Developing leaders in challenging times
by Grace Chan
Quality young talent can be as elusive as they are mobile and versatile. This prevailing phenomenon has become a major headache for business operations of all sizes.
While some companies pay premiums to retain existing talent for the short term, the forward-looking ones step up measures to maintain a strong talent supply that is part and parcel of long-term business sustainability.
Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong) belongs to the latter group. The company has tackled this talent issue through a comprehensive two-year regional management trainee (MT) programme, which gives select trainees the chance to work in a number of the company's offices and roles around the region.
The programme starts with an induction training in Beijing, where top regional executives introduce the MTs to Zurich's corporate system and the industry in general through a series of presentations and group activities. "This opportunity for cultural exchange and networking promotes the assimilation of the new recruits into the corporate culture," explains Andy Wong, human resources manager, recruitment & employee relations, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong).
In their last three months of training, the trainees are again taken away from the safe confines of the home office and rotated around the region. "We assign our MTs to a specific business function at one of our offices in Asia and task them with real job responsibilities," says Mr Wong, noting that last year's batch was involved in investigating motor insurance claims while working at the Taiwan operation. "Since investigations are generally conducted by claims adjusters in Hong Kong, this was a valuable learning experience for our trainees," he adds.
During the course of the two years, the recruits are required to undergo 21 months of intensive training, usually in the company's underwriting, claims, finance and actuarial departments.
After each job attachment, the trainees are asked to deliver presentations to senior management on their learning results. This provides the company with an assessment platform, while at the same time giving MTs the chance to learn from their superiors.
In view of the increasing significance of professional credentials and qualifications, MTs are also encouraged to take advantage of generous subsidies to study towards professional qualifications such as the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) and LOMA accreditations.
The intensive training and job rotations have proven advantageous. Not only do high-performing trainees grow personally through the process, but they may also find themselves placed on an accelerated career path.
The company's reputable Zurich Academy is another investment in the their future, offering classroom training to build leadership and business skills.
On the fast track
Almost immediately upon completion of the MT programme, Ms Chiu was charged with helping to establish the company's New Advisor Development Centre, a centralised platform for recruiting and training advisers. "This model was a first for the insurance industry and I'm proud to be part of it," she says.
Regional management trainee
- Varied job exposure
- Overseas placement
"I met with other MTs from across the region during the induction training in Beijing. It was a memorable time, since we all supported and learnt from each other."
"Just two months after joining the programme, I'm already working on several projects that require more than just textbook knowledge. I'm also learning to adapt to the working styles of different colleagues and respect the strengths of the individuals."
"Success in the fast-paced insurance industry is all about change and speed to market. Only people that can respond to the market dynamics creatively can become leaders in this field."