Money Moves

Carving out a niche

by Colette Wong

Bright career prospects beckon in the growing world of insurance

Steve Wong, assistant general manager, sales and client service, employee benefits
HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific) Holdings Limited
Photos: Johnson Poon

Ongoing diversification in the insurance industry is opening new doors for graduates hoping to break into the field. Experienced professionals also stand a good chance for career progress. In a bid to snap up these budding professionals and retain the best of the crop, insurance companies are pulling out all the stops to offer a range of career options and long-term prospects.

HSBC Insurance recruits 10 new graduates for its management trainee (MT) programme every year, says Simon Chung, insurance specialist head, HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific) Holdings Limited. Trainees rotate through different departments, spending six months per section in order to develop a complete understanding of the company's operation, he adds.

"We offer a range of opportunities for newcomers to gain experience in our many departments, ranging from administration and underwriting to client services and employee benefits," he notes. "Our company deals with a wide range of insurance products, which translates into good career prospects for staff. Our top performers in Hong Kong also have the chance to spend time in our regional offices, for example Singapore and Vietnam."

Career options

Every department operates slightly differently in terms of career advancement, but all have transparent promotion schemes in place, says Mr Chung. In his department, employees with three years of experience qualify as insurance specialists. With five to 10 years of experience, staff may move into managerial and senior managerial levels. "As part of the promotion scheme, staff with a professional designation earn bonus points," Mr Chung points out.

"Our total performance management scheme is well in place to assess our staff's progress. Key performance indicators in a range of categories, from business performance to learning and development, help us gauge each employee's strengths and weaknesses, helping us to provide suitable training."

While employees at junior levels receive comprehensive training in company products and technical skills, training for managerial staff concentrates on soft skills such as leadership and negotiation. "One of our main programmes for managers focuses on 'leader as a coach'," Mr Chung explains. "It's essential for managers to be able to identify and resolve conflicts at work and to promote their teams' interests."

Simon Chung, insurance specialist head, HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific) Holdings Limited
In response to a strong demand among employees for different career options within the company, HSBC Insurance recently organised an internal job fair. This was also a cost effective and efficient way of recruiting staff for positions that needed to be filled, says Steve Wong, Assistant General Manager, Sales and Client Service, Employee Benefits, HSBC Insurance (Asia) Limited.

"Existing employees are already familiar with the company's culture, values, products and procedures," he says. "Senior managers also undergo advanced training and refresher programmes constantly. After they've rotated through different departments, they can have a clearer picture of the business and can coordinate with other teams more effectively."

Full support

HSBC Insurance currently offers an array of job opportunities in sales and client service, employee benefits, business development, actuarial, finance and investment departments. Mr Wong emphasises, "The company also needs a large support team for frontline staff at HSBC branches. While the sales teams interact with customers, we provide back office support such as information about products, compliance and regulations."

New recruits tend to appreciate the varied opportunities offered by the company, Mr Wong says. "Newcomers appreciate that they won't be stuck in the same job forever. It's important for employees to constantly have new challenges. Failing that, they may look elsewhere for opportunities to grow."

Apart from on-the-job training, the company offers regular training and development programmes, including classroom sessions, seminars and workshops. Staff interested in international exposure may take advantage of short-term overseas postings. Cross-departmental business initiatives give employees the chance to examine different elements of the insurance business.

Over the past two years, the company has been focusing on promoting staff internally, Mr Wong says. "With our staff expressing greater concern about career development in our staff surveys, we have started to actively promote internal transfers. We also encourage employees to express their opinions directly to their managers during regular feedback sessions."

Mr Wong himself has rotated through four different positions in his 12 years at HSBC Insurance. "The company provides an ideal platform for career development. Young professionals should work to pursue their own opportunities and build their own career path more proactively," he stresses.

A foot in the door

  • Management trainees rotate through departments to gain full picture of the business
  • Employees constantly provided with new challenges
  • Promote from within policy an effective recruitment tool

Taken from Career Times 13 June 2008, p. A4
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