Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, PolicyStreet
Alumna - The Australian National University
Since graduating with a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies, Winnie Chua has established a successful and rewarding career.
In 2016, Winnie co-founded an insurtech platform, PolicyStreet, and by 2018, was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia for the Finance and Venture Capital sector.
Through her company, Winnie's mission is to help businesses, clients and underserved access insurance services which are purposeful and simple.
Watch the video or read Winnie’s story below.
Why I chose Australia
I chose to study in Australia for a few reasons. One is that The Australian National University (ANU) is a world-class university and is known for its Actuarial degree. I knew studying there would ‘open a lot of doors’ for me.
Secondly, Australia isn't too far from my home in Malaysia. Canberra, home to ANU, is a seven-hour flight and in a similar time zone, which made my parents more relaxed about me being overseas.
However, the main reason I chose Australia was because of the good vibes. I had travelled there a few times when I was younger and had fond memories of my time there.
My experience in Australia
My first year in Australia was about exploring and settling in. But by the second year, I was fully immersed in my Aussie life.
I joined the committee for Malaysian Students Association at ANU, as well as the International Student’s Department. It was a great way to socialise and meet people from all over the world.
I also became a campus tour guide to help new students settle into university life. It was then that I realised that I really enjoyed being a mentor and looking after people.
A highlight of my time at university was joining the dance team. I even had the opportunity to perform at some major university events.
These things may seem small, but they helped build my confidence and my ability to thrive in an unfamiliar environment.
I really feel that the whole unique experience in Australia was the foundation for some of the character shaping and confidence building that led me to start my own business.
When I started my course, I realised I was getting a high-quality education. Actuarial studies is an art form, because you use math and scientific methods to quantify risk – something that's essentially abstract.
What I enjoyed most about actuarial studies is that you get exposed to many different aspects of business. I really love to analyse companies, how they work and what makes them successful.
Starting my business
I finished my degree in 2009 and returned home to join the workforce back in Malaysia.
I worked at Allianz Insurance in an actuarial role and eventually moved into a more strategic position overseeing underwriting, operations and claims. This gave me the skills and experience to be able to start my own business.
In 2017, I joined forces with some peers in the banking sector, and we started PolicyStreet.
In the beginning, we were a marketing business and would refer leads to our partners in the insurance industry. We then pivoted to become a corporate agent for several insurance companies. Then in 2019, we received our financial advisory license, and we are now in our fifth year being a financial advisory company.
Our mission is to become the preferred insurance platform for consumers and businesses by earning their trust, empowering them and generally being super helpful. PolicyStreet aims to change the perception of insurance so that it’s purposeful and simple for businesses and consumers. We curate new products that fit today’s needs because we believe existing products are just not enough.
On a day-to-day basis, my partners and I lead a team of 70 staff and take care of operations and reinsurance as we are now a full fledge reinsurance company. This has been exciting for us, as we originated as a tech company.
Highlights of my career
Over the six years since starting PolicyStreet, we’ve had many employees come and go. Some stay and evolve and some move on to greater things such as starting their own businesses. I think this is something to be celebrated.
It has also been rewarding to gradually build a more self-sufficient business that doesn't depend on me alone. I am now able to go on trips where I am not easily contactable. So, I think that's a testament to how our company has grown over time, that I can actually step back and let the systems and processes run without my direct involvement.
But of course, there are the bigger achievements! These include when PolicyStreet received investor confidence and support, which not many Malaysian startups have been able to do.
PolicyStreet was also awarded ‘financial advisory approval’ by the Central Bank of Malaysia in April 2019, enabling the company to source, aggregate, compare, customise and advise consumers and businesses on the best products available – the first homegrown insurtech to receive this award.
I don’t know of any other female founders in Southeast Asia in the insurtech sector, so I’m trying to pave the way for my fellow women. These are the things that I feel are quite impactful for myself and society.