Money Moves

Fast track to business success

by Sophie Leung

Intensive training programme opens up world of opportunities for budding finance professionals

Rex Wu, head of training and development services
Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Nolly Leung

Everyone learns through experience and it can take years for professionals to acquire the right mindset and skills to succeed in business.

However, there are ways to speed up the process. One financial services provider uses a unique, intensive development programme to impart the necessary industry knowledge and best practices to aspiring financial planners.

"We aim to adjust the mindsets of Zurich Advice trainees through classroom training," says Rex Wu, head of training and development services, Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong). "Once they get their heads around our mission of offering a quality, customer-focused financial advisory service, they can realise their dreams through our Business Associate Programme (BAP)," he adds.

The one-year BAP offers a fast track for people aspiring to become high-performing financial advisors. The programme comprises both classroom and on-the-job training and is strategically divided into five learning stages and 10 levels.

The first four weeks of classroom training provides the basics and lays a solid foundation, enabling trainees to grasp the fundamentals of the "Zurich Advice Way", a philosophy based on Zurich's past achievements aiming to promote the highest operational standards, as well as common values and principles.

Mr Wu has high expectations of the trainees and explains that only inspired, high-calibre candidates are admitted to the BAP. "The objective of our endeavour is to groom professional advisors rather than regular sales agents. Candidates must share our values and believe in a partnership with the group and clients, as they are likely to become our business partners and share our profits," he says. "Trainees who have completed the BAP are expected to coordinate with senior management to implement business targets and formulate plans."

Client focus

Zurich distinguishes itself from its competitors through a strong focus on personal development. The BAP classroom training goes beyond mere business know-how, also including soft skills such as the art of listening to and understanding people. The firm believes it is crucial for advisors to master the appropriate communication skills, in order to provide clients with reliable and easy-to-understand financial solutions.

"Our business strategies are customer driven, not product driven," remarks Mr Wu. Zurich requires its advisors to give their clients' best interests priority and to provide service that exceeds client expectations. The fact that the company offers communication skills training instead of briefings on specific financial products ties in with this customer focused policy.

"We help our clients to sort out their financial needs and identify viable tools and solutions to achieve their goals," Mr Wu stresses. To this end, advisors must schedule at least two interview appointments with clients before any financial decisions are made.

Understanding client's needs helps advisors tailor individual financial advice. Financial planners working for Zurich Advice —Z urich's professional financial advisory network, make sure that they understand their customers' personal outlooks, such as their views on life and money.

Apart from giving advice and recommendations, Zurich Advice professionals are expected to involve their clients in the financial planning process and to assist them in making informed decisions.

To help trainees advance through the foundation and application stages, BAP classroom training enhances theoretical and practical learning with role-play exercises. "We also include career briefings to help trainees understand how to move up the ladder and achieve success," notes Mr Wu.

Lifelong partnerships

A focal point of the BAP is to introduce to new recruits the "Zurich Advice Way". This focuses on building lifelong partnerships with clients and offering them the best options available. "This is particularly important as Zurich advisors aim to keep up with clients' changing needs at different stages of their lives," says Mr Wu.

The programme's assessment tools such as assignments and exams are designed to monitor learning progress and provide opportunities for revision. "Trainees need to revise and experience what they have learnt before they can apply it," Mr Wu explains.

Meanwhile, evaluations are conducted regularly to review the programme's effectiveness, the trainers' performance and the trainees' progress.

Applicants interested in enrolling for the BAP should hold a university degree and have at least three years' sales experience. The rigorous programme also requires applicants to have a strong personal network, and proficiency in spoken and written English and Chinese. "The programme is designed for motivated individuals with keen sales skills and a proven track record," concludes Mr Wu.

Training for success

  • Intensive development programme provides fast track for career success
  • Trainees must adjust their mindsets to fit in with Zurich values and practices
  • Theory and soft skills essential to develop customer focused financial plans
  • Lifelong partnerships keeping up with market changes and customer expectations

Taken from Career Times 22 August 2008
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