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WHILE the world hopes for more stability and economic growth in 2021, the road to recovery from the global pandemic remains challenging. The next normal is undoubtedly going to be different, and the global economy will surely be full of major transitions.

In this year’s Asia Entrepreneurship Forum (AFE) held virtually, several business leaders shared what it takes to not just recover, but transition towards long-term development.

The virtual forum held last June 30 was hosted by the Asia Pacific Enterprise Awards (APEA), the most prestigious regional award recognition program recognizing entrepreneurial excellence. With the theme “Great Reset: Towards a Sustainable Recovery,” it gathered the region’s key thought and business leaders from various fields to explore and share strategies on readying their organizations for the “next normal.”

One of the business leaders who attended the forum was Allianz PNB Life CEO Alexander Grenz. He said their success lies in their agility. “Agility is our ability to rapidly adapt as a response to what changes around us—our environment, our industry, and so forth. It’s very difficult to maneuver huge enterprises into new directions, so we should go deeper to understand what drives and enables agility,” he told

For his company, Grenz pointed out that digitalization built by and around a diverse and well-trained workforce made speedy recovery possible for Allianz across the Asia-Pacific region just months after the pandemic started.

Locally, he said that Allianz PNB Life has since then expanded by about 67 percent even in the middle of the pandemic. By bringing quality insurance available online and making it more accessible to younger clients, the company was able to hit record-breaking sales in the first quarter of 2021.

During the forum, two other senior executives specializing in building innovative social enterprises also emphasized the value of putting people at the heart of the organization while keeping with the times.

Sam Wong, ASEAN Markets Leader for Ernst & Young Singapore, talked about prioritizing people over technology. “Our processes [and] our technology in place is centered around our people to enable [them] to be more productive. [It’s] not about just generating more work, it’s also generating more capacity to change at the individual level,” he said. “[We do] a lot of sharing, investment, [and] training for our people.”

Martin Chee, General Manager for IBM ASEAN, advised on the importance of inclusivity and harnessing the full potential of the up-and-coming workforce. “The disruption can come from somewhere you don’t expect because everybody has new capabilities,” he said. “The talent we have out there is immense.  [They] are the ones who will drive us to the future.”

Meanwhile, Grenz attributed human-centered enterprise to the cultural aspect of belonging and working towards a common goal. “We need to build a culture where people feel safe, empowered, and trained and prepared [as a team] for what’s ahead,” he said.

He added that design and customer-centric thinking, along with hiring people from different backgrounds, are key to empowering their workforce.

Asked on their next moves in the next normal, Grenz shared, “It’s about fast decision-making. We have to take risks, to possibly fail as well, and to adapt on the way forward.”

Future-forward, Allianz PNB Life aims to soon complete its digital ecosystem and welcome fresh talents to further grow the organization, Grenz said. It also continues to align with Allianz Group’s global agenda to achieve a fully sustainable investment portfolio and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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