Andrew Merrilees - General Manager - Bupa Hong Kong Insurance

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Intro  0:13  
Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.

Welcome to the boardroom.

Michael Murray  0:52  
Andrew, thanks for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom. 

Andrew Merrilees  0:55
Thank you for having me. 

Michael Murray  0:57
Can you talk to me about your career over the past 10 or 15 years?

Andrew Merrilees  1:00  
Yeah, sure. So in sort of in prep for coming here today, I was thinking about it. And actually, it’s nearly 30 years in the healthcare industry now. So, you know, I’ve started from Australia out of a University into an entry-level job and I’ve seen lots of evolution across the industry as Yeah, my time has gone on. But probably in the last 10 or so years, I’ve gone from owning my own business to moving into a consulting job moving to Asia, at the same time and taking on leadership roles across the Asia Pacific region, when to be fair, looking back, I didn’t know much about the cultural differences between you know, Sydney and Singapore or Sydney and Vietnam and then most recently, moving to Hong Kong about a year ago was Managing Director of Bupa Asia.

Michael Murray    1:48  
What about the Asia healthcare market with your lens on obviously working in the Australian market? Obviously, Asia is broad. Yes. Do you see it as you know, opportunistic for businesses to come into, say China in the next five or 10 years or do you think it’s still a fair way off?

Andrew Merrilees  2:07  
So I think, actually, we talked about a lot internally that the opportunity in China is huge. The opportunity in places like Vietnam and the Philippines that are very rapidly evolving is also quite exciting. But at the same time, they hard markets to crack. So we’ve got a very big focus on China and we, you know, we think about what’s the right segments to be in we, we really like the greater Bay Area. So we’ve got a strong presence here in Hong Kong, we’re looking at how we come through Macau and the rest of the greater Bay and continue expanding that as well as our broader China’s strategy. But equally, when I look at China, I am greatly concerned by big Chinese insurers and clinicians that want to come out of China. Wwe spend a lot of time thinking about startups and potential disruptors to us. I think one of the big disruptors potentially coming we’ll be one of the giant Chinese insurers suddenly deciding they want to work in other markets.

Michael Murray    3:05  
What do you think in terms of the, the talent level here in Asia, compared to say, the UK or Australia, for example, you see this there’s a disparity in the skill set?

Andrew Merrilees  3:15  
No, not really, at all. So, you know, I left Australia, you know, a bit younger than I am today, and probably a lot more arrogant than I am today. And my view, when I left Australia was, you know, it’s the greatest place in the world to do business. amazing deals happen here. And, and all the people you interact with, are really high performing. The reality are very quickly discovered when I first moved to Singapore, was that actually, there’s very good people everywhere around the world. So what I’ve learned, I think, is that finding good talent is no more difficult in Hong Kong or Singapore than it is in Sydney or Melbourne or London.

Michael Murray    3:51  
Tell me about a time where you thought you’ve potentially added depth in a row when you’re overpromoted, or you’re you came up against a large deal that was a bit over your head. Did you remember anything like that from your career?

Andrew Merrilees  4:05  
 Yes, well, there’s a number. And an example would be when I first started the business, you know, I’ve had no idea about how to run a business. I don’t know who to go and engage with the first 12 months, looking back was was horrible and the reality was we massively underperformed, we were lucky that we had one contract and that one contract allowed us to keep our head above water. Yeah, but there was no strategy I had no clear vision on how do we actually achieve any goals here. How do we make this a much better business. Now, you learn as you go along, and we made lots of mistakes and gradually got better at thinking we actually need to take a step back here and build a proper business plan, which in all of my corporate career I’d done but suddenly I ended up owning a business and running a business and yet suddenly thinking I didn’t need to do that. So that’s a story around here a time but I could give you direct examples of executing on projects where we have poor governance in place, I could give you a recent example of that, where we’ve launched a project, only to find out we launched it and it didn’t work. So there’s a whole lot of process that I think needs to go into each and every one of our active daily activities and careers. We’re all going to make mistakes, and we’re all going to have things go wrong. I think the way I like to deal with them is to try and fix them. So let’s not just give up on this project, or let’s not give up on this person. It’s, you know, what, what can we do to salvage the best out of the situation?

Michael Murray    5:34  
And what about in terms of bad hires that you’ve made? You’re obviously a very senior executive. We all make hires that don’t work out. Is there one that comes to mind that you can talk to me about?

Andrew Merrilees  5:48  
Yes. So I think I’ve made a number by the way, not just one. You know, the reality I think we’re I’ve got most of my bad hiring has happened has been when I’ve looked at someone and thought, you’re not exactly right. But I think I can turn you into what I’m looking for. Or I’ve cut a corner, being not really checked out the references, or had the agency or our HR team, really dig deep enough or thought about it from a budgeting point of view. So I said, you know, we need to pay this person $150,000 a year. But actually, we could get someone cheaper for maybe 100,000. Why don’t we do that and we’ll save the money. All of the instances where I’ve made bad hires have been really my fault. I think, unfortunately, a lot of times the individual that’s been hired been caught in the middle of a bad decision that I’ve made, not necessarily that they were a bad hire. So yeah, lots of lots of bad mistakes in terms of hiring people. I think as I’ve gone along now, I’m a lot better at following some simple rules, which is, find the best person that’s out there, and don’t be rushed to make a decision. 

Michael Murray  6:54
What about your career in one word? 

Andrew Merrilees  6:57

Michael Murray  6:58
Andrew, Thank you very much for your time. C-Suite Partners In the Boardroom. 

Andrew Merrilees  67:01
Thank you. 

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