AIA Makes Hybrid Work Possible

Increasing readiness for hybrid work with advanced technology and improved support

AIA China

Committed to helping people across Asia live healthier, longer, and better lives, AIA is more than just an insurer. Cisco is helping it create a more sustainable future for everyone in society.

Industry: Financial services
Location: Shanghai, China
Size: Over 20,000 employees



  • Outdated technology created problems for end users
  • Increased costs due to inflexible systems
  • A vendor that offered only third-party support


  • More advanced, flexible technology with frequent updates
  • Costs reduced by 50 percent in some areas
  • Better after-sales support and access to Cisco technicians

An inept traditional IP telephony system

Efficient communication is paramount for any company operating across the Chinese mainland, where Asia's largest life insurer began. AIA China opened its first office in Shanghai more than 100 years ago. With offices today in Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Shanghai, Sichuan, Jiangsu, and Shenzhen, AIA offers a full range of life, health, and accident insurance. With offices in so many cities, it would be expensive to communicate using traditional telephone services. That's why AIA started investing in IP telephony 10 years ago for both internal and external communication—and the service has been practically free compared to traditional phone lines.

When AIA began its IP telephony project a decade ago, its Hong Kong headquarters chose Cisco solutions; however, other regional offices were allowed to make their own decisions. Network Manager Tony Wang's office chose a different vendor but began to experience problems. Wang oversees technical maintenance at AIA China, including data and network maintenance and IP telephony. He says that while maintenance of the previous vendor's solutions was satisfactory at first, it eventually started to slow down. "Over time, we realized that the previous vendor had some technical bottlenecks, and the updates were not as quick as they could be," he says. "They were quite late."

With updates only every two to three years, the software was becoming outdated, leading to bad experiences for end users. Additionally, the previous vendor offered only third-party support. With new offices opening in China and a change from a public switched telephone network to session initiation protocol in the pipeline, it was time for AIA to revisit options, including those from Cisco.

A refreshing Cisco solution

There were three main considerations when evaluating a new solution: technology, after-sales support, and price. AIA wanted to avoid getting stuck with soon-to-be-outdated technology, and its headquarters noted Cisco's consistency of providing annual software updates. "With Cisco, we knew we would get the newest, frequently updated technology along with improved support and maintenance," said Wang. Also, AIA would have access to Cisco's technical team for technical maintenance.

With Cisco, we knew we would get the newest, frequently updated technology along with improved support and maintenance.

Tony Wang, Network Manager

Finally, by switching to Cisco, AIA could reduce costs. An IP telephony service consists of two parts: the back end, or foundation, which includes the gateway and other hardware, and the front end, which comprises the telephone and license. After comparison, Wang noticed that Cisco offered a much more economic system than the previous vendor—the back end alone was around 50 percent cheaper. "The total price would be significantly reduced if we moved to Cisco," Wang remembers.

For these reasons, AIA decided to migrate to Cisco, using a Cisco Business Edition 7000M platform, Cisco IP Phone 7800 Series, and Cisco 4000 Series Integrated Services Routers. With new offices opening, AIA was working on tight timelines, so Wang was thankful that Cisco delivered all the hardware on time and efficiently.

Hybrid work flexibility for the future at a reduced cost

Before the pandemic, AIA employees had operated primarily on site, but company leadership had started to consider the option of working from home. The pandemic created urgency around that conversation, but recently, some employees expressed the desire to return to a traditional office setting. Fortunately, the Cisco solution supports a hybrid work plan. Thanks to Cisco, those still in the office can use hardphones, while those working from home only need a laptop and a VPN to switch to a softphone approach.

Wang states that the cost savings resulting from the hybrid work model has prompted the company to evaluate making hybrid work a permanent option. The Cisco solution offers employees the flexibility they need to choose either option.

Wang's team has rolled out the solution to AIA's new offices and is pleased with the user experience. The hardphones provide a similar experience to users familiar with the previous systems, but the software is considerably better—especially taking into account that AIA plans to adopt Cisco Jabber. According to Wang, company leadership cares primarily about two things: the cost and the user experience—both of which have been improved. "We saved a lot of money, yet we don't hear any negative feedback," he says.