Money Moves

Decades of dedication pay dividends

by Isabella Lee

Leading bancassurance expert establishes friendships before finances

Simon Chung, insurance specialist head, Hong Kong
HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific) Holdings Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

When it comes to enjoying a rewarding career, matching personal attributes with aspirations is often the golden rule. In order to truly leverage intellectual assets, it is wise to follow a logical professional path rather than battle to succeed in an industry which doesn't quite fit.

Simon Chung, insurance specialist head, Hong Kong, HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific) Holdings Limited lives by this maxim and 20 years ago began his career as an insurance agent in Canada, where many new immigrants from Hong Kong lived. At that time, the immigrant population rarely considered the importance of protection schemes or sought adequate coverage.

Mr Chung says the beauty of insurance is that: "It pays the most when you need it the most. Unfortunately, this concept is too intangible so many people ignore this important element when planning financially."

With his product knowledge and local experience, Mr Chung helped friends in the Chinese community in Canada set up basic retirement saving plans. He made home visits to potential clients, usually friends of friends, three to four times every week to extend his own people network.

"I enjoyed the moments when I got to know people and they developed from strangers into friends. Many people need a lot of assistance when they move to a new country, for example, how to complete tax returns. In Canada, I was delighted to offer support even though I was not rewarded financially for my efforts," he says.

Once trust was established, Mr Chung delved into the specific assurance needs of his friends, offering tailor-made suggestions to suit individual needs. Since many people were reluctant to discuss the importance of life insurance, or simply oblivious of its significance, Mr Chung would always raise the issue with the people around him. "There are three important situations we should all plan for: retirement, premature death and disability," Mr Chung advises. "Generally, people are sufficiently prepared for their retirement days. However, the possibility of the other two situations, which have significant impact on their families, is commonly underestimated."

Subject to change

Despite the lack of full public understanding of the array of insurance services on offer, people are now more open to insurance products and services because bancassurance initiatives are growing at a tremendous rate. In response to client demand for comprehensive insurance products, banks have successfully promoted the notion of all-round protection to large client bases.

According to Mr Chung, bancassurance offers clients convenient access to a wide range of integrated financial services and product transparency. This in turn has resulted in higher overall levels of customer satisfaction.

"Most importantly, customers have confidence in banks," Mr Chung remarks. "This is particularly true for HSBC, an organisation that has established its reputation based on a strong foundation," he adds.

Unlike insurance companies, which traditionally target the narrow markets of their agents, bancassurers have the added advantage of a mass distribution market, which is effectively their existing clientele.

"Since our customers already understand and trust HSBC, they are often willing to discuss their protection needs when our staff approach them," Mr Chung observes. "It is the difference the brand name makes."

Likewise, it is the quality assurance system that gives HSBC insurance its elevated status. Indeed, as an internal measure to guarantee employee integrity, the company regularly assesses the wealth management solutions recommended by every sales person in the branch network.

"We have a responsibility to ensure our team members are offering the most appropriate solutions for each client, instead of concentrating on high sales figures," Mr Chung explains. "The QA process requires extensive manpower and resources, but it is worthwhile for our long-term benefit and for clients who have trusted HSBC," he says.

Expert team

For the foreseeable future, Mr Chung is concentrating on product diversification and training at the bank, in sessions which ensure bancassurance sagacity and expertise are shared with everyone in the HSBC team.

At the start of 2008, HSBC adopted a new business model for bancassurance. Today, when insurance services form part of a larger financial plan, branch wealth management experts take care of the whole deal. "Before this new business model was launched, financial planning managers were the dedicated insurance experts in the branches and their main function was to provide professional insurance services to the bank customers. Now, to enhance convenience and promote one-stop solutions to customers, our insurance specialist team will provide their branch counterparts with the necessary specialist knowledge in designing and delivering the best possible insurance and retirement planning solutions," he explains.

Currently, the insurance specialist team has some 10 members and this number is expected to grow three-fold within months. Candidates with at least five years of bancassurance experience are invited to join the expanding team.

"Integrity is a prerequisite for a truly rewarding career. A proven track record is often a great indicator of this," Mr Chung concludes. "Additionally, good interpersonal skills are essential, especially when training, mentoring and coaching other team members."

Changing scene

  • Mass distribution market an advantage
  • Integrity a prerequisite
  • Quality over sales figures

Taken from Career Times 11 April 2008, p. A2
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