Membership campaign case study: NTUC Income

Organisation: NTUC Income Sector: Domestic insurance Country/region: Singapore Annual turnover: SGD 2.8 billion (£1.33 billion) Campaign name: Orange Revolution Target audience: Existing and potential customers, decision-makers and influencers Campaign objective: Positioning...

Organisation: NTUC Income

Sector: Domestic insurance

Country/region: Singapore

Annual turnover: SGD 2.8 billion (£1.33 billion)

Campaign name: Orange Revolution

Target audience: Existing and potential customers, decision-makers and influencers

Campaign objective: Positioning NTUC Income as simple, honest and different, and changing practices in the insurance industry

Delivery/implementation: Multi-channel delivery, built into business strategy



NTUC Income was established in Singapore in 1970 by the country’s National Trades Union Congress.

While the business has typically had a large proportion of Singapore’s insurance market due it’s close relationship with the large labour movement, it was facing heavy competition from overseas and gradually losing market share.

Tan Suee Chieh took over as Chief Executive in 2007. A relatively young leader with significant experience Mr Tan wanted to bring about a radical change at NTUC Income, which he did in his six-year tenure as CEO (before taking up the position of Group Chief Executive for NTUC Income enterprises in October 2013.)

He began with an internal overhaul, from 2007, which he called the ‘cultural revolution’, in order to strengthen management, operations and staff engagement.

This was followed, in October 2011, with a new, externally focused ‘Orange Revolution’ campaign. It aimed to position NTUC Income as an insurer committed to being simple, honest and different whilst simultaneously redefining how the insurance market operates in Singapore.

A series of initiatives were established: Orange Force to put an army of NTUC Income advisers on the streets; Orange Speak to establish the use of transparent and plain English in all dealings; and Orange First to reward staff and financial advisors for their transparent and plain speaking.

The impact of the Orange Revolution has been significant for the business. A modest shift in financial performance has been accompanied by national awards and accolades for transparency and customer service. 


The challenge

Like many co-operatives, NTUC Income has a history that is both an advantage and a challenge. NTUC Income was formed in 1970 by the national Trade Union Congress in Singapore. This gave NTUC Income a strong member and customer base, but one closely tied to the labour movement and as such it’s principle customer base is Singaporean blue collar workers.

This was coupled, in the 1990s, with increasingly aggressive competition from global insurance companies focused on winning insurance business in Singapore.

This meant that NTUC Income was gradually losing market share in its core areas of general insurance, life and motor insurance.

The appointment of Tan Suee Chieh in 2007 heralded a change. He had three aims, all with increasing ambition.

First, to professionalise NTUC Income by strengthening the management team and creating a strong culture of customer service and engagement amongst the wider staff team.

Second, to cement NTUC’s position as a simple, honest and different insurance provider and, in so doing, increase the business’s market share.

Third – and most ambitiously – to change the nature of the insurance industry in Singapore.

Under the leadership of Mr Tan, NTUC Income ran what he termed a ‘cultural revolution’ from 2007 to 2011 intended to achieve the first aim. It was an internally focused campaign focused on engaging staff, putting customer service at the heart of the culture, and implementing system improvements across the business.

The ‘Orange Revolution’ campaign is the successor to this – a second campaign, to run for 1,500 days from October 2011, which aimed to achieve the latter two aims.

“The Orange Revolution is about doing things differently,” said Mr Tan. “It’s about changing the rules outside the company, and change the way the game is played in the insurance industry.

“We are committed to doing things differently and to making insurance simple, honest and different. Throughout our transformation, NTUC Income will stay true to its social purpose of making insurance affordable, accessible and sustainable to all.”

Ultimately, Mr Tan says that he wants to NTUC Income to be a “company where people will queue to join, competitors will regard us as a standard bearer; even the very well-off will buy from us because they know it’s a smart thing to do, and business schools from afar will cite us as an icon to emulate.”

“Professionally, the legacy I want to leave behind will be defined by how different Singapore’s insurance industry is because of NTUC Income. Personally, it’s about not settling for the good life. It’s about going after a great life – doing something meaningful that positively impacts the lives of others.” 


