Money Moves

Bancassurance a growing concept

by Isabella Lee

Special updates of Bancassurance framework in Hong Kong

Leading banking institution offers solid career platform for insurance professionals

Alvin Li, head of insurance
Hang Seng Bank Limited
Photo: courtesy of Hang Seng Bank Limited

Insurance is a key sector in Hong Kong's financial services industry and there has been a significant increase in demand for insurance, keeping pace with Hong Kong's economic growth.

Hong Kong's ageing population and rising affluence are driving more people to purchase personal insurance products for retirement planning purposes as they realise that the MPF system and social security safety net may not provide them with a comfortable and self-sufficient retirement life. In other words, individuals are increasingly concerned with how best to preserve or grow their assets.

Also, the advances of medical science and high living standards are increasing Hong Kong people's awareness about the importance of good health. Anticipated healthcare reforms are prompting more people to ensure they will have all future health care needs covered.

"There is no doubt that the insurance business in Hong Kong is evolving. In the past, the term 'insurance' had such negative connotations that people in general would turn away from the prospects of an insurance policy. Conversely, most individuals nowadays find the insurance concept comprehensible and that it is a practical tool for future planning — one that protects them against unexpected losses," Alvin Li, Hang Seng Bank's head of insurance points out.

Thriving trend

Insurance services and products providers are constantly exploring the potential of new products and marketing strategies to meet the ever-changing customer needs. In particular, the rapid convergence of insurance products and investment tools is driving public demand for quality products and services. Customers are becoming more sophisticated and they have high expectations of personalised advice and packages for their financial planning.

Meanwhile, fast-paced technological developments such as the internet provide an efficient and effective platform for business expansion. Purchasing an insurance policy is no longer merely a face-to-face transaction some time after hours — it can also be completed online. To get ahead in the increasingly competitive marketplace, insurance services and products providers must explore alternative distribution channels that offer customers greater flexibility and convenience.

"Insurance is a business about meeting individuals' needs and concerns. A professional financial consultant needs to have excellent product knowledge plus excellent communication and interpersonal skills," Mr Li explains.

He adds, "On the marketing side, it is important to be able to communicate and to enjoy meeting people. Technically speaking, in-depth financial expertise and strong analytical skills are prerequisites."

The rapid growth of the wealth management market has created a huge demand for quality financial consultants. Finding high-calibre candidates will remain a major challenge particularly when the employment market is expected to stay competitive, Mr Li notes.

"In terms of bancassurance, Hang Seng has an advantage in offering its people the chance to grow professionally through all-round training and wide exposure to different banking operations," he says.

All-encompassing career

Aspiring individuals start a typical career in insurance as financial planners and subsequently move up to managers, sales directors and beyond. Whereas on a banking platform, professionals in insurance gain a much wider exposure to both insurance and banking, leading to a much fruitful career.

Leading banks now provide total wealth management solutions to customers, which allow staff to tap into different financial service areas and develop their careers according to individual objectives and interests. Moreover, back-office support such as product development, sales and marketing initiatives give staff opportunities to further develop their skill sets and knowledge within the insurance industry.

"Banks can offer a wide range of financial products and services as well as a branch network, enabling them to provide customers with one-stop solutions that are effective and convenient. In addition, banks such as Hang Seng have a well-established reputation that provides customers with greater peace of mind," Mr Li adds.

Today, Hang Seng serves more than one-third of Hong Kong's population through via its 150-plus branches, automated banking centres and more than 30 Prestige Banking Centres for its high-end personal customers. Expanding customer base and network provide the bank's financial planning consultants with an excellent foundation for solid career development. "Bancassurance forsters ample new business opportunities and helps to strengthen customer relationships," Mr Li says. "Over the years, it has gained momentum and is fast becoming an important part of the insurance market in Hong Kong," Mr Li concludes.

Taken from Career Times 18 January 2008, p. A2
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