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ING Asia/Pacific Company’s Problems Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 19th, 2020

Executive Summary

ING Insurance Asia/Pacific is one of the most important overseas branches of ING Insurance Group. The Asia Pacific market is very important to the overall success of the company giving the rising economies in the region. When Jacques Kemp took control of the firm as the region’s chief executive officer, he realized that the firm was facing a number of problems that needed an immediate solution to ensure that the sustainable growth of the firm was not affected. He and his team came up with a number of strategies that would help the firm achieve the desired success, but the most profound of them all was ‘Towards Performance Excellence’ model. The model identified six key drivers of excellence and explained how a firm could implement the plan to achieve the desired success.


ING Insurance is one of the leading insurance companies in the global market. As shown in the case study, this conglomerate is operating in a highly competitive business environment and forces it to come up with effective strategies to gain a competitive edge over its market rivals. ING Asia/Pacific is part of this conglomerate that primarily focuses on the markets in Asia and Pacific continents. This is a particularly attractive market segment because of the growing economy in many countries in this region. Countries such as China, Japan, Korea, India, and Australia have registered impressive economic growth over the recent past, and ING is keen on taking advantage of this growth. It had to come up with ways of managing the growing regional competition by understanding the unique needs of its customers and meeting them in the best way possible. The new top management unit of ING Asia/Pacific has been keen on integrating operations of this firm within the region in a non-disruptive manner.

The management understands that each market has unique characteristics, but the management requires a universal method of tackling challenges that it faces in a cost-effective manner. As shown in the case study, the ability to master key drivers of excellence is one of the best ways through which this firm can achieve the desired success. As such, the management came up with a new strategy that is referred to as Towards Performance Excellence (TPE), which seeks to provide an effective way of achieving performance excellence. The top managers believe that this is the best way of addressing the problems that this company faces in its market operations. In this paper, the researcher seeks to diagnose the problems that ING Asia/Pacific faces and the alternative solutions that can be used to solve them effectively.

Problem Statement

As shown in the case study, Jacques Kemp took over the leadership of ING Asia/Pacific as the chief executive officer in 2003. According to Huemann, it is not easy for an executive to identify problems created by his or her own leadership or lack of it thereof (71). However, when a new officer assumes the office, he or she will conduct a review of the firm’s operations even if the records show that everything is working out as per the expectation. The new manager will conduct an audit to identify what the firm has been doing right under the old regime and areas that need a change in order to improve the firm’s performance. Through such audits, it is possible to identify loopholes which, if addressed, may result in greater success for the firm. This is exactly what Kemp did when he became the regional head of the ING Insurance Asia/Pacific region. This was the first step towards addressing the challenges of this firm and making it a dominant player in the insurance industry within the region. Upon assuming this position, he conducted a management audit of each business unit (country) to understand the approach they take in developing and executing strategies. He realized that each branch in each country within the region used different approaches to develop and execute strategies.

It was apparent that strategy development and execution in Japan was very different from that used in Korea. This was a worrying trend, according to Kemp, because it was an indication that the firm lacked a common organizational culture that defined its operations in the region. He tried to compare the organizational culture at each of the branches and noted that there were significant differences in the practice embraced in each country. According to Hall, successful multinational organizations have learned how to harmonize their organizational culture in different countries in order to create a uniform operation that can be understood by the top management (59).

It means that if a customer uses services of such a firm in Japan, the services will almost be the same if he or she visits the firm’s premises in China or Australia. An integrated culture is also very important to the management unit, especially the top management. Having a uniform pattern of developing and executing strategies makes it easy for the top management to have a clear understanding of what to expect. However, it was worrying to Kemp that at ING Asia/Pacific, things were done in a completely different way. As the regional head, it was almost impossible to know how the unit in Korea or Japan would address emerging challenges or take advantage of the market opportunities.