The action plan

The Orange Revolution is a 1,500-day campaign, and therefore not all elements of the campaign were implemented immediately, but delivered over the four years.

To date, three core elements of the Orange Revolution campaign have been put in place.

Orange Force: NTUC Income established a fleet of 30 trained motorcyclists in orange outfits who could ride in twenty minutes to traffic accidents and problems to help with first aid, help fill out insurance forms, offer advice on the scene and reduce the incidence of fraud. An important part of Orange Force is that the assistants did not just help NTUC Income policyholders, but also assisted non-policyholders. In fact, by end of 2012 over half of those assisted were non-policyholders.

Orange Speak: Alongside Orange Force, the campaign also shifted the way it dealt with its customers by ensuring that all dealings, and contracts, were written in clear and easy to understand terminology.

This is a key element in realising NTUC Income’s aim of being simple, honest and different.

Specifically, as part of this element of the campaign, NTUC Income undertook the Crystal Mark initiative, a globally recognised standard for plain English which guarantees that a document offers simple, clear and concise information. It has now achieved more Crystal Marks than any other business in Asia: NTUC Income has over 50 Crystal Marks and over 95% of NTUC Income’s customers now have their contracts issued with Crystal Marks.

Orange First: This campaign focused on the staff, partners and financial advisers working on behalf of NTUC Income. It rewards the sales force – through awards and other initiatives – for dealing with customers in a trustworthy and transparent way.

This element of the campaign reflects the fact that an externally facing campaign requires internal buy-in from across the customer-facing workforce if it is to be delivered successfully and consistently.

In line with the rest of Orange Revolution, though, whilst Orange First is internally focused, it also has a promotional side. A multi-media advertising campaign – including TV, print, outdoor and online channels – reinforces the NTUC Income’s commitment to Orange First amongst its staff, showing in turn NTUC Income’s role in making insurance simple, honest and different.

A significant part of the Orange Revolution is NTUC Income putting its campaign into practice – not simply viewing it as a marketing campaign but as a fundamentally different way of operating as a business, evidenced by the number of people the Orange Force motorcyclists have helped who are not NTUC Income policyholders.

For example, during the ‘ash cloud’ eruption that affected international travel in 2010, NTUC Income was not legally obliged to offer payouts to travel insurance policy-holders. However, it chose to honour the intent of the policy, paying out approximately $400,000 to around 400 claimants.


The impact

As on an on-going campaign that will finish around the end of 2015, the full impact of the Orange Revolution cannot be assessed. However, it is clear that some significant changes have been made.

Financial impact: Due to some significant changes to the regulation of the insurance industry in Singapore in 2011 / 2012, NTUC Income has seen only modest financial growth since the beginning of the Orange Revolution campaign.

Some growth was seen in its general insurance and motor insurance products. NTUC Income is now the leading composite insurer in Singapore, serving over 2 million customers with about 3.8 million policies and assets of $30.8 billion.

22% of all private cars and 49% of all motorcycles are insured by NTUC Income.

Social impact: NTUC Income clearly defines itself as both a co-operative and a social enterprise.

In 2010 it established Orange Aid, a fund for underprivileged children and youth. 1% of the company’s operating profits ($1.9 million) was invested in Orange Aid in 2012. In addition, the business also contributes approximately $4.5 million annually (2.6% of its operating profits) towards the labour movement and related charity and community projects.

Reputation impact: In 2012, NTUC Income was named Singapore’s Best Car Insurer by the AsiaOne People’s Choice Award, and was recognised as the best in health and medical insurance, life insurance and motor insurance in the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore.

Tan Suee Chieh, in recognition of his role in the transformation of NTUC, was awarded Outstanding Chief executive Officer of the Year 2012 at the Singapore Business Awards 2013.

In 2007, the average number of complaints that NTUC Income received each month was 274. In 2012 it was reduced to 71, whilst three times more compliments than complaints are received each month.

Specifically, at the end of 2012, just over one year in, the Orange Force had handled more than 10,000 engagements whilst receiving over 400 compliments from customers.

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