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Left it all behind and found happiness again

Annie Joesman - BeingYou@AIG

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Annie Joesman - BeingYou@AIG

We highly encourage being able to be yourself. Irrespective of gender, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity; we value you for who you are, what you think and what you say. The BeingYou@AIG series introduces you to the people who make AIG unique. And with 41 years of service, Annie Joesman is clearly part of that category. A military coup, the December killings and a national civil war caused a lot of unrest in Suriname. Thus, at a young age Annie left for the Netherlands with two suitcases. This difficult decision worked out really well. 'I just feel happy here'. How an extreme optimist left her home country behind and found happiness again.

There was the military coup in 1980 and the December killings in 1982, which we unfortunately experienced from up close.

How did you come into contact with AIG?

I grew up in Suriname, which is just a tiny country in South America. At the time, American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) was one of the biggest companies in Suriname and everyone wanted to work for. During a recruitment drive at my school, I was one of the lucky few. I was 19 years old and could start immediately for what was also the regional office for the Caribbean. Apart from Suriname, it also covered Guyana, the Dutch Antilles, Barbados, Trinidad and the EC Islands.


American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) was a subsidiary of AIG. AIG sold ALICO to MetLife Inc. for $15.5 billion in cash and MetLife stock in March 2010.


Two years later, I was sent to a Decentralisation Seminar in New York at age 21 to gain more local authority. The managing director told me it would be good for my career at the company. I was already married by then and had a daughter who would celebrate her first birthday in that period, on the same day as my mother. A party had already been planned and I didn't really know what to do. In the end, I did go to New York, but felt pretty miserable there; especially on the day of the birthday. I did learn a lot there though and it had all been worth it in the end. It took me where I am today.

I ended up with the right people.

Eventually you started working in the Netherlands. How did that happen?

It started due to the political situation in Suriname. There was the military coup in 1980 and the December killings in 1982, which we unfortunately experienced from up close. Later, there was a civil war in the country between 1986 and 1989. My husband and I started thinking about coming to the Netherlands. It was a difficult step, because I am the eldest of a family of seven and my husband the eldest of a family of four. We're a very close family and it's not easy to just leave that behind.

I used to get the Assurantie Magazine from the Netherlands in Suriname. It always arrived late, because it came by boat, but I often saw advertisements asking for people in the insurance field. But it was pretty hard to come by for a job interview from Suriname, of course. I was often told that whenever I found myself in the Netherlands, I needed to be sure to contact them. It was at that point that I started believing: I can find a job in the Netherlands. It's the first thing you think about when leaving for the Netherlands, because why leave for the Netherlands if I would not be able to get a job?

My husband and I seriously considered it three times before we finally decided to move to the Netherlands to build a future here. I had to leave my children in Suriname, they stayed there with my parents for two years. You can imagine how hard that was; I can't live without my kids. My husband and I came here with just two suitcases between the two of us. Subsequently, I saw an advert in the Assurantie Magazine for the Dutch office of American Life Insurance Company. I immediately wrote a letter and was invited for an interview.

When people have questions about an old file, people often say: 'Ask Annie, I'll bet she knows'.

Did you get started immediately?

Well, it was not that easy. To the Netherlands, we were 'foreigners' and were thus treated like any other: you need a residence permit. So during my first interview, I told the company that they could not formally hire me, because I did not yet have a residence permit and a work permit. But I turned out to be the one the company had been looking for over a period of three months. They asked me how to get the process for the permits started, because they were happy to help me with it. This really helped me out; I ended up with the right people.

Eventually, the company applied for a work permit on my behalf. This was great, but it was not approved as I did not have a residence permit yet. They fought against it on my behalf via my attorney. Another rejection followed for the reason that there would be more than enough people in the Netherlands who could do the work. The managing director then showed that he had been looking for a long time and that I was the right person. Eventually I was granted a work permit, followed by the residence permit shortly after that. I was then finally able to bring my children to the Netherlands.

For every action, I think about the consequences it has for my co-worker who has to handle the rest of it. Providing high quality work is very important to me.

How was your job in the Netherlands different to that in Suriname?

I worked for AIG Group Management Division in Suriname where I handled group insurance and pensions. When I started in the Netherlands, I worked on group underwriting and administration of individual insurances. Later I made the switch to my field: group accident and travel insurances. I first worked as an Underwriter for years and contributed to a large growth of the portfolio and a sound and solid administration. I have now worked for AIG for 41 years and am one of the oldest employees here. When people have questions about an old file, people often say: 'Ask Annie, I'll bet she knows'. And there's a reason why they say that. That high degree of accuracy is my second nature, part of my work method. I just want to do things correctly. It is reflected in how to draw up a policy or process minor things. For every action, I think about the consequences it has for my co-worker who has to handle the rest of it. Providing high quality work is also important to me. I expect the same when I buy something in the store, but it also applies to productivity: doing your work with the right attitude and working in a good way.

How do you ensure that you work here with such energy after 41 years?

I just feel happy here. The people here are very open and free. It might also be down to how I interact with people, but a lot of the values that are important to me I also find in my work. To me, it is very important that I'm happy. And being truly happy will only work if you can share your happiness with others. That's the most important part, having a positive outlook on the world. Not just accepting matters, but keep going and ensuring that things will be better in the future.