According to Mathis and Galloway, in the modern global market, firms are keen on not only spreading their operations to various other countries but also retaining a specific organizational culture known to be capable of bringing about the desired success (Mathis and Galloway 28). However, one of the problems that most of these multinational corporations face is that each market is unique. As shown in this case study, Japan and South Korea, maybe neighbors. It is easy for an executive to assume that the two countries share so many characteristics in terms of buying pattern, cultural, and even economic environments. However, Hall says that even two neighboring countries have unique characteristics that make them distinct in one way or the other (112). Failing to understand the uniqueness may result into serious marketing problems for a firm. To Kemp, he knew that these countries were unique in one way or the other. However, he did not know how to deal with this problem without complicating operations of ING in each of the regional countries. Each country had developed its own distinctive operation strategies and it was not easy forcing them to conform to a specific uniform culture or approach of operations.

As Kemp interacted more with the regional heads, especially the managers responsible for the firm’s operations in each of the countries, he noticed that there was a new problem that was even more serious than the difference in organizational culture. Each of these managers knew the specific approach taken by the firm in their respective countries to plan and execute strategies. However, when asked to explain these strategies in a clear step-by-step manner, Kemp noticed that they were unable to give satisfactory answer. Kempt was worried that most of these executives trusted with an important role of providing leadership to this firm’s branches were not certain about the strategies they were using to define their own operations. They did not know what was expected of them at each step when planning and implementing various marketing and operations management strategies.

In his own analysis, Kemp notes that these managers exuded a lot of confidence but they lacked substance. It is true that most of them understood the local forces in their countries and how to deal with these local forces in a way that would yield the desired result. However, they lacked a clear pattern of undertaking these activities. In fact, it was common to find cases where a strategy used in addressing a given problem yesterday is very different from an approach used in addressing a similar problem on a different occasion. As such, it was almost impossible to predict how a specific problem within this firm would be addressed. Multinational companies often have the challenge of ensuring that their overseas branches are operated in line with the organization’s mission and vision statements. However, what was revealed during the investigation done by Kemp was that these units were operated without having in mind the vision and mission of the parent firm in mind.

As Hall says, the cliché that one should think globally and act locally makes a lot of sense to multi-national organizations (92). As firms operating in the global market, they have to think globally, but this must be done without ignoring the local forces. The strategies must be developed in a way that is sensitive to the global trends but without ignoring the local market trends. At ING Insurance Asia/Pacific, the idea of thinking globally was not given any serious consideration as shown in the case study. The managers responsible for the firm’s operations in different countries never had forums where they would regularly meet and discuss their operations at the same table. Each unit was operated semi-autonomously without giving any serious thoughts about how the operations of the firm are done in the neighboring countries.

The case study shows that most of the challenges that country managers faced were very similar. It means that if these managers can regularly interact and share their views on how to solve these problems, they can possibly come up with superior common solution that can be applied differently in order to achieve greater organizational success. However, the existing systems made it difficult for these executives to meet on a regular basis. In his investigation, Kemp noticed that there had been no attempt by the regional heads to bring all the executives within the region together with the view of solving problems affecting the firm’s operation in the recent past. This was a problem that Kemp was determined to address. All these issues needed an effective solution that would help harmonize the operations of the firm without creating sudden changes in the way each branch is operated. He believed that having a top-down way of addressing this problem was the most appropriate way of solving it.


According to Hall, ING Insurance is one of the leading insurance companies in the world, and its operations in Asia/Pacific market have been successful over the recent past (33). However, the investigation conducted by Kemp shows that there are areas of weaknesses that need to be addressed. As shown in the case study, Kemp spent some time with the regional executives as he tried to find a way of addressing this problem in the most appropriate manner. He made consultations and heard opinions of different experts. As a top manager, listening to the junior executives, especially when trying to address an issue that significantly affects the current operations, is very important. As such, the approach taken by Kemp was an effective one. It was a sign that although he knew the current system was problematic, he respected other managers and believed that they can be part of the new solution. It is through such consultative forums and his management knowledge and experience that he came up with Towards Performance Excellence model of addressing the problem. This is the first alternative solution to the current problems facing this firm. It is the only solution discussed in the case study. It is important to critically analyze this model.

In his own words, Kemp talks about the need for a management of management at ING Insurance Asia/Pacific. He noted that the problem was with the management and the solution lies in managing this management. Towards Performance Excellence is seen as the best alternative solution as discussed in this case study. This is a completely new performance management model developed by Kemp. It took Kemp and his team of regional managers two years to develop a clear framework for this new model and to implement it effectively in the firm’s operations. As Kemp argues, when implementing a new model, it is important for the management to define it very clearly to the managers and to ensure that very stakeholders understands how it works, issues it seeks to address, the possible challenges it may face, and the possible solutions to the stated challenges. Towards Performance Excellence (TPE) uses six key drivers of excellence. The following figure shows TPE framework and the key six drivers of excellence.

