Money Moves

Experience preferred for financial recruits

By Elaine Chow

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

Michael Chan, vice president, sales distribution, Manulife Hong Kong
Photo: Edve Leung

The financial planning industry is generally recognised as one of the fastest growing sectors in Hong Kong and is stepping up its drive for recruits with experience and maturity. This reflects not only the prospects for overall growth, but also the fact that many target clients may feel more comfortable dealing with more seasoned professionals when discussing their financial affairs.

According to the Population Project 2002-2031 issued by the Census and Statistics Department, the proportion of Hong Kong's population aged 50 or above will grow from 24 per cent in 2004 to 41 per cent in 2024. With this major demographic shift taking place, financial institutions are keen to help individuals with constructive plans for the future, which do not rely on receiving government support.

Michael Chan, vice president, sales distribution for Manulife Hong Kong and a veteran of the industry, confirms that more financial planning professionals are needed, but stresses that his company's policy is to recruit only the best people. All the same, they plan to recruit 1,700 agents in 2005, a substantial increase on the roughly 1,000 taken on in 2004.

When asked about the attributes which applicants require, Mr Chan identifies the core characteristics: lifetime commitment to the industry and the client, integrity, selling skills, and leading by example. Besides that, candidates should have a current annual income of HK$300-400,000 and over five years working experience. Around 50 per cent of new recruits are expected to come from the banking industry with the remainder mostly from sales-related positions in other sectors.

Referring to remuneration, Mr Chan mentions that the total commission from selling insurance policies may be declining because investors are looking for quicker returns and different kinds of savings plans, but the initial amount per policy sold has increased.

In 2003, the average premium per policy was HK$12,000 and this jumped to HK$15,000 last year. Since 1997, investment horizons have become noticeably shorter, with investors now thinking in terms of 10 to 20 years rather than the average 30 years of the past.

"Investment-linked products made up only five per cent of our total premium cases in 2004," Mr Chan says. "We will see a lot of growth in consumer interest in savings plans with structures similar to existing MPF plans and rates of return from five to nine per cent."

Some fresh graduates may be recruited as financial planners, but Mr Chan believes that people with appropriate working experience will have an obvious advantage. "Each person is given a sales target," he points out. "Those interested in joining the industry should really be capable of achieving 100 per cent of their annual target within eight months. The best people can sometimes achieve 50 per cent of the year's target by the second month."

Taken from Career Times 04 March 2005, p. 2
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