Career Path

Financial services: Trading in a new career

by Edward Chung

Financial Services
Joseph Sin
Managing Director
Tanrich Financial Group

Insurance stalwart and Tanrich Financial Group Managing Director Joseph Sin recently made the leap to financial services, and he explains that prospects are excellent in this field for the right candidate.

The economic slowdown notwithstanding, financial services remain a highly rewarding field with good prospects for advancement, according to Mr. Sin. "Quite a few people make over HK$1 million a year in the company in different positions. You don't have to be in a high position, it really depends on your talent," he said.

Looking for new challenges

The qualified accountant spent much of his career in insurance, serving 15 years with the AXA Group. However, within the group, he made a leap from accountancy to management.

Starting out as a certified accountant, Mr. Sin advanced to the position of Financial Controller and worked for several multinational companies, before joining AXA. There, he rose to the position of General Manager - Finance before joining AXA-Minmetals Assurance Company in Shanghai as President and Chief Executive, setting up six offices.

"Experience in commerce, finance or banking is useful, though not essential. Candidates with only Form 7 education can also excel, but they might find passing the examinations more difficult"

Moving to the management position from accountancy, Mr. Sin believes that crossing disciplines requires marketing and management skills, as well as a flexible attitude to tackle challenges.

"To succeed, you need to constantly look for a change and new challenges," he said.

Investing in the future

The sluggish economy is not conducive to a healthy financial services market, and Mr. Sin concedes that stock trading levels are not high although they are still acceptable. However, other financial services, such as trading commodity futures, as well as corporate finance services, share-margin financing, loan financing services, unit trust distribution and personal financial planning still offer good opportunities.

"Trading in commodity futures is still booming," said Mr. Sin, adding that they are recruiting 150 people to expand the futures operations.

The field is open to talented people with academic backgrounds ranging from Form 7 to university graduates, as well as career switchers from other industries. He said: "Experience in commerce, finance or banking is useful, though not essential. Candidates with only Form 7 education can also excel, but they might find passing the examinations more difficult."

Under Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) regulations, all investment consultants must pass the SFC's Foundation Program Examination. Exemptions are possible for finance or accounting graduates, depending on the modules taken at university.

Highly specialised

In such a service-oriented industry, the quality of personnel is an important factor; there are other specialist examinations and many companies provide comprehensive training programs to equip their financial planners for the task at hand and to pass the relevant examinations.

"The role is highly specialised, so it is impractical to mass train employees; the classes are small and very focused," said Mr. Sin. "Advancing in this industry is not straightforward, as requisite examinations need to be passed for each product to be sold. Management and professional skills are highly important."

Even so the business operates on a relatively level management structure, and Mr. Sin added that it was possible for financial planners to reach management level in three years - quality, not seniority, is the benchmark.

He said: "The main factor for financial planners to realise is that this is a very client-focused industry; it's like private banking insofar as they must pay close attention and give professional advice to a select group of clients."

China Opportunities

According to Mr. Sin, the financial sector in China is currently not open enough and foreign talent can only find jobs in foreign investment companies. "We need to wait until the laws are more relaxed," he said. Mr. Sin warned that there were insufficient job openings for expatriates, as local employee salaries were much lower. He said: "Locals are cheaper and learn very fast, even if they lack exposure and experience." He cited the situation at AXA, where out of AXA's 1,500 staff, there were only 7 expatriates working for him in Shanghai.

Figures for reference only   K='000

Taken from Career Times 31 May 2002, p. 32
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