Thomas Sin, Manager, Legal and Compliance at Cigna Worldwide Life Insurance Company Ltd, began his career at a Big Four firm like many fresh graduates. He tells A Plus why he later decided to work in the insurance industry, and the professional opportunities open to him from working in compliance
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
I’m currently Manager, Legal and Compliance at Cigna Worldwide Life Insurance Company Ltd. I’m focused on implementing new regulations and rules issued by the Insurance Authority, the insurance regulator. This involves communicating with other departments such as the underwriting department, which looks at the risks involved in insuring people who are interested in our products. We make sure that they comply with the rules. I’d say it’s going well so far. I spent the first two years after graduation working at PwC as an auditor, where most of my work involved auditing insurance companies, so I got to understand their operations, and I became interested in the regulation side of things. After that, I joined the Insurance Authority. I worked there for around two years before transitioning to an in-house role at insurance companies.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
We’ve had to deal with new regulations, as part of the Insurance Authority’s recent reform of the insurance industry. They are trying to more strongly regulate insurance intermediaries and make sure that they are qualified by increasing the barrier of entry. Implementing those reforms under a tight deadline is definitely a challenge, especially with a lot of internal back-and-forth communication. For example, we need to work with the sales department, which mainly focuses on meeting their sales targets, to implement regulations. This means working together to achieve a balance of good sales and good compliance. The rewarding part is when you actually make new controls – which could be abstract initially – work within the company and get people to successfully comply with them. It makes you feel like you’ve actually made a change.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
It’s a relatively stable career. I remember deciding on what to major in at university right after the financial crisis in 2008 and hearing people say that accounting is one of the most recession-proof professions. This idea that companies turn to accounting professionals for assistance in both good and bad economic conditions really attracted me to the profession. I went on to study accounting at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
I would like to stay in the legal and compliance department and take on an even higher managerial role in the future. There are a lot of opportunities for me to touch on different areas of compliance – and there are a lot of areas. For example, I usually focus on anti-money laundering, but I’ve also looked at data privacy, anti-bribery and anti-corruption. I’ve also helped to implement related controls within the company to determine whether to accept or turn down insurance applicants based on our risk appetite.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt so far from work experience or managers?
I had a manager before who really emphasized work-life balance, which I think is important for our generation, particularly those who are accountants and auditors. At PwC, like most auditors, I worked until quite late. Obviously, it’s good to work hard, but to me, achieving good work-life balance keeps you and your mind healthy. After work, try to do something that helps you to relax.
How has the Qualification Programme (QP) helped you in your career?
It was really relevant in my first job as an auditor at PwC, especially Module A financial reporting and Module C business assurance, and their focuses on standards. Even though I’m no longer an auditor, Module C is still very relevant to my compliance testing work. It taught me the Hong Kong auditing standards, how to perform an audit, how to design a self-audit process, and sampling methodologies. Even though we don’t have to follow auditing standards, the knowledge around how you test something and how to recommend ways to enhance the controls after testing, still apply.