Assured of a better future

by Grace Chan

Jason Sadler, managing director
Insurance Business Hong Kong
HSBC Insurance (Asia) Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

Leading bancassurer achieves strong growth

Despite market turbulence, HSBC Insurance (Asia) Limited reported a 98 per cent year-on-year increase, in terms of regular premium, in new individual life insurance business last year, compared with the average market growth of just 10 per cent.

"This clearly shows the efficiency of our bancassurance model, which makes us the insurer of choice in Hong Kong," says Jason Sadler, managing director, Insurance Business Hong Kong.

HSBC Insurance also last year received the Best Bancassurance Award in the Asian Banker Excellence in Retail Financial Services programme for the second time.

"We've proved the strength of our bancassurance model by meeting our customers' protection and retirement planning needs with a range of sophisticated, yet uncomplicated products," points out Mr Sadler. The bank has developed a range of uncomplicated financial planning tools for its frontline branch staff to help customers formulate their goals and choose products in accordance with these objectives. "Branch staff has all the information that customers may need at their disposal, helping them to be clear about their options," he notes.

Client focus

HSBC's extensive branch network and long-standing customer relationships are advantageous for its insurance business. "HSBC has long been a trusted brand," Mr Sadler says. "Many of our customers have grown with us, from opening bank accounts to obtaining credit cards and arranging mortgages. So, when it comes to insurance needs, we're their natural choice."

In order to beat the competition, HSBC Insurance believes it is crucial to respond promptly to changing customer needs. "When the financial crisis struck two years ago, our surveys indicated that people were concerned about losing their jobs and that they wanted to go back to basics. We therefore have a strong focus on traditional protective products," Mr Sadler explains.

As the economy started to improve, people regain a certain level of investment appetite but remain concerned about retirement planning, and continue to demand simple, straightforward solutions. With this in mind, HSBC Insurance launched an investment-link product with shorter payment periods and greater fee transparency in 2009.

"Our surveys revealed that clients preferred shorter payment periods. We therefore present customers with two payment options, either five or 10 years, which are far more flexible than other similar products in the market with payment periods of up to 30 years," explains Mr Sadler. "Our products are also easy to understand, and customers can check their fund and account balance, as well as switch between products, on the internet."

Improving appetite

With the economy returning to pre-financial crisis levels, Mr Sadler believes it is essential to keep track of customer needs and to offer appropriate products that suit clients' changing investment appetite and help them achieve their financial objectives.

"Customers can see the benefits of investment-link products and have not lost sight of the need for protection," he says. In response to this, the bank has launched a new Lifestyle Wealth Protection Plus last month, addressing requirements such as lifetime protection and the choice of payment periods.

"Where the sales proportion of investment-link products was low early last year, it now accounts for a third of our business as a result of our new production initiatives," Mr Sadler notes. "There's a growing interest in renminbi-related products and we are planning to address this as well."

The bank has increased its number of insurance specialists from 50 last September to 75 in January. "We will continue to grow our sales support infrastructure and resources as the bank expands its wealth management capabilities."

Mr Sadler attributes the success of HSBC's bancassurance model partly to the team of specialists tasked with coaching and mentoring branch staff, providing them with the knowledge to design and deliver the best possible insurance and retirement planning options.

Potential recruits should be good team players that want to learn and contribute to the business. "Given the success of our bancassurance model, we are recognised as Hong Kong's best insurer and a preferred employer," he adds.

HSBC provides opportunities for staff to rotate through different business units, including potential transfers between insurance and banking. This offers staff with a wealth of career opportunities and is what makes HSBC Insurance the "best place to work" in Hong Kong, Mr Sadler stresses. There is also an array of training programmes, covering anything from product knowledge to management and presentation skills.

Mr Sadler is positive regarding the outlook for the industry. "Our customers are increasingly aware of issues such as retirement planning and providing for future illnesses. These aspects drive their insurance needs."

Full steam ahead

  • Clients prefer uncomplicated financial products
  • Bank expected to recruit more experts as bancassurance business grows
  • Trusted employer attractive to jobseekers

Taken from Career Times 23 April 2010, A9

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