Money Moves

Branching out

by Ada Ng

Credit card company takes business a step further

Barry Fung (left), executive director
Jamie Lei, general manager
AEON Credit Service (Asia) Company Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Although Hong Kong is renowned for its well-developed financial infrastructure, the city's insurance penetration rates remain lower than those in peer countries such as Singapore and Japan.

To capitalise on this, AEON Credit Service (Asia) Company Limited, a consumer credit finance company known to Hong Kong locals for its JUSCO general merchandise stores affinity credit card, plans to expand its foothold in the insurance market with a new brokerage company.

While the company's core business focuses on credit cards and personal loans, the company has also diversified into the insurance business in 2005, taking an agent role to cross-sell insurance products to its card members.

"Considering our understanding and experience in servicing customers with different profiles and financial needs over the past two decades in Hong Kong, we want to extend our insurance-broking services so that we can customise exclusive products that fit the different needs of our existing customers," says Barry Fung, executive director, AEON Credit Service (Asia).

The registration of the broker firm is expected to be completed by end of this year. "There is still good potential in the insurance market, especially since we aim to start off by providing niche products to existing customers," he adds.

Growth strategy

The new insurance brokerage house will target existing and new corporate customers, providing basic insurance products such as public liability, employees compensation and group medical insurances, explains AEON Credit Service (Asia)'s general manager Jamie Lei.

"We'll also focus on developing exclusive insurance products that fit the lifestyle of our card members," Mr Lei says.

The new insurance brokerage service is expected to bring in a new revenue stream to the company, Mr Fung adds.

Just like its Japanese parent company AEON Company Limited, a giant retail chain operator that diversified from its JUSCO general merchandise stores business using its market know-how and customer base, the company introduced a large-scale customer relationship management (CRM) system that provides a base for the company to diversify into businesses that enhance its depth of products and services.

The company's credit card members currently totals more than a million. "The CRM system was developed to analyse the spending habits and patterns of the existing customers so that we can develop new products and services based on their profiles," Mr Lei says.

Another strong plus point of AEON Credit Service (Asia) is its wide network of service points. "Our staff at all branches will initially help to cross-sell insurance products to our existing customers," Mr Fung says, adding that employees are equipping themselves by pursuing insurance agent licenses. The company has also recruited 10 additional insurance experts.

Core business

Maintaining its core credit card business, AEON Credit Service (Asia) recently launched a PayWave credit card targeting small transactions.

"Hong Kong people are not used to the concept of settling small-amount transactions with credit cards, but over a month the small transactions could add up to a substantial amount," notes Mr Fung.

The card has been launched in a bid to position the company as an early player in this relatively untapped area, and the company will continue to explore partnership opportunities with other merchants, he adds.

Meanwhile, the company will continue to leverage its card business in mainland China on the retail platform of its parent group. For instance, the China AEON Card which currently allows customers in Shenzhen to pay for grocery purchases and settle the bill on a monthly basis, will be extended to other mainland cities next year. "This will help us establish a strong customer base in preparation for entering the credit card market," he explains.

"We are currently recruiting for our expansion into the insurance sector," says Lillian Ma, assistant general manager, human resources and administration, AEON Credit Service (Asia). "Licensed insurance agents who are customer-oriented and aspire to grow with the company are welcome to apply."

Once on-board, new recruits can expect to be immersed in a nurturing environment, with a range of training plus an array of learning and development opportunities readily available. Ms Ma notes, "We take care for our staff's professional development needs as well as personal welfare," she adds. "For instance, we offer our male staff three days' paternity leave, breaking every industry norm."

New horizons

  • Plans underway to expand foothold in insurance market
  • Brokerage house to target existing customers
  • More innovative insurance products in the pipeline
  • Customer-oriented staff needed to grow with the business

Taken from Career Times 21 November 2008, p. A4
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