Drivers of Excellence Framework.
Figure 1: Drivers of Excellence Framework. Source (Schotter 9).

To understand this alternative, it is important to critically analyze each of the six drivers of excellence as discussed in this model.


According to Kemp, the first driver of excellence is portfolio management. In this model, portfolio takes a completely new approach in defining operations of a firm. It starts by defining the mission of a firm. A global company that operates in a highly diversified marketplace can have a single mission statement that defines its operations in different markets (Juran and De 64). Each region may develop different ways of ensuring that a common mission for the firm is achieved. In this model, Kemp emphasizes that despite different characteristics of the markets in different countries within the region, this firm can afford to have a specific mission statement.

The model requires managers of multinational corporations to find ways through which operations of their firm in different countries can be aligned with the mission statement. ING Insurance Group already has a mission statement that all the overseas branches must embrace. When implementing this new framework, Kemp insisted that all the managers must ensure that employees under them understand this mission statement. It may be impossible to create a universal culture that should be embraced by all the branches of a firm all over the world. However, if all these branches embrace a single mission when undertaking their duties, then it is possible to have a scenario where the culture has more similarities than differences.

This model allows regional managers to come up with local strategies of operating as per the mission statement. However, the framework insists on having a conventional way of solving specific problem. As Kemp explains, when using the framework, the top managers do not dictate how the mid-managers should address unique problems that they may face. However, it develops a framework that must be followed in solving these problems. Irrespective of the problem, the framework empowers employees to be part of strategy formulation and problem solving activities.

It suggests that if there is a problem within an organization, the responsible officer should contact the immediate supervisor with a proposed solution to the problem. For instance, when a marketing officer encounters a problem in his department, he or she is expected to consult the marketing manager, inform him or her of the problem, and provide a possible solution to the problem. The marketing manager is expected to review the problem and proposed solution. If attention of country’s general manager is required, the marketing manager will contact the general manager and inform him or her of the problem and the possible way of solving it. It means that from the earliest stage where the problem was detected, a possible solution will be proposed with the view of finding the most effective way of addressing the issue, paying close attention to employees who are directly affected by the problem.

Within portfolio management of the framework, there is the need for organic growth. Huemann defines organic growth as “the process of business expansion by increased output and customer base expansion,” (72). It is a deliberate effort by a firm to expand its operations in the market by increasing output and targeting more customers with its products. Kemp argued that it is the responsibility of the unit (country) managers to ensure that the firm registered sustainable growth in its operations by increasing its market share. The framework also allows managers to expand the firm’s operations through mergers and acquisitions. The market characteristics in each of these countries may be different, but that does not stop the unit managers from finding unique ways of expanding the company’s market share either through mergers and acquisition, new product development, customer base expansion, or any other relevant strategy.

Towards Performance Excellence model encourages partnerships as a way of achieving success in the market. In its operations, ING Insurance encounters cases where it has common interest with other firms, making it necessary to form alliance with them in order to achieve the desired goal. For instance, when offering insurance to a high-risk and expensive item, it may be dangerous for a single insurance company to offer full cover because in case the insured risk occurs, the payment may significantly affect the profitability of the firm. In such cases, this model proposes a situation where two or more insurance companies come together to share the risks and profits. In case the risk does not occur, the companies get to share the profit. If the risk does occur, then they get to share the loss. Such partnerships are critical for a firm’s survival in the market. As Kemp says, the partnership can also be with financial institutions such as banks. Through such partnerships, this firm may come up with innovative products that will ensure its clients get superior value in the market. The aim of each partnership should always be to increase the firm’s revenues, expand its operations, and enhance sustainability of its operations irrespective of the country where it operates.

