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Alumni Voices: A son's triumph - Sythan's Story

Sythan Prou (Executive LL.M., 2020) is the Chief Executive Officer of Forte Life, which at the time of writing is the largest life insurer in Cambodia in terms of its customer base. Throughout his career (which spans insurance and law) Sythan has received several accolades, most notably the Royal Order of the Kingdom of Cambodia – Mohasena (Grand Officer) from the King of Cambodia for his contribution towards insurance, education and legal communities; the Young Leader of the Year award in 2021 from Asia Insurance Review; and inclusion in the Asian Legal Business 40 Under 40. We spoke to Sythan about his time at King’s, how his career has developed since finishing his master’s and about the touching moment he shared with his father at graduation.

From Cambodia to London

I studied at King’s College London from 2018-2020 on the industry-leading Executive LL.M. program run by King’s and the International Bar Association (IBA). It is designed for busy-life professionals and leaders; this was great because whilst I was studying I was the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer for Manulife Cambodia. It really was a world-class course run by academics and speakers who are renowned in their areas. I received a partial scholarship for the tuition fees.

Between 2018-2019 I took online modules during weekdays and traveled from Cambodia to London on five occasions for immersive weekend classes and final examinations. Whilst this wasn’t my first research-based master’s (my first master’s from Yokohama National University was also research-based) the dissertation writing in 2019-2020 proved to be quite an experience! I finished the dissertation during the final weeks of my wife’s pregnancy with our 2nd daughter. I clicked 'submit' on my dissertation 3 days after my beautiful wife delivered our second daughter.

Sythan Prou is pictured with his wife and two daughters on a bench. He is wearing a red t-shirt which has the King's College London logo emblazoned on it.

My dissertation, titled ‘Corporate Governance in Cambodia – More Nurturing Needed from Regulations to Compliance’ was supervised by Dr Dionysia Katelouzou and was published by the IBA and the Phnom Penh Post, a leading English newspaper in Cambodia.

I really enjoyed the cozy environment in the Strand Campus, as well as the support given by the staff for both my academic questions and visa documentation queries. My favourite spots during the session breaks included the Chapel, and the open area next to the Dickson Poon School of Law (Somerset House East Wing). These places made me feel relaxed and calm.


One memorable moment

I always enjoyed London, as well as the other parts of the UK I visited. For five of the six trips I made to the UK during my master’s, I was able to bring my family with me. One memorable moment came from my father, when he attended my graduation in August 2022. He said: ‘I travelled this far for the first time in my life only to witness my son’s triumph’. His mental health was still sharp, despite the jetlag and physical challenge. This is dad’s first attendance at any of his children’s graduations. Besides dad, I also had my daughter, brother and nephew by my side on that day. As a teacher and farmer, dad always encourages us to study and reminds us that it’s not about making us rich in wealth; education makes us who we are and brings us to where we are now.

Sythan Prou is pictured at his graduation with his father. He is holding his degree, and is wearing his graduation gown.

Life beyond King’s

King’s really brought my reputation as a lawyer with sound business acumen to another level. My academic work at King’s really expanded my legal and business horizons, as well as my career prospects. Several months after finishing my studies at King’s, I took on a more challenging role with responsibility for business development and sales. I am amongst very few lawyers who have transformed into business leaders and CEOs of well-respected companies in Cambodia.

I am delighted that my professional and personal successes have become an example for many. I have had several interviews with major media outlets focusing on my life journey, and my continued pursuit of education and career growth.

Since 2021, I have advised government agencies on civil aviation regulations and the minimum wage. In 2018 and 2022, the Bar of the Kingdom of Cambodia asked me to share with other fellow lawyers my expertise on consumer protection and insurance regulations. I have spoken four times at conferences for the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA), one of the world’s largest associations for lawyers. I’ve been invited to give lectures to senior government officials on customer service in the private sector, and to professionals in the financial industry on insurance laws within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I chaired the Education Committee of the Insurance Association of Cambodia in 2021-2022.

In 2023 I was appointed as the CEO of Forte Life Assurance, the fastest-growing life insurer in Cambodia. Forte Life is part of the Forte Group, founded in 1999. Forte Group is among only a few homegrown financial institutions to expand overseas, having moved into Laos in 2018. Its goal is to become the regional insurance leader in Southeast Asia.

Sythan is pictured speaking at a conference. He is wearing a dark blue suit and a black tie, and he is delivering his speech from a lectern.

Tips for success

Be the best at what you do. As a trained lawyer, I understand that there is no short cut to pleasing your clients or winning the case. You need to get the basics right and then excel at it. Whatever we do in life, you have to be very good at what you do and stand out from the crowd.

Be tenacious. I haven’t come across anyone who is successful and not dedicated and committed to what they do. Hard work always pays off.

Be a life-long learner; learn, compare and apply the knowledge. Education and knowledge changed the lives of our family tremendously.

Be a solutionist. Legal training and practice shaped my thinking and behaviour towards helping others and finding feasible solutions to problems. Focus on the opportunities and best answers to the questions that the business or your team have.

Clear the path for others to follow. Because I aim high in my career, the road has never been an easy one. The path you’re heading might not be used often by others. It is ok to fail at times, but it is not ok if you don’t learn anything from it. You need to improvise and get better every time you fall. Make sure you inspire others and maintain the road for them to walk on.

With what I got from King’s, I will continue to strive to create a substantial impact within the insurance industry, as well as the legal, educational and local communities of Cambodia.

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