Money Moves

Customers first in the insurance business

by Wing Kei

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Anthony Mak, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, New York Life Insurance Worldwide Ltd
Photo: Johnny Kwok

A person's motivation to do well at work can derive from a variety of factors. It might be based on the desire for more money, to be promoted faster than colleagues, or the chance to obtain extra professional qualifications. For Anthony Mak, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of New York Life Insurance Worldwide Ltd, it is job satisfaction and the sense of achievement that continue to keep him motivated.

Mr Mak joined the company in 2004, bringing 18 years of life insurance industry experience to his new role. He began his career as an insurance agent in Canada before moving back to Hong Kong in 1995, and is currently responsible for planning, implementing and overseeing initiatives in marketing, sales support and distribution for the agency workforce and all support departments.

According to Mr Mak, the job satisfaction comes from understanding customer needs and solving their problems. "Working as an insurance agent is not about meeting your own sales targets but about helping clients achieve their goals," he says. "It's a goal-oriented job and a good insurance agent must know how to increase business, but there is also room for personal growth."

He explains that insurance agents can move up to become managers and lead a team. "Those with leadership potential can get great job satisfaction from turning junior team members into experienced professionals," he says. This process, though, starts with hiring the right people and, in the present competitive market, that is not always easy.

"We find that the best candidates are those who have the courage to try new things," Mr Mak says. "They should have an open mind, a positive attitude, and be motivated to understand the products which they will explain to customers. An interest in self-advancement is also very important because staff must learn about new products and cope with an ever changing business environment." He adds that recruits should be hard-working, adaptable and have good communication and presentation skills.

New York Life currently has about 900 insurance agents in Hong Kong and plans to increase that number to 1,200 by 2006. They will take on fresh university graduates, as well as practitioners with relevant industry experience, who are regularly found by referrals or introductions through current members of agency. "We look at their track records and see if they are goal-oriented and capable of building up the business," says Mr Mak.

In 2005, the company launched a new programme called GOLD (General Office Leadership Development), which focuses on management training. It has previously proved successful in the US and will assist in developing leadership skills which can have an impact on improving sales distribution and achieving better business performance. This is one of several ongoing training programmes which allow insurance consultants at all levels to upgrade themselves and acquire new industry- related skills. "Each employee requires the right kind of training, so it is important for us to offer programmes which suit their needs," Mr Mak says.

Taken from Career Times 21 October 2005, p. A2
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