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In The Hot-Seat with French ‘Singaporean’ Jean Marc Henaff

Jean Marc Henaff is Chief Information Officer at DirectAsia.com. He compares the job working in insurance to that of a music conductor. Find out why and discover what other strings he has to his bow! Jean Marc at opening of DirectAsia.com Hong Kong office

Job title:

I am the CIO for DirectAsia.com. The “I” is meant for “Information” but it could reflect “Infrastructure”, “Innovation”, “Implementation” or “Improvement” given the portfolio.

Job description:

Taking charge of all technology and enabling our customers to benefit from DirectAsia.com’s online insurance services in the easiest and most efficient manner possible. What our customers see is only the emerging part of the iceberg and it invokes a sophisticated technology infrastructure, robust hosting facilities, advanced automated business systems, security layers and processes. And some very cool techie tools too! Above all, it needs a highly skilled team to work at integrating all of it. I like to see myself in this CIO role as a kind of conductor whom would simply drive his musicians to the right note. Eventually, they are the ones playing great music!

What qualities do you need for this job?

Keep your cool! When you drive expensive technology to the task and sometimes it doesn't behave how you’d like it to you have to stay calm. When you need to maintain services live around the clock, decision-making can prove a costly affair if taken in a panic. A good consensual approach comes in handy too when you have to arbitrate demands versus constraints and evaluate what really matters to the business – all that with a thrifty mind! A solid technological foundation and over two decades of experience might also help.

About you

How long have you been in Singapore?

I first landed at Changi Airport in 1989. My company back then had sent me for a one-month mission. I am still looking for the return ticket… where did I misplace it…?

What do you like about Singapore?

I could say that it offers mostly what my native country lacks: services that work, efficient government and policies, ease of access to everything without having to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy, speed of execution and finally delivery! When Singaporeans commit to something, they deliver. It’s in the genes. I can’t forget that after suffering for 30 years from sinusitis and a blocked nose in France and despite multiple therapy attempts, a single appointment to a specialist here in Singapore and a quick day-surgery later, my condition has permanently gone! In short, I can breathe here! Still, there is something I badly miss: seasons! Looking forward to that huge air-conditioned bubble covering Singapore, occasionally dropping snowflakes. That’d be cool.

Your fave Singapore food and why?

It has to be Wanton noodles (green noodles, please). At Chomp-Chomp they have great ones, with fluffy dumplings. A delight!

Your spare time?

Spare time – nice concept! My two children, being typical great Singaporean kids, have such a diary of classes & appointments that I have a hidden second occupation: taxi driver. Not forgetting that there’s the after classes follow-up too – homework! I am still searching for the definition of hobby in Oxford dictionary, but I think it’s a French word.

Married? Children?

My wife and I married 19 years back and my boy and girl were born here. I am used to saying I am 75% Singaporean. In fact, when I first obtained my PR back in 1995, my brand new blue ID and my wife’s pink ID, I had a strange idea that the ICA had cute policies: blue for the guys, pink for the ladies. I've learnt better, since (but I am still a guy).


My parents’ home is still in Brittany. So there’s the traditional annual home trip, usually during summer, when days are much longer. I take the opportunity to catch a game of my hometown football team, since the season usually begins around that period. Sometimes, we go back for skiing as well, during winter and that would be to the Alps. Otherwise, we have traveled across most of the usual destinations in the region.

What do you want us to know about you?

After 23+ years living in Singapore, I still haven’t lost my French accent. After 4 weeks summer camp at the Canadian school, my kids speak like Justin Bieber or Avril Lavigne. Life’s unfair.