The model, under portfolio, also talks about ‘fix-it or exit’ strategy to solving problems. It insists that whenever a firm is facing challenges in new operations or strategy, the first approach should always be to find a solution to fix it. If the problem cannot be fixed, then the only reasonable way of dealing with the problem is to exit. If it was a new market that the firm was trying to enter and an appropriate solution cannot be found, then the firm should exit that market. If it was a new product, then the product should be abandoned. Exiting means the firm is making a tactical retreat to look at the issues at hand and how to address them effectively. The retreat gives the firm opportunity to make another attempt at moving forward at a time when it is fully prepared to do so.


In marketing, Towards Performance Excellence insists on three approaches that unit managers should focus on irrespective of the local forces within the country. The first one is the customer. As shown in the case study, the management must understand that success of the firm largely depends on its ability to satisfy the needs of the customers. In the modern competitive business environment, customers have a number of options to make when planning to buy something. If they purchase a product from a given firm and they are not satisfied, they may likely seek products of an alternative firm next time. Sustainability of a firm depends on how capable it is to attract repeat purchase. If customers often consider avoiding services or products of a firm after the first experience, then such a firm lacks sustainability. In the insurance sector, this means that finding the best way possible of ensuring that customers are always satisfied with the services of the firm whether or not the risk against which they are insured occurs.

The second factor is the product. In this framework, it is stated that the management must make a concerted effort to ensure that its products meet the standards expected by the customers. When customers have the ability to choose from a variety of products, they will always opt for the one they believe offer the best value. As such, it should be in the interest of the management to ensure that the products are of the best value possible. The final factor under marketing is the sales and distribution strategies used by a given firm. In the modern society, time is becoming of essence as the middle class spend most of their time trying to climb the career ladder. Many firms are currently considering the option of having online stores in addition to their brick-and-mortar stores. As an insurance firm, ING Insurance may consider making its products available to the customers in the online platforms. Premium payments, inquiries, and registration should be made available through the firm’s website. It allows the management opportunity to expand operations without making heavy infrastructural investment. These are strategies that can be employed irrespective of the country of operations.


The third factor in this model is the organizational structure of a firm. The organizational setting matters a lot and it is possible for a multinational organization to have a uniform setting. Issues such as communication culture can be harmonized. The framework proposes a scenario where employees and top managers can easily interact without bureaucratic restrictions. The second factor is human resource management. The way in which customers are managed can be harmonized. The management must ensure that employees feel respected and valued by the firm. They should feel that their views matters to the management and that they are responsible for the success of their respective departments. The third factor is the performance culture. The framework proposes an environment where positive competition is promoted within an organization. Employees must understand that their actions shall be rewarded by the management. Those who register impressive performance should be given financial rewards or any other benefit that makes them feel appreciated.


Towards Performance Excellence model proposes the use of information technology in operations. The emergence of new technologies in the fields of marketing, finance, production, logistics, and insurance among other operational areas has transformed the manner in which companies are operated around the world (Monaghan 44). This framework emphasizes on the need for a firm to be an early adopter or an innovator when it comes to managing emerging technologies. Performance should be enhanced through the use of technology. Operational risk management is another factor that this model promotes under operations management. As Kemp explains in the case, it is almost impossible for a firm to avoid risks. As such, there must be a plan of countering risks as and when they occur. The model also emphasizes on the need to have efficient procurement strategies that can help a firm to consistently get the raw materials that it needs. This is particularly the case among the manufacturing firms.


The reputation of a firm is just as important as its financial success in the market. According to Lu, it is the reputation of a firm that earns it a strong brand in the market and popularity among its loyal customers (48). Corporate communication is critical when trying to build reputation of a firm. In cases where there are misunderstandings or problems that may affect the image of the firm, the management should be quick to reach out to the public with proper apologies or explanation of what happened to win back the trust. It should also ensure that its operations are in compliance with the laws and regulations of the country. Policies set by the government agencies and environmental bodies should always be respected as much as possible to protect a firm’s reputation. This framework also suggests that a firm must have strong legal capabilities in case it needs to defend itself in court against unlawful allegations meant to destroy its reputation.

Financial management

The sixth driver of excellence of a firm is its financial success. As shown in this model, financial control is very critical of a firm’s success. The top management must have full control of the finances getting into and out of the firm. All expenses must be justified and clearly documented for the purposes of auditing. Actuarial risk management is another critical component of this model in terms of financial management. The model emphasizes on the need to have a clear pattern of how resources of the firm should be spent by different departments. Investment management is another aspect of financial management considered to be very important under this framework. As Kemp explains in the case study, before making any investment, the management must conduct an analysis to determine if the investment is capable of yielding the desired results.

