Growing demand for financial protection creates more opportunities for new graduates and experienced professionals
|Alger Fung, chief proprietary distribution officer |
AXA China Region Insurance Company Ltd
Photo: Wallace Chan
With changing client demographics and a constantly evolving economic environment, the insurance industry is becoming increasingly diversified in terms of products, services and sales channels. In order to meet customers' demand for financial protection, the sector therefore offers fulfilling options to both graduates and professionals that are committed to building long-term careers with the right company.
"I work closely with my sales teams and colleagues from other departments to oversee sales and distribution, so team work is very important in my job," says Alger Fung, chief proprietary distribution officer, AXA China Region Insurance Company Ltd.
Mr Fung started his insurance career in 1990 after working in wealth management for several years. With extensive operations experience, he joined AXA in 1998, tasked with supervising underwriting, claims, customer service, training and other operational aspects. In 2004, he took up the challenge of heading the sales team. Subsequent promotions increased his responsibilities, so that he now oversees all aspects of management, products and services and strategic development, as well as AXA's array of sales channels and franchise models.
Candidates hoping to enter the industry should be dedicated and diligent, and be open to different working environments, job functions and training, says Mr Fung. A solid university degree and basic financial knowledge provide a good springboard, and a real passion for insurance is essential, as candidates must invest considerable time and effort to build business networks in the early stage of their careers.
Training and support
"We have a range of evaluation tools and training modules to help newcomers develop their skills at AXA," Mr Fung stresses. "We also offer tailor-made training, considering candidates' individual strengths and aspirations."
One of the most rewarding aspects of Mr Fung's professional career has been the ability to use his expertise to help people acquire appropriate financial protection and achieve other financial goals. While gaining clients' recognition and trust can be a great source of job satisfaction for budding financial planners, senior managers tend to take great pride in mentoring and nurturing their teams, both in challenging and good times, he says. "One of my aims is to share my experience and expertise with younger colleagues to facilitate their professional development."
He notes that there are currently ample opportunities for talented newcomers in the field, as major players are keen to attract young talent. The AXA Associates programme targets fresh graduates with managerial ambitions, and also offers opportunities to professionals seeking a career change.
"We have many bankers and professionals from other financial sectors joining us, as well as retired civil servants," Mr Fung notes. "AXA's wide range of training courses and mentorship support help new recruits to adapt and thrive in their new positions."
The company provides training and support for candidates sitting licensing examinations even before they embark on the AXA Associate programme. The first stage of the course involves two weeks of intensive training on the company's products and services, sales skills, communication and other interpersonal skills.
This is followed by 30 days of morning briefings and discussions, where associates share issues or difficulties they may face at work, giving their supervisors an opportunity to fine-tune the sales and communication skills training. Product knowledge, investment and wealth management analysis and other financial skills are also reinforced. Associates also benefit from individual coaching and one-on-one meetings with senior managers.
AXA training focuses strongly on team building and interactive learning, says Mr Fung, adding that new associates are encouraged to develop a firm grasp of current affairs and to participate in group discussions on social issues as well as personal experience. "This helps them to reflect on how our products may be fine-tuned to suit changing public needs."
He believes that Hong Kong's ageing population, rising medical expenses, a greater general awareness of retirement planning and continued economic volatility will all lead to greater public demand for financial protection. This, in turn, will contribute to the development of the industry in future.
In view of these issues, insurance companies face intense competition for high-caliber leaders. AXA has expanded its hiring activities, and recently hosted a two-day recruitment event to introduce its background and business. Activities included guided tours, informative seminars, question-and-answer sessions and aptitude tests, helping participants to understand their personal strengths and weaknesses.
"The key for candidates is to be open-minded about the job functions that may interest them, because our industry is extremely diverse and has tremendous potential for growth," Mr Fung concludes.
The insurance industry is becoming increasingly diversified
Newcomers must invest time and effort in building business networks
Helping clients and gaining their trust provide job satisfaction
AXA Associates programme targets fresh graduates with managerial ambitions
Taken from Career Times 18 May 2012, A3