There is more to business than simply making money, and Altruist Financial Group Limited firmly believes that an important part of its corporate mission is to help people live better lives.
Therefore, the company, which has been operating for five years, encourages its financial consultants to build lasting friendships with clients, in the course of providing them with ongoing investment advice.
"We provide financial security for clients and other members of their families," says Christina Hui, vice president-agency, explaining the financial consultant's role. "While social workers help to solve family problems when they emerge, we are providing solutions to help prevent financial problems from happening."
The economic downturn in 1997, SARS and the government's introduction of the Mandatory Provident Fund caused members of the public to recognise the importance of financial planning. "People are now more conscious of the need for good money management, including estate planning, plus risk and liability management," says Marine Yu, also a vice president-agency with the company.
She notes that careful planning is required at each stage of life to meet changing financial goals, including family protection, education and retirement funds. This involves financial consultants in various aspects of their clients' lives and, thus, what starts as a working relationship often develops into a close friendship.
Ms Yu began 15 years ago as an insurance salesperson and has had the chance to meet people from all walks of life and to develop friendships with a wide network of clients. She regards it as a privilege to see her clients going, for example, from being parents to grandparents. "It is a mutual learning experience and they become close to my heart," she says.
Ms Yu believes that the sector offers very good career prospects. "You are your own boss and are rewarded in line with your performance-the harder you work, the more you get," she says. "Our company provides comprehensive on-the-job training programmes for every newcomer to start a lifelong career and be accountable to oneself."
A Form seven graduate can earn between HK$120,000 and HK$180,000 in the first year, but Ms Yu adds that there is actually no income ceiling. A new joiner might climb the ladder to become a production manager or sales manager in about 18 months.
Two years ago, Altruist introduced a new "collective management" system. Instead of retaining a more traditional structure, an experienced group of managers can now make use of their unique personal strengths to train and manage financial consultants more effectively.
"Junior consultants now work and learn under a group of managers instead of just one direct manager," Ms Hui explains. "They can get the most out of the different expertise available to them."
With this system, in-house training resources can also be allocated better. There is one-on-one coaching both for and by managers and, as a result, the productivity of individual consultants has been greatly enhanced.