’m always surprised how good I feel after playing. I feel almost ecstatic! I also play sports, and dine with my friends. Champagne and French wine are a must.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, of course. The vibes there are completely different. I think Bali is located at some “cosmic point” on the planet that is directly connected to the universe’s energy, because it is impossible not to be relaxed there, whatever you do.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Actually, I would recommend two books, as they are very much linked by their messages:
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change,” by Stephen R. Covey, which taught me how to be well organised, and “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” by Eckhart Tolle, from which I’ve learned to live in the present moment, to follow my feelings, and to let go of negative thinking.
I recommend these books because the information they impart enlarges your scope of mind, and can have a positive impact on your business creativity and vision.
Shameless plug for your business:
BLACAZ has expertise in Insurance product distribution, supported by Technology as well as Technology supporting Expertise. I do believe strongly that online sales must be supported by the highest level of advice. Combining both, allows us to reach more than 95% renewal of our insured members, since 2016.
How can people connect with you?
eMail: [email protected]
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.