Other Alternative Strategies

One of the main issues identified in the problem analysis above was culture disintegration at this firm. It was noted that organizational culture practices at different branches of this firm in Asia/Pacific are very different. There are a number of approaches that the new manager can adopt to solve this problem. In this paper, the researcher will focus on the two most appropriate alternatives based on the problems affecting ING Insurance currently. One such strategy is cultural pluralism. In this strategy, the top management will allow different branches to develop different organizational culture based on the same vision and mission statement of the firm.

The unit (country) managers should be allowed to develop organizational culture based on the local environmental forces but it must be in line with the vision and mission statements of the parent firm. This will help in ensuring that the operations of the firm are based on the local forces but the firm’s strategic goals are in line with the vision of the parent firm. The second alternative would be cultural blending. Cultural blending would be particularly relevant in the operations of this firm within the East Asia markets where some of the countries share a number of cultural practices. As Monaghan says, this strategy requires the management to borrow practices from other regional branches that can be practiced locally (41). The outcome should be a blended organizational culture that brings together practices considered most desirable for the success of the firm in the market.


ING Insurance is one of the leading insurance companies in the world and it has been expanding its operations in Europe and Asia/Pacific. When Jacques Kemp took control of this firm in Asia Pacific in 2003, he found out that there were a number of issues that slowed growth and affected sustainability of ING’s operations in this region. As such, he widely consulted with industry experts and employees of this firm about the best way of solving this problem. He came up with ‘Towards Performance Excellence’ model as the best way out. This is a framework that defines six areas of performance excellence. The six areas include portfolio, marketing, organization, operations, reputation, and financials. In each area, there are key performance indicators that the management must focus on in order to achieve success in case it is implemented within an organization. Using this model is the most appropriate way of addressing the challenges that ING Insurance is facing in the market currently. Other alternative solutions proposed may help, but TPE offers the best option of addressing the current problems in the most effective way possible.

Action Plan

Implementing ‘Towards Performance Excellence’ model will require each of the unit (country) heads to understand the six key drivers of excellence in this framework. As Kemp explains, implementing this model is not complex and neither does it require a specific environment. The six areas of drivers of excellence include portfolio, marketing, organizational, operational, reputation, and financial. The six areas are shown in the figure below.

 Six Drivers of Excellence.
Figure 2: Six Drivers of Excellence. Source (Schotter 10).

As shown in the figure above, in each driver there are key performance factors. They explain what the management should do with each of these six drivers of excellence. These are normal activities that most firms often engage in, but in haphazard manner that may not yield the desired outcome. This framework proposed by Kemp reorganizes these activities and provides basic rules and milestones that the management should focus on during the process of implementation. The framework was designed to help ING Insurance Asia/Pacific address the challenges that it was facing when Kemp took control of the regional branch. However, it is a model that can be used by any firm in any industry, especially firms operation in the global market. It helps in harmonization of international operations. It also creates uniformity in operational activities even if a firm is operating in countries with different socio-economic and political forces. As such, the top managers at the firm’s headquarters are able to predict the operational patterns that each of the regional or unit heads may take when addressing different challenges. All it takes is to understand the six drivers and to determine and manage the key performance indicators.

Works Cited

Hall, Peter. Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building Your Capacity for Success in the Classroom. Hoboken: Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Huemann, Martina. Human Resource Management in the Project-Oriented Organization: Towards a Viable System for Project Personnel. New York: Springer, 2015.

Juran, Joseph, and Feo De. Juran’s Quality Handbook: The Complete Guide to Performance Excellence. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010.

Lu, Wu. Information Acquisitions and Sharing Through Inter-Organizational Collaboration: Impacts of Business Performance in China: Impacts of Business Performance in China. Hershey: IGI Global, 2015.

Mathis, Terry, and Shawn Galloway. Steps to Safety Culture Excellence. New York: Wiley, 2013.

Monaghan, Paul. Lobbying for Good. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Publishers, 2014.

Schotter, Andreas. Jacques Kemp: Towards Performance Excellence. London: Ivey Publishing.

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