A career in insurance is challenging but rewarding, and the flexible nature of the industry combined with the current economic situation in Hong Kong provides opportunities for gainful advancement for dedicated newcomers prepared to work and study for future success. This is the firm belief of Kevin Wright, chief executive officer of The Prudential Assurance Company Limited (Prudential) and a professional in the field whose successful career is proof that what he says is quite correct.
With over 600 staff plus a sales force of about 3,000, Prudential has grown over the past 42 years into one of Hong Kong's leading insurers, providing comprehensive insurance products and services. Its success story epitomises its philosophy of "Always listening, Always understanding", which implies the virtues of patience and caring — sympathetic human values not easy to find in today's materialistic world.
Besides possessing such qualities coming from the heart, newcomers enrich the industry no matter their differing backgrounds and perspectives, Mr Wright maintains. "Such people are a great advantage for a business like ours," he says. "As with any other business, we thrive on new ideas, and who better to suggest something 'out of the box' than young blood coming from different backgrounds. Such fresh thinking enlivens business discussions, and while some of these ideas might initially seem inapplicable, they stimulate thoughts and so can lead to exciting new business opportunities."
"A career as an insurance advisor is best suited to those who genuinely enjoy working closely with people"
25 years across Asia
Mr Wright entered the insurance industry as a frontline agent in his birthplace of Perth, Western Australia. In a career that has spanned 25 years across Asia, specifically in Australia, India, Japan, Korea, Singapore and now Hong Kong, he has experienced a wide cultural diversity but always sought to encourage the different staffs concerned to express their thoughts.
"As a leader, it is important to master the techniques of motivating staff members from various cultures to speak their minds, and so make the most out of such diversity," Mr Wright says. He has found that while there are always cultural differences from market to market, the same core ingredients, clear goals and career paths generally apply whatever the country concerned.
Another common factor he has experienced in his international supervisory role is that staff perform best when they have clear goals, and are guided by a constructive management that helps them achieve these goals. In particular this brings a positive response from younger staff when they are given solid career paths complemented by training and development programmes.
Meanwhile, with Hong Kong's economy forging ahead vigorously, Prudential finds itself facing strong competition in recruiting talented new staff so it can continue to expand. In its particular field, it faces strong opposition from banks, retail financial service providers and asset management companies all looking to snap up the smartest young minds coming into the workplace.
"Despite such challenges, we have managed to attain a very strong brand worldwide for the good culture and working environment we have created for our staff," says Mr Wright. "The company has undergone rapid expansion over the years, and I believe these are our outstanding qualities that consistently attract young and aspiring executives who are looking to develop long-term careers in the industry and so maximise their earning potential."
As the insurance industry keeps pace with modern business trends, Mr Wright believes that all agents should be well equipped to meet the needs of what has evolved into a dynamic market. "We encourage our financial consultants to acquire professional qualifications," he says. He points out that the Academy of Financial Services provides Prudential's sales force with extensive high quality training, and proudly notes that the company has the highest number of Certified Financial Planners among insurance companies in Hong Kong. Furthermore, most of the company's frontline advisers are university graduates, thanks to the multiple development programmes provided for recruits.
Mr Wright explains, "A career as an insurance advisor is best suited to those who genuinely enjoy working closely with people. They need to be self-motivated, persistent and determined. Open-mindedness and considerable mental strength are also necessary to excel in the industry. In general, you have to work hard and be prepared for continuous learning."
Finally, the special qualities for success in insurance include the ability to communicate persuasively and to project the trust that is the very lynchpin of the industry. The reward is a gratifying career for life.