The University of Iowa

Mohamed Hassan Kamil (BS actuarial science ’85; MBA ’86) reflects on impact of his time at the University of Iowa

April 26th, 2021

Hassan Kamil is well-known in the insurance industry in Malaysia. At the helm of the first Takaful operator (Islamic insurer) as Group Chief Executive Officer (“Group CEO”) since 2007 with over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry, he has propelled Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Keluarga Berhad (“STMKB” or “Takaful Malaysia”) to become one of the top Takaful operators in the world.

A graduate of the University of Iowa with a BS in actuarial science and an MBA, Hassan Kamil is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Chartered Life Underwriter. He worked in the United States from 1987 to 1994 prior to returning to Malaysia where he held several key positions as chief operating officer, chief actuary, and chief financial officer at multinational insurance companies based in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Image of Mohamed Hassan Kamil

Mohamed Hassan Kamil

Tell us a little about your current career and its connection to your study at Iowa. 

As a group CEO of a leading Islamic insurance company in Malaysia and a qualified actuary, I make high-level strategic decisions which direct the company's overall growth and this entails managing the company's overall resources and operations. I’m a hands-on person and closely involved with day-to-day functions of the company.

The central focus of my job is mainly to steer the company to greater heights with a strong balance sheet as well as sustainable financial performance to deliver the required returns to our shareholders whilst meeting the consumer demand for innovation protection solutions. Hence, I have to utilize my analytical skills and industry knowledge to comprehend the technical aspects of managing an Islamic insurance company and translating these into strategic initiatives in order to strengthen our foothold in the market and achieve a competitive advantage against our counterparts in the industry. 

The actuarial knowledge and skills I acquired during my studies and throughout the leadership positions in several leading local and international insurance companies over the years have equipped me with insights and advantages in pushing the business forward to drive the financial performance and operational and network efficiencies of Takaful Malaysia. I am able to understand the financial implications of all key decisions ranging from asset investment decisions to pricing of large risks.

Even though I am qualified as a life actuary, I spend a considerable amount of time on property casualty matters as my company conducts businesses in both life and property casualty businesses. I find many similarities in the two different classes of businesses as my life actuarial skills are also relevant to help me with risk assessment and underwriting for property casualty products.

Please provide a brief timeline of your career development before your current position.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in actuarial science in 1985 and Master in Business Administration in 1986 from the University of Iowa.  I later obtained a fellowship with the Society of Actuaries (“FSA”) in 1992 and qualified as a Chartered Life Underwriter.

I worked in the United States as an actuary from 1987 to 1994 prior to returning to Malaysia as deputy general manager at Malaysia National Insurance. In 1996, I joined ING Insurance Berhad (previously known as Aetna Universal Insurance) as senior vice president and chief actuary. In 2004, I became the deputy general manager for P.T. AIA Indonesia. 

I was appointed to the board of Takaful Malaysia on 1 September, 2006, as a non-independent non-executive director. I was then appointed as the group managing director of Takaful Malaysia on 1 April, 2007, and redesignated as the group chief executive officer on 25 April, 2017. I am also the chairman of the board of commissioners of P.T. Asuransi Keluarga and P.T. Syarikat Takaful Indonesia.

How did the dual education in actuarial science and business you received at Iowa prepare you to succeed professionally and personally?

As one of the first Malaysians to qualify as an actuary and rising to the position of a group CEO of an Islamic insurance company, I have gone through multiple challenges over my career of more than 30 years to reach where I am today. Honestly speaking, it was not a smooth sailing progress as becoming a qualified actuary is not an easy career path to begin with. Nonetheless, being an actuary and now a group CEO has never in any way held me back from achieving my goals, be it professionally or personally.

Having studied, trained, and worked in the United States, I strongly believe that I have endowed myself with the right credentials, skills, and experiences right from the start. Besides, coming back to Malaysia, I was fortunate to hold several key management positions in multinational companies which equipped me with the necessary exposure and opportunities for advancement. The experience gained has been a contributing factor in accomplishing great milestones and remarkable achievements at both personal and corporate levels.

Experience has taught me how crucial it is to think outside the box and be constantly innovative to set myself apart from others. It takes more than just technical skill and industry knowledge to grow profitability and lead the pack. You need to know how to evolve and enhance our product offerings and services to keep up with the rapidly changing consumer demand as well as technological advancement.

One of the key factors behind the strong performance of Takaful Malaysia was the Transformation Program, which I introduced in 2008 that witnessed a phenomenal feat: the tremendous increase in market capitalization of the company from USD 70 million in 2008 to USD 1 billion as at 31 December, 2019.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Iowa?

My favourite memory from my time at Iowa would be the massive snowfall and the frigid weather. I spent most of the time in the main library when I was not attending classes and the 30-minute walk from my apartment to the library in the snow was quite an experience.

During your time at Iowa, was there anyone or anything that inspired you?

There are two very special persons who helped me so much during my time at Iowa. Professor Stuart Klugman and Professor Jim Broffitt spent a considerable amount of time coaching me outside the classroom for my actuarial exams. I became an associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) at the same time I completed my undergraduate studies and I was the only undergraduate student to receive the Lloyd Knowler Best Actuarial student award in 1985.

Do you have any advice for recent UI graduates entering into the early stages of their career?

My advice for UI graduates who are entering the early stages of their career is to have the passion and stay passionate in the journey as the results are worth the effort. They need to walk the extra mile, stop complaining, and have the right attitude to resolve issues in a positive way and display this behavior consistently to earn their promotion to bigger roles and challenges. Most importantly, they should stay focused on building their skill sets and capabilities for advancement instead of being distracted by money and rewards.

In addition, they need to have in-depth industry knowledge and to be able to adopt the perspective of an outsider apart from the ability to connect disparate ideas and communicate energetically besides courageously and constantly looking for synergistic thinking opportunities. Always remember that success does not come without working hard as it’s never going to be a 9 to 5 job. My success is a product of ceaseless effort over the career span of more than 30 years and I have never stopped up till now. Spending years of dedicated service, creativity, and innovation, I truly hope I’m giving UI graduates an example to emulate.

Any current accomplishments/honors/awards in particular you would like us to highlight?

  • Clinched the ‘Highest Growth In Profit After Tax Over Three Years’ award under the Financial Services Sector at The Edge Billion Ringgit Club Corporate Awards 2019.
  • Garnered the ‘Highest Return On Equity Over Three Years’ award under the Financial Services Sector at The Edge Billion Ringgit Club Corporate Awards 2019.
  • Recognized as the best digital initiative of the year to win the ‘Innovation Award’ under the Special Awards Category at the Malaysian Takaful Association’s Takaful StarNite Awards 2019.

What does the future look like for you?

The success story of Takaful Malaysia has created an impact on the overall outlook of the insurance industry, which resulted in the emergence of a significant market for the takaful industry to expand over the conventional insurance industry. We have set the benchmark in the insurance industry to become an epitome to our peers and competitors. The company’s excellent achievements, in other words, have proven to the world that the takaful model does work as well if not better than its conventional insurers. 

With the Covid 19 pandemic, we are revisiting the business model to have more digital presence for sales and distribution and to enable staff to work from home. This may be the new normal in the foreseeable future.

 

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