Meet the Media: Asia Insurance Review
Established in January 1991, the Asia Insurance Review (AIR) is the brainchild of former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mr. Hwang Soo Jin, who is currently Emeritus Chairman of Singapore Reinsurance Corp. Mr. Sivam Subramaniam was appointed Chief Executive Officer, Group Publisher and Editor-in-Chief to launch the magazine in a bid to promote Singapore’s efforts in becoming the insurance hub of the region.
Known as “The Voice of the Insurance Industry”, AIR’s main objective is to meet the information needs of insurance practitioners worldwide, and in particular, Asia, as well as those interested in doing business in the region. The magazine swiftly became the premier and comprehensive professional regional magazine read by key decision-makers within the industry from countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
AIR publishes five comprehensive insurance directories – the ASEAN Insurance Directory, Insurance Directory of Asia, Reinsurance Directory of Asia, World Islamic Insurance Directory and MENA Insurance Directory – which serve as a reference for the industry to keep abreast of the latest developments.
Over the span of 25 years, Subramaniam has organized over 250 technical insurance conferences in Asia and the Middle East in an effort to promote the industry’s move towards higher standards and greater professionalism. With 120,000 monthly readers, Google ranks AIR third in terms of online readership for insurance news, and Subramaniam attributes this to the eDaily that is published every morning.
“The eDaily is free and a lot of them love it. Most positive feedback comes from the eDaily.” Subramaniam recalls, “One of my most rewarding moments was when a guy from London, who is quite a big shot, told me, ‘I do not go to sleep until I have read your eDaily’. The eDaily is sent out at 6 a.m. Singapore time, so he gets it at midnight in London.”
Additionally, AIR also organizes the Asia Insurance Industry Awards, which Subramaniam calls, “The Oscars of the insurance industry”. The awards ceremony has been recognising excellence in the industry since 1997, and is successful due to the transparency of the independent judging panel, which comprises the association as well as industry leaders and regulators.
Currently, AIR is looking at developing a new platform for insurance companies to reach out to corporate and commercial risk managers.
What is AIR’s editorial direction?
According to Subramaniam, the publication’s tone should be “clean and business-like”, while providing readers with the insurance perspective of global developments and what these developments mean to the insurance industry. The purpose of the publication is to discuss the global insurance phenomenon, as well as to “Asianise any insurance developments around the world”. He elaborated, “Let’s say there is a cyberattack around the world. We will bring you the Asian perspective of the issue by analysing the extent to which Asia will be affected by it, and give you the exclusive perspective of where Asia comes in.”
What makes AIR unique?
The magazine has been successfully developing relationships with insurance companies over the past 25 years by patiently reaching out to the big and small players in the industry while carrying out factual reporting. “They [insurance companies] see us not so much as just a magazine, but really as a friend,” explained the Editor-in-Chief. “We get to sit in a lot of private meetings. People share a lot of secrets with us because they know we will not make the industry look bad, or victimize any companies or personalities.”
The financial crisis in 2010 was a perfect example of why AIR is a friend of the insurance industry. While most people in town were criticizing AIG for its major role in the crisis, AIR did not jump on the bandwagon, but instead spoke to its International Head to uncover the truth. AIR discovered that the bad news didn’t come from its insurance operations but from the speculative derivative side of the business. Since then, the magazine has been publishing regular stories in support of the positive reconstruction being carried out by AIG.
How does the team ensure that the magazine’s articles are of good quality?
It is common practice for the editorial team to discuss story ideas before churning out articles, which are then sent over to the relevant companies for feedback. Once the articles have been edited, Subramaniam will peruse them to ensure that they are grammatically accurate and stylistically appealing, i.e. a text-heavy story with its text broken by subheadings and pictures to be more appealing to the eye.
In your opinion, what constitutes a good article and a good press release?
Subramaniam believes that in the Internet era, where everyone is being bombarded daily with numerous articles, a good article should be newsworthy and have a catchy headline in order to successfully capture a reader’s attention.
When writing a press release, his advice is to adhere to the reverse pyramid. “The entire summary of the news point should be in the first paragraph. A lot of people tend to start the first paragraph with background information, which is not what journalism is about,” Subramaniam said. “Journalism uses the reverse pyramid, in which the strongest news point goes to the top and the background comes later only when you have attracted the reader’s attention with the headline and the introduction.”
What is one writing tip that you would like to share?
Subramaniam emphasises the importance of keeping news stories simple and sticking to the news, instead of trying to “over-glorify your story, as there is nothing worse than having big, grand headlines, but delivering nothing”.
About the Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief:
For 10 years, Mr. Sivam Subramaniam served as a diplomat for Singapore in New York and Geneva, where he was also an arbitrator in a trade dispute between the United States and the European Union. Subsequently, he worked for two years as an Economic Correspondent with The Straits Times before moving on to launch Asia Insurance Review and Middle East Insurance Review.