Acting CEO Drives AIA Forward During Leader’s Absence


When AIA NZ’s CEO Nick Stanhope went on extended leave in November last year, the firm’s Sharron Botica (pictured) stepped in to run the show. However, she’s been doing more than just holding the fort.

“The key priority was keeping ahead of regulatory change,” says Botica. “I wanted to make sure everyone – advisers and the regulators – felt confident.

“Confident in me as Acting CEO, and in AIA NZ as a company. It was also important to me that everyone here focused on meeting regulatory requirements, expectations, conduct, and culture.

“From a regulatory perspective, the regulators need to be comfortable in how AIA is being run and see that we are doing the right thing by all New Zealanders and the broader Kiwi consumer.

“It is important to have a strong connection with the FMA, the RBNZ, and to really connect-in and understand their priorities.”

Botica says the events of the past two years have brought forward the adoption of digital solutions at the firm, and forced the introduction of new streamlined systems that delivered “…lots of positive changes for the sector”.

“Overall 2021 was a challenging year, and to navigate it and grow we had to be agile,” she says.

Nick Stanhope, CEO, AIA New Zealand.
Nick Stanhope, CEO, AIA New Zealand.

“Covid and lockdowns made all of us focus on the digitisation of the business. That includes internal systems, process and technology, but more importantly how we deliver products and services to the New Zealand market. That is something we are strongly focused on, and we will continue to work on this during 2022.”

Botica says a key priority for the firm is to deliver a frictionless service to financial advisers.

“We are creating what I call effortless experiences for our advisers and for our end customers as well,” she says.

“And these investments allow adviser businesses to operate with greater ease. I hope they will agree it is far easier to work with us today than two years ago. The way we are all working at AIA now is completely different to where we were.

“Listening to our customers is very important for us. Particularly with the adviser market – we need our systems to meet the needs of advisers and that includes the AIA Hub, and improving our underwriting processes.”

We always look at how existing products are performing and where the opportunity is for new products…

During 2022 Botica expects to see financial advisers align further with the regulatory regime.

“We will support financial advisers in their decision to become their own FAP or join an existing FAP,” she says.

Botica also says growing AIA NZ’s share of market by taking business away from competitors doesn’t help the sector grow. She says the firm is developing new products to help make the pie bigger – but is reluctant to share details.

“It’s a bit early to say too much at the moment,” she says. “But being part of a large organisation we can look off-shore to other parts of the company that’s more mature, who have products we can adapt to the New Zealand market.

“We always look at how existing products are performing and where the opportunity is for new products.”

Underpinning everything the firm does is its continued focus on the mental health and wellbeing of its staff, partners, and customers.

“Mental ill health is having such an impact on us as a society due to Covid-19, the lockdowns, and societal restrictions,” she says. “Children’s levels of anxiety are rising, and everyone should be helped to operate at their absolute best. But a key hindrance to that is poor mental health.”

Two years ago the firm launched AIA Vitality to help customers understand what they can do to help themselves when it comes to physical fitness and improving their general health. Botica says the scheme will be expanded this year to include a greater focus on mental health.

“It is something we have been working on,” she says. “We really want to be a part of driving positive change.

“What is really important is that we start our year strongly, have a clear focus on our priorities and strategy, and have a massive focus on people. It is all about people, our employees, customers and partners.”

No date has been announced by AIA NZ for the return of Nick Stanhope.