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Creating the corporate for-purpose journey

22 November 2021 at 3:01 pm
Maggie Coggan
As the head of shared value partnerships at insurance company AIA, Simonie Fox is blazing a path for a more equitable and ethical corporate world. She’s this week’s Changemaker.

Maggie Coggan | 22 November 2021 at 3:01 pm


Creating the corporate for-purpose journey
22 November 2021 at 3:01 pm

As the head of shared value partnerships at insurance company AIA, Simonie Fox is blazing a path for a more equitable and ethical corporate world. She’s this week’s Changemaker. 

While Simonie Fox has had a few, fairly different jobs over the course of her career, they have always been tied to helping people. 

Armed with a background in oncology nursing and occupational rehabilitation, she has spent 20 years working in the insurance industry in both workers compensation and life insurance.  

And seven years ago, she joined AIA. 

As a life insurance company, it’s in the company’s best interest to maintain the health and wellbeing of their customers, which is why over the past decade AIA has embraced the concept of shared value  a business strategy that aims to solve social and environmental issues profitably.  

Fox has been at the helm of developing and running wellness initiatives that support customers with everything from chronic pain issues, cancer recovery, and mental health support to ensure they live healthier lives. 

For her work, she was recently named as the shared value practitioner of the year in the 2021 Shared Value Awards

In this week’s Changemaker, she discusses the opportunities of shared value, managing the challenges of her work, and the things that inspire her leadership. 

How did you get into the job you’re in now?

So originally my background was nursing and then I went back to uni and studied occupational health and safety, did some post-grad qualification in occupational health and safety, and ended up in the occupational rehab world for about 20 years. That involved supporting people who’ve been injured or become unwell to return to work. I’ve been at AIA for seven years and I was originally in their rehab team, but then moved more into a strategy role. We offer occupational rehab programs to customers, and historically that was all done by our rehab team. I wanted to find more ways to support our customers to recover or to live better with their disease or injury and give them support on a larger scale. 

I thought it would be best if I just looked at our claims data and identified our top three causes of claim, which are chronic pain, which is really musculoskeletal conditions that don’t resolve within 12 weeks, cancer, and mental health conditions. So I developed a strategy to make sure that we had health coaching programs for those top three claim conditions which would then feed into our more comprehensive occupational rehabilitation programs, ultimately supporting people to work where that’s possible and appropriate.

Shared value has been around for about 10 years now, what drew you to the model? 

AIA was actually a founding member of the shared value project and we are a purpose-led organisation. I think it’s been a journey for us. Over time we’ve evolved and we’ve become more and more strategic to look at where the opportunities lie to give us a strong return on investment to make us more profitable. We’re a life insurer and we’re a health insurer, and in these spaces there’s been a lot of attention on sustainability and making sure that you have a sustainable product because you don’t want your premiums to keep going up and up and up. Ultimately, we are aiming to create healthier, longer, better lives for Australians. So there’s this beautiful opportunity for us to look for initiatives that will improve health outcomes for our customers, which of course, is going to make us more profitable as an organisation. Because if you can support people to recover, then that’s going to make your products more sustainable because you can reduce your premiums. 

What are some of some of the things that inspire your leadership style

Look, anything that is purpose-led just brings me to life like it makes me get out of bed in the morning. So I am full of energy when I’m delivering these programs with the business at work, and I love to empower all of the staff at AIA to be able to make a difference in our customers’ lives. It is a great philosophy that we have about making a difference for our customers, and it’s a good value fit for me. So, yeah, I think being enthusiastic, loving the work that we do, feeling great about what we do and feeling really proud about, and empowering people to do the same, really motivates me and drives me to have conversations with our customers that ultimately do make the difference.

And what advice do you have for others, you know, possibly in the corporate sector wanting to have an impact in the jobs that they already have?

The thing that makes my job easy in the shared value space is to have a really clear strategy around where you’re going to get your greatest impact, where the opportunities lie. For us, it is those top three claim conditions and then looking at what the metrics are that you’re going to measure. By implementing a strategy to improve that societal issue that you’ve identified, which is also an issue for your business, what metrics can you then look at to demonstrate that you have in fact got a really strong return on investment on that? And building that strategy takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight. But look at what goals you want to achieve, think about how you might go about doing that, find the right partners that that can help you to deliver the services or the strategy that you need to implement and and then have a strong framework so that you can clearly measure and then report back to the business on what you’re doing with those programs. And that’s the model that I use. 

And what do you like to do to kind of wind down and make sure that you recharge so you can do your best work?

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think particularly during the pandemic, I’ve actually found that I’ve had to become a lot more mindful about that. So historically, you know, I’m the one that develops programs for people to help them to recover. And I haven’t been so great at looking after myself for a while in the pandemic. I was working long hours and falling into that trap of letting work spill into my home life. And there came a point where I realised that I was really failing to practice what I preach. So for the last six months I’ve made a really, really conscious effort to engage more in activities. So at AIA, we’re really lucky we have AIA Vitality, which is a wellness product, which is actually one of our shared value initiatives, and it rewards you for healthy behaviors. So I was getting out and walking on the beach more than once a day, getting up to watch the sunrise, and practicing mindfulness.

I’m a big believer in meditation and mindfulness, and I’ve practiced it for years. But for some reason I stopped for a while in the pandemic. I’m regularly meditating again and just practicing moments of mindfulness. And I think the greatest thing that I did this year was recognizing that we have so much to be grateful for. My father’s overseas and so I found the pandemic quite challenging. But something I have made sure to do this year is video one second of something amazing everyday, which has been really special because I can look back at it and feel really grateful about my life.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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