Money Moves

Business developers get a slice of the action

by Sophie Leung

Evolving market opens more doors

Steve Pang, senior manager
Zurich Academy Distribution Development
Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Courtesy of Zurich

Anticipated growth in the mandatory provident fund (MPF) sector and the opening up of the China market have brought unprecedented opportunities for business development professionals in the insurance industry.

"We believe the industry has a bright future and are always looking to recruit new talent," says Steve Pang, senior manager, Zurich Academy Distribution Development, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong). As such, Zurich has developed a sophisticated central recruiting platform and offers frontline employees comprehensive training. The company also strongly focuses on cultivating a unique company culture.

New recruits immediately embark on 10 weeks of training during which they are offered a training allowance. Zurich also sponsors new advisors' qualification examinations in full as part of an effort to further their professional advancement.

There is a reason for this centralised recruiting and training approach. "We want to ensure that new recruits are well equipped," says Mr Pang, explaining that it is important for newcomers to identify themselves with Zurich's customer-centric philosophy in order to work towards realising their own career goals.

No boundaries

Zurich believes that one of the draw cards attracting top professionals to the company is its unique reward mechanism. In addition to adhering to a "more-work, more-pay" principle, the group sets no limit to advisors' earnings. Some business professionals earn yearly incomes of up to seven digits.

The company finds that frontline sales people in other industries often decide to move to Zurich to further their careers. In fact, Zurich's recruitment philosophy focuses rather on quality than quantity, aiming at attracting the best talent.

To help new recruits achieve better sales results, a comprehensive range of training initiatives are well in place. "Other than product knowledge, our programme also covers training on sales and client servicing techniques, helping to equip new recruits with the right skills to provide suitable solutions and quality services. This also helps to enhance professionalism and foster strong advisor-client relationships," says Mr Pang.

As a result, the bar has been substantially raised over the years when it comes to education requirements. Applicants must be degree holders or professionals with at least two to three years of work experience. The company welcomes graduates from different industry backgrounds and brings them up to speed with essential knowledge and skills through training workshops.

The role of business development professionals is to provide clients with a range of insurance and wealth management solutions. Therefore, Zurich aims to attract high achievers who enjoy dealing with people from all walks of life. Applicants hoping to break into the profession must be able to demonstrate a passion in the financial advisory industry during an initial interview, Mr Pang points out. They must articulate the reasons why they are interested in joining Zurich in particular.

To win in today's highly charged business environment, talent management is of the utmost importance and so Zurich aims to provide consistently outstanding service to clients by working to develop a team of mature and informed advisors.

Vast network

While a substantial potential client list is helpful for new advisors starting off their careers, it is equally important for new recruits to work hard at expanding their networks.

Many seasoned professionals working for Zurich joined as fresh graduates with a small people network, and among the opportunities offered is the chance to interact with a wide range of individuals. However, Mr Pang emphasises that it is crucial for new recruits to have the right attitude. "Success comes at a price," he says, adding that the chances are slim for people who are simply testing the water and do not have the perseverance during the difficult initial stages of working in business development.

In an effort to support newcomers, Zurich offers field training that includes pairing new recruits with experienced mentors. In addition to coaching by supervisors, this hands-on experience helps new advisors to hone their consultation skills and establish successful activity patterns, which help to boost their self-confidence.

By expanding its business to investing in the Greater China market, Zurich has further widened the horizons for its employees. "Brokers in Beijing and Shanghai need Hong Kong management expertise to explore the mainland market," Mr Pang says.

In light of this, middle and top managers with global vision and an international network are in great demand and promotion opportunities abound, especially for outstanding advisors.

Route to success

  • Centralised recruitment and training approach helps new advisors identify with corporate culture
  • Newcomers offered a 10-week training programme and training allowance
  • Field training, mentoring and coaching boost self-confidence

Taken from Career Times 20 June 2008, p. A10
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