Sun Life Singapore’s chief executive Belinda Au. (Photo: Sun Life Singapore)

When Belinda Au arrived in Singapore in 2020 as the newly appointed CEO of Sun Life Singapore, little did she know that in just a few weeks 4.5 billion people around the world—herself included—would largely be confined to their homes to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

As if setting up a branch office to target the life insurance needs of high net worth individuals in a new market wasn’t in itself a large task, Au did so in the midst of a public health crisis. 

“It was challenging to build the business operations under repeated cycles of lockdowns and without face-to-face interaction with my team or business partners,” recalls Au, whose 30-year career in the financial services industry has spanned various business lines from multi-channel distribution to HNW strategy and digital transformation.

“But we persevered and achieved positive results beyond our expectations. I had learnt to be resilient against challenges, and along the way also became more tech savvy,” she says.

The Peak chats with the Canada-raised, formerly Hong Kong-based business leader, mum, avid golfer and newly certified open water diver.

One positive affirmation every girl should tell themselves.

Every girl should tell herself that she can be who she wants to be. She is no lesser than her brother, boyfriend or husband. 

If you had to single out one bias that must be broken, what is it and why? 

This is hard as most biases have been broken. Women no longer have to stay home to care for the children. They may be equal breadwinners of their households. They may hold senior positions and command respect and authority in their respective societies and industries. In the financial industry for example, many leadership positions which were traditionally held by men have increasingly been taken over by strong and capable women who bring fresh perspectives to the table.

At Sun Life, for instance, we welcomed a new female leader—Ingrid Johnson—who recently joined us as Asia CEO, taking charge of eight markets in Asia. And I, too, was appointed CEO of Sun Life Singapore to expand our footprint in Asia.  

What does success mean to you?

Success means attaining the financial freedom to do what I want or like. This also means I can stop doing what I do not like.

What is your own superpower?

My superpower is to be a better version of me than yesterday. To me, for everything that I see and do, there is always room for improvement. When I see myself growing, that is satisfaction to me. I also hope my superpower can inspire people around me. I believe that if you improve 1% every day, you will be 100% better in about 3 months’ time.

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Being able to count your blessings is also a form of happiness. Always remember that your worst day is someone’s best day.

Belinda Au

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To me, perfect happiness can manifest in the most trivial moments. Bonding with my family, getting support from family and friends and staying healthy are measures of happiness to me. Being able to count your blessings is also a form of happiness. Always remember that your worst day is someone’s best day. Hopefully this will bring a smile to you and the people around you. 

Who are your real-life heroes?

I am inspired by Melinda Gates, one of the greatest female leaders in the world, and her determination in giving out what she has to help those in need and advancing equality in the world. She always remains true to herself and is an advocate for women and girls all over the world to empower them and uplift their status in society.

After 30 years in insurance, what is one takeaway that you like to share with others?

Firstly, always plan early; be it for your own retirement or your wealth transfer to the next generation. Next, do not keep all your eggs in one basket. Diversify across different insurance and investments to spread your risks. Investment is for the long-term horizon so do not pour your emergency funds into investment.