Chunky Chhetry is the CEO of Sagarmatha Insurance Company Limited. He is with the company since 1998 having previously served at Oriental Insurance and United Insurance Co Ltd. Chhetry, who holds an eMBA degree has more than 25 years of working experience in the insurance industry. the HRM caught up with Chhetry to talk about his first job, the experience he gained from his first job, and his insurance career. Excerpts:
Tell us about your first job.
My first job was in the education sector which I got into after completing the intermediate (+2) level. While pursuing the BCOM studies, I observed that a lot of my friends were working and continuing their studies. I also thought it was good to be self-reliant from a young age. Hence, I entered the insurance industry Oriental Insurance as an Assistant in the underwriting department. With the country adopting an open economic model after the political change of 1990, a lot of public companies were established in the private sector. I was always interested in the marketing field, so I decided to take my chance and applied for a marketing job in United Insurance in 1993. I was the first person to bring the first business in United Insurance.
How easy or difficult was it for you to get the job at that time?
It was not tough for me to get the job at that time. I had done basic research about insurance which had helped me a lot in getting selected for the job.
What challenges did you face at that time? How did you overcome those challenges?
My first experience in Oriental Insurance as a policymaker in the underwriting department gave me a lot of technical knowledge about the insurance sector which further helped me to develop my career. At that time, not many people were aware of insurance and its importance. So, that was a challenge for me which I came over by relentlessly working towards narrowing the information gap. Eventually, my skills and knowledge were highly appreciated by other insurance companies in Nepal.
Did the sector/field match your academic area?
I graduated in B.Com. After 18 years of professional experience, I became an eMBA in 2008. I had been doing things by using techniques that I had learned practically from my experience, the course helped me to better understand the management skills, terminologies, and new techniques as well as new cases prevalent in the current scenario. So, yes it matched my academic area.
What major lessons did you learn during the first job?
I learned to be proactive and started to not just focus on the functions of a particular department in which I worked, but gathered knowledge and information about all the departments in the organization. This was a great lesson as it helped me to better understand the overall insurance business. At that time, the way of working was quite different from today. We had to self-learn and understand various policies and procedures. I was fortunate enough to work in such organizations where I was able to have such experiences.
What were the major achievements for you professionally and personally?
Insurance is such a field wherein we play the part of a friend in the time of need to those people who have insured with us. We can take an example of the earthquake of 2015, wherein we from Sagarmatha Insurance were able to help many people to settle their claims. We settled the claims of 2630 clients amounting to Rs 2 billion. This, I believe, has been a major achievement for me professionally. I gained immense knowledge in the field of insurance, management, marketing, and various other skills in order to reach the position that I am in right now. I worked in Nepal Insurance Professional’s Society for almost 10 years because I always strived to improve the insurance sector and to spread awareness about Insurance and its importance. My involvement in this organization helped me immensely to do the same. I was serving as the President of the organization.
Also, recently I was nominated as the President of the Nepal Insurers’ Association. Furthermore, I was fortunate to receive many national and international awards and participated in various national and international insurance seminars. I was also a guest lecturer in various colleges.
Professional experiences have helped me to grow a lot in my personal life as well. I became more empathetic and garnered leadership quality which helped me a lot in my personal life. Similarly, my nature of facing any kind of challenge head-on and not being intimidated in any situation helped me a lot in my professional life.
You have spent over two and a half decades in the insurance sector. How has this sector changed over these years in terms of work culture and environment?
The industry has changed tremendously from the time I started working in this sector. Earlier, the sector was very small, so each and every employee would perform tasks of almost all of the departments. The penetration level of insurance was also very low compared to the present day, so the business volume was also low. Now, the industry has grown so employees of insurance companies focus only on the roles and responsibilities of their concerned departments. But I would want today’s youth to strive to gather as much information as possible not just of their department but all the other departments as all of the functions within the companies are interlinked.
How competitive is the insurance sector now for young graduates compared to past years?
Competition is prevalent everywhere. Having said so, the insurance sector has a very high scope of growth since its penetration is increasing. So there is always a need for human resources in this sector. As long as the young graduates who want to join this sector are well versed in insurance, are proactive, and are able to handle the pressure and perform well, it is not that tough to enter this sector.
How lucrative is the Nepali Insurance sector in terms of employment, salary, and perks?
It is not lucrative as commercial banks. But compared to other sectors, the insurance industry is very good in terms of employment, salary and perks. Among the public limited companies, insurance companies are considered for best facilities for their staff.
What is your advice to aspiring youths planning to enter the insurance industry? How can they achieve healthy career growth?
The penetration of insurance is growing with the economic growth and improvement of the nation as well as the growth in the education level. However, there is enormous scope for the expansion of insurance in the country. So, I think is easier to grow in the insurance sector as there are so many unchartered areas here. If the young graduates work dedicatedly using traditional as well as new tools available, then there is a very high chance for them to achieve fast growth.
What preparations do the fresh graduates need to do while entering the insurance sector?
The graduates have to have basic information about insurance. Also, it would be better if they focus on researching the various products and services that are available in the international market and think of how they can be implemented in Nepal’s context. So, the fresh graduates need to learn, research and be willing to dedicatedly work in order to perform well.
Finally, I would like the general public to know that insurance is very important for each and every individual and society, and the cost involved in getting insured is not as high as people think.