Money Moves

Golden chance for leadership development

by Christina Tai

(from left to right) Alex Wong, director, agency development, New York Life Insurance Worldwide Ltd; Christine Young, senior agent; William Chiu, financial services professional, New York Life Insurance Company
Photo: Edve Leung

To improve the productivity of agents and allow them to execute business plans as effectively as possible, one leading insurance firm has introduced its own "GOLD" system. This stands for general office leadership and development and was designed specifically by New York Life as an effective agency management model. According to William Chiu, a financial services professional with New York Life Insurance Company, this field management system has brought many benefits to support, manage and enhance the existing agency distribution network.

"GOLD ensures the uniform application of the best practices and procedures and the standardisation of communication methodologies throughout the company," says Dr Chiu. He adds that the system also makes it easier to operate with confidence in an environment where there are often regulatory changes to understand and incorporate.

In his opinion, the financial services sector is one which should let entrepreneurial people be in business for themselves, but not by themselves. To succeed, they need a set of operational guidelines to recruit, develop, retain and supervise quality agents — and that is what the GOLD system provides.

It is designed to achieve results and therefore has separate sections focusing on individual effectiveness and improving group performance. In addition, it covers areas classified as PRP (performance review and planning) and FOD (field observation and demonstration). "This helps managers track progress and accountability of their subordinates," explains Alex Wong, director of agency development for New York Life Insurance Worldwide Ltd in Hong Kong.

As one of the company's most successful senior agents, San Francisco-based Christine Young, points out that GOLD contains the consolidated wisdom which agents and managers have acquired over decades.

"Following the comprehensive standards and guidelines, I won't go wrong or miss out anything in client communications," Ms Young says. "This is particularly important in monitoring compliance within the US regulatory environment."

Regarding recruitment, Mr Wong notes that prospective agents must display integrity and be self-motivated, results-orientated and keen to learn. They should be attuned to doing needs-based analyses when dealing with clients, rather than taking the traditional product selling approach.

Extensive training programmes concentrate on four key areas: practical skills, applicability, competence and professionalism. The company's own "university" provides lifelong learning and development opportunities starting with a standardised curriculum for training new agents and taking them through three distinct phases — pre-contract, the first six months, and continuing development. "This provides a successful platform for building a lifetime learning culture for staff to explore their own values and build long-term visions, relationships and commitment," Dr Chiu adds.

Taken from Career Times 01 December 2006, p. A2
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