Money Moves

Encouraging business ownership

by Grace Chan

(left to right)
Eleonore Chow, director, agency distribution & services, Asia
Ted Ridgway, chief executive officer, Hong Kong
Bowen Wong, head of Zurich Insurance Franchise
Zurich Life Insurance Company Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Anticipating a positive outlook for the insurance market, Zurich Life Insurance Company aims to boost its agency size by introducing an innovative entrepreneurial agency franchise model.

"This Zurich Insurance Franchise (ZIF) model is the first of its kind in the Hong Kong market and it is expected to contribute to 20 per cent of our life insurance business in Hong Kong by the end of this year," says Eleonore Chow, director, agency distribution & services, Asia, Zurich Life Insurance Company Ltd.

Ms Chow notes that the ZIF model has been tried and tested in the US and the UK. "Riding on this model, we aim to grow into one of the top five life insurance agency forces within a three-year timeframe."

A distinctive feature of the ZIF model is the transfer of "business ownership", giving retiring agents a chance to plan for succession. "This will motivate entrepreneurial individuals to take true ownership of their life insurance business as a franchise under their own business name. This essentially means greater control over operating costs as well as profits," explains Bowen Wong, head of Zurich Insurance Franchise, Zurich Life Insurance Co Ltd.

Mr Wong adds that Zurich offers prospective ZIF franchisees comprehensive support starting from business proposals. "High rental costs may discourage business starters, so our business development team assists franchisees in locating office space and provides them with a six-month rental waive arrangement," he says. With this, new ZIF franchisees can focus on developing their businesses straight away.

Aside from the advantages of the wealth of Zurich's training and development programmes, sales promotion vehicles as well as recruitment support, customers of ZIF are given access to a wide array of Zurich's life insurance and general insurance products. "They may also select third party products through our in-house independent financial adviser (IFA)," notes Mr Wong.

According to Ms Chow, the company has signed up with three franchisees since the ZIF model was launched earlier in January. "Our target is to help about 20 ZIF franchisees set up business by the end of 2010. This will in turn add 400 agents to our current force," she says.

Innovation may now become a growth driver in many aspects of business but Ms Chow emphasises that business decisions have to be strategically aligned with changes in the marketplace. "In light of changing customer expectations and needs, particularly after the recent financial upheaval, we must be adept at change," she advises. "For instance, we've offered additional options on protection-based insurance products including the new critical illness product launched lately."

Coupled with the company's vigorous approach to business development, Ms Chow notes that another 1,000 agents are expected to sign on with the company's three existing distribution channels.

Business savvy

  • New business model attracts entrepreneurial-minded people
  • Wide-ranging support encourages focus on business development
  • Additional options on protection-based insurance products
  • Business decisions strategically aligned with changes in the marketplace
  • Room for 1,000 new agents

Taken from Career Times 29 January 2010, A3

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