Theodore Alexander was founded in Vietnam in the late 1990s and is one of Southeast Asia’s largest manufacturers of fine furniture, providing collections of several thousand designs from eclectic, traditional to modern classical furniture and accessories to clients. JLT had the opportunity to speak to Theodore Alexander’s Chief Financial Officer, Jess Rueløkke, to find out how JLT and the insurance industry are matching up to risk management expectations.
What is Theodore Alexander (TA)’s definition of luxury when it comes to furniture?
For us, it’s about designs, construction, materials and how we brand ourselves. Every TA piece is hand-crafted and upholds TA’s focus on quality and design, so it is important for us to have excellent artisans and a focus on where we source our materials.
However, it is increasingly difficult to produce at a “handmade level” as fewer consumers are requesting for these special furniture. The market is getting smaller in this regard.
What are your top concerns at the moment?
I have noted that consumers are more focused on price, which has allowed low-end manufacturers to thrive by making products that look good but are cheap to produce.
TA has a relatively large staff compared to manufacturers that rely on machine-made furniture, so our manufacturing costs increase more from salaries going up. This is the cost we have to bear for the quality that we have committed to.
As mentioned, the market for high-end furniture is shrinking. Some countries are also restricting trade with import taxes (Middle East/Asia) and currency (Russia).
I’ve dealt with high inflation, a factory fire (severe damage) and low order volumes. With enough time and a strong leadership and management team, these problems can be tackled effectively.
What do you look out for in a good insurance broker and risk consultant?
A good risk consultant must understand our risks—the more in-depth, the better. This can then allow them to provide relevant cover suggestions and advice before they source for the protection we need.
With the speed of change in industries, the needs of businesses shift quickly, and I would say that the insurance industry has been responding adequately to our evolving expectations.
What can insurers and brokers do better to help risk managers?
Naturally, there’s always space for improvements, especially since their clients’ needs evolve.
I would advise risk consultants to gain an even better understanding of their clients’ business and industry. This translates to the brokers gaining a clearer comprehension of the risk manager’s problems, which in turn will help them come up with more effective risk management solutions.
What is important to you as a Risk Manager?
It is vital to obtain senior management support in risk management (RM). This will help with establishing a formal RM task force. Either way, for every RM meeting, set out clear objectives. These can be platforms to discuss and suggest RM ideas and systems.
I am a firm believer of holding regular, targeted RM education and training. It is always advisable to obtain the assistance of Risk Consultants and Loss Control Engineers, especially when a crisis strikes, such as an earthquake or any other loss event.
How has JLT delivered against your expectations?
For Vietnam, I can say for sure that JLT has performed above the average compared to what I’ve heard from my peers!
For further information, please contact Graham Edwards, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing at Graham_Edwards@jltasia.com.