Money Moves

Facilitating growth

by Sophie Leung

Global financier supports advisory teams in providing best service through forging trusting customer relationships

Jove Wong, risk and financial chief advisor and channel partner
Zurich Advice Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Lewis Wong

Closing a deal with a customer is not an end but rather the beginning of a long-term relationship. This is the view of Jove Wong, risk and financial chief advisor and channel partner, Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong).

"People may sometimes regard us as salespersons concentrating only on performance targets, but my greatest satisfaction comes from building lifelong trusting relationships with customers," Ms Wong says.

To enhance the professionalism of the company's consultancy force, Zurich has in place a unique system in which career advancement is pegged to training. Ms Wong, who joined Zurich in 1996, was invited to become business partner when the company implemented the system about five years ago.

In her quest for career fulfilment, Ms Wong values the support of her company. "Our partnership cannot be solely valued in monetary terms," Ms Wong notes. "Zurich is very respectful to its business partners and provides sufficient practical support, such as shuttling customers to meeting places and providing an administrative assistance allowance to help us with paperwork. These are only some of the privileges a Zurich Advice business partner can enjoy."

Solid ground

Ms Wong believes that sincerity is the key to earning clients' trust. "If you provide customers with the best service possible and have their interests at heart, they will learn to trust you over time. They may also refer family members and friends to you," she emphasises.

Obtaining professional qualifications provide a solid foundation for the job, and Ms Wong was among the first batch of advisors in the company to enrol in the Certified Financial PlannerCM programme in 2000.

She has spent much time and effort on extramural studies and has both the Fellow Chartered Financial Practitioner (FChFP) and the Fellow, Life Management InstituteR (FLMI) designations behind her name.

Having worked as a financial advisor for 13 years, Ms Wong has seen many changes in the industry, but professionalism remains the most important quality for career success, she says.

"Most people now recognise the importance of insurance and financial planning. Customers these days demand much higher service standard and expect consultants to be financially savvy and up-to-date with risk analysis," she adds.

While it might sound like a tough industry, Ms Wong believes it is not that difficult to enter the profession. "We prefer candidates with good insight into their customers' needs and what the industry offers. They should also have a desire to help others," she stresses. "While it helps to have sales experience, good interpersonal skills and a sincere attitude are the most important attributes to succeed in the job."

Selected candidates may join Zurich Advice's Business Associate Programme (BAP). After completing the programme and gaining experience in the field, good performers who also meet a set of stringent criteria may then move up the ranks to become chief advisors within 12 months, and ultimately business partners who share Zurich Advice's stakeholders' rewards.

Aspirants with less experience may join Zurich as Risk and Financial Advisor (RFA) and work their way up to become executive advisor, chief advisor and subsequently business partner.

While a good existing client network may provide candidates with an edge, it is not a prerequisite. "Zurich employs professional telemarketing companies and helps advisors to make appointments with potential customers," Ms Wong explains. "People who are new to the field therefore receive plenty of support and opportunities from the company to expand their network and customers base."

Commitment pays

Personal commitment is indispensable for moving up the career ladder, Ms Wong states. "Success doesn't come quickly. New recruits should be prepared to commit to long-term relationships and obligations, but after a few years of hard work, the rewards will come, along with customers' trust," she affirms. "Long-term relationships tend to bear fruit. Clients may not always seek immediate assistance but the time will come when they will need financial planning advice. At that point they will inevitably choose an advisor that they know and trust."

Guided by its partnership philosophy and a well-established set of best practices known as the Zurich Advice Way, the company offers its frontline advisors a solid platform to communicate with customers. Zurich has also invested heavily in an IT system that helps facilitate planning and analysis for advisors.

"As a frontline advisor, it is a real comfort to know that I can count on the company and my customers because we have established lifelong partnerships. We all work to help each other out and grow together," Ms Wong concludes.

Winning partnerships

  • Long-term, trusting relationships bring work satisfaction
  • Company support vital for career success
  • Professionalism and sincerity essential to earning clients' trust
  • Commitment helps build lifelong partnerships

Taken from Career Times 28 November 2008, p. A5
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