Managing Director of AXA PPP International, Tom Wilkinson Shares Insights from its Expat Research


In an exclusive interview with Managing Director of AXA PPP International, Mr Tom Wilkinson, Global Health Insider learns the latest trends in expat lifestyle. A research by AXA PPP International suggests that a majority of expats, who have planned for life abroad, are contented in their host countries.


According to Mr. Wilkinson, the expat’s motivations to move abroad identified will enable the company to develop services that offer expats a smoother transition to new country and continuity upon return. Having lived as an expat in both Europe and Asia, he understands the challenges in getting access to medical treatments and will be using his experience to come up with innovative offerings that match the needs of expats.


Mr. Wilkinson tells you more below on what is up-and-coming at AXA PPP International.


Q: Can you tell us more about AXA PPP International’s research about the expat lifestyle?


The AXA PPP International expat research was completed to highlight what living abroad is really like, including the drivers for leaving one’s country of origin and how life has been since moving. As an international healthcare provider, we wanted to better understand the priorities of people thinking of moving abroad (better career opportunities, better remuneration, healthier lifestyle etc) as well as their thought process about the opportunity. As a provider, we already have a deep understanding of people’s concerns and excitement, but we wanted to see the current trends.


For example, the research highlighted that 56 per cent of expats surveyed had no intention of coming home, with only two per cent living abroad for the short term. In addition, 60 per cent said the move lived up to all of their expectations, with 38 per cent saying it had lived up to some of their expectations. This emphasises how good preparation and sorting out priorities before leaving (housing, schooling, healthcare etc) can ensure a successful transition and a happy life abroad. By knowing what life will be like in advance, it will make acclimatising much easier.


Moving abroad is not a decision made on a whim, and requires months, if not years, of preparation before you actually make the move. Therefore, by truly understanding expat trends and requirements, we can use this to help those thinking of moving abroad prepare properly and can tailor advice for different requirements.


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Q: What inspired AXA PPP International to explore the career opportunities of expats abroad?


The current international jobs market is diverse. A decade ago, becoming an expat through a work assignment was far more unusual than today. Moving abroad with work was seen as only for the elite. Today, people move abroad with work as an integral part of their career development plan. Therefore, it is interesting to understand the career opportunities and remuneration available for working abroad, as many employees recognise their career would benefit from the experiences gained by working in another country. This was recognised in the research, with 17 per cent of respondents saying that better career opportunities were a core reason for moving.


This is understandable, as following the recession the jobs market changed dramatically, with employers cutting back in terms of spend and remuneration. Therefore, it is clear that employees are looking around and considering their options – not least because no one wants to miss an opportunity to strengthen their career.


In addition, employees are now looking for more than just a good salary, with work/life balance (40 per cent), the search of a new adventure (56 per cent) and better weather (37 per cent) also cited as key reasons for moving. Employers looking to hold on to key talent need to be aware that employees may look further than their nearest competitors to get the most out of their career. By understanding the drivers for workers moving abroad, and the challenges this can pose for employers, we are able to develop services to help them transition to their new destination and offer them continuity when (if) they return. 


Q: Where does AXA PPP International come in when it comes to expat choices in moving abroad?


Moving abroad is a big decision and when preparing to go people will look to someone for advice – be it family, friends, the internet or an independent third party. When preparing to move abroad, particularly for the first time, people often prioritise researching accommodation, schools and even social activities. Often, they don’t consider how they will manage their healthcare needs until close to their moving date – and often, once they have actually moved. AXA PPP International is an established healthcare provider that has been supporting the health insurance needs of expats for more than 40 years. Our agents are always happy to help people understand their responsibilities and their choices. We can help in understanding the differences in accessing medical treatment from their country of origin, to their destination. This can include guidance on everything from visa requirements, finding treatment providers, and learning how to access treatment.


Q: Can you tell us more about your own career experiences as an expat?


Having lived as an expat, I know how exciting it is to live and work across the globe. Having said that, expat living is not without its challenges and it does present issues, which those living in their country of origin typically find a lot easier, such as accessing both routine and emergency medical treatment, understanding and making sure you are doing what you need to when it comes to tax reporting, finding good quality schooling etc. I want to use my experiences to continue to innovate our offering and match the needs of our customers.


For example, having lived in both Europe and Asia, there is such a difference to how life is conducted and local knowledge (such as etiquette when eating out or where to buy groceries) is invaluable when helping people acclimatise.


Q: What other projects and campaigns should we expect from AXA in the future?


We’ll be continuing to share our expat research together with tools and articles to help people prepare for their move abroad, so readers should keep an eye out for that over the coming weeks! We’re continuing our programme of Product in Focus webinars and will be sharing real stories from members keen to comment on their experiences. There will be plenty more announcements coming out soon so watch this space!


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