Money Moves

Geared for action

by Wai Ting

Michael Huddart
executive vice president and chief executive officer
Manulife Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan

Global financial conglomerate aligns its human capital with customers' changing needs

The financial crisis that hit the world in 2008 has led to a change in Hong Kong investment trends, with many affluent individuals as well as other investors switching from higher-risk options to savings-based products with minimum value guarantees.

Staying at the forefront of the market, financial protection and wealth management services provider Manulife has emerged from the economic slump with plans for extensive growth. The firm, which boasts a diverse suite of protection and wealth building products, is planning to launch a number of initiatives and products and recruit additional staff.

"People in Hong Kong, as in most of Asia, are big savers," explains Michael Huddart, executive vice president and chief executive officer, Manulife Hong Kong. This, coupled with high general reserves, have helped countries in the region to come out of the crisis well and continue to make them great places for business.

Mr Huddart believes that these factors, and Asia's quick economic recovery, will ensure that Hong Kong and its regional counterparts will experience exceptional growth compared with the rest of the world in years to come.

The focus now is on non-volatile, savings-based products such as medical and pension funds and life insurance, he points out. In addition to plans to grow its wealth business, such as mutual funds, Manulife Hong Kong will also focus on the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) sector. The company will ride on business opportunities with Member Choice when employees are allowed to move part of their MPF money from one provider to another. Growth in this area is expected to be substantial and Manulife Hong Kong is currently actively hiring to support the initiative.

Talent pool

Manulife has set bold targets to expand its human resources in Asia, and the company is well on its way to repeating last year's feat of being the fastest-growing agency in Hong Kong, Mr Huddart notes. The aim is to recruit additional staff to support sales, distribution and marketing, in particular.

The firm is carrying out two phases of recruitment, the first targeting candidates for more senior positions to help strategise and drive initiatives that are already under way. "We expect the first phase to last six to eight months. Then, in the second phase, we'll start to fill supporting roles for servicing anticipated growth areas," he says, pointing out that hiring conditions are currently favourable.

Since Manulife started growing again quickly after the economic downturn, the company could recommence hiring straight away, Mr Huddart remarks.

Prospective applicants must be ambitious, embrace strong values and be willing to work hard, and the company is dedicated to investing in the development of those that meet these criteria.

To facilitate mutual growth and staff engagement, Manulife promotes actively a value-based organisational culture through a "Together" campaign. "Engaged staff are productive and able to achieve personal efficiency," notes Mr Huddart.

Brighter prospects

Volatility in the financial market has been producing a wealth of opportunities to aspiring and competent individuals in the field. In view of this, Manulife provides training and development opportunities for all its employees in order to achieve mutual growth. While some of its training programmes focus on skills enhancement, others are structured to help staff hone their soft skills.

Since the organisation has a greatly diversified business foundation, providing the flexibility for staff to be transferred from one section to another, job rotations are encouraged, particularly for top talent working towards leadership positions in Hong Kong or within the region.

In turn, young recruits in the company's advanced development programme are fast-tracked through the ranks. "We have found that job rotations are particularly valuable for our young talent to gain a broad understanding of the business by getting hands-on experience in many, if not all, areas, equipping them with the necessary skills to be leaders in a range of major functions," notes Mr Huddart.

Staff at more senior levels—and everyone at vice president level and above—receive training on leadership skills, motivational coaching, and are engaged in effective performance discussion.

The company places strong emphasis on profiling staff members that demonstrate leadership potential. As an assessment tool, this becomes even more important as people move up the corporate ladder. Those on the advanced development programme are also closely monitored to assess their performances and to determine the type of mentoring that would most benefit them as they proceed with their careers.

Future investment

  • Market trends shift from higher-risk investment products to insurance protections and products with savings and guarantees elements
  • Mandatory Provident Fund a growth area
  • Bold recruitment and expansion targets in line with market sentiments
  • Emphasis on training and profiling gives future leaders a leg up the corporate ladder

Taken from Career Times 24 September 2010, A2

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