Money Moves

Innovative business model to benefit all stakeholders

by Martin Williams

Bancassurance advisors reap the rewards from multi-platform support

John Johnson (right), chief partnerships distribution officer
Queenie Yang, assistant division sales manager
The Prudential Assurance Company Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Forging a business partnership involves a high level of trust and support between capable partners. When two multinationals join hands, this in turn generates great synergy and potentially greater profits for all.

The Hong Kong partnership between the Prudential Assurance Company Limited and Standard Chartered Bank is by far the most successful banking and insurance partnership in Asia.

This particular partnership allows Prudential to sell insurance products through Standard Chartered Bank's distribution network. "It's an excellent way of doing business," says John Johnson, chief partnerships distribution officer, the Prudential Assurance Company Limited. "Customers enjoy the convenience of buying our products at the same places that they bank; and we can reach a growing segment of affluent customers who have diverse financial planning needs."

Most of the bancassurance business is conducted through Prudential's team of around 150 financial services managers (FSMs) who are stationed at some 60 Standard Chartered Bank branches to offer bank customers insurance and financial planning advice and solutions. In addition, around 400 of the bank's staff are trained and licensed by Prudential to advise on Prudential's range of single premium insurance products.

"It's very challenging work," says Mr Johnson. "The FSMs are not bank employees, but they work closely with the bank's branch management teams. In light of this, good interpersonal skills are required."

When Prudential assesses candidates hoping to join the bancassurance advisor team, the company is more concerned about personality attributes than qualifications, Mr Johnson points out.

"We prefer university graduates, but Form Five graduates who have the right attributes, commitment to customer service, strong people skills and the discipline to undergo rigorous training and to work in a demanding commercial environment are also welcome to sign on. It's important that they have these attributes and, since they will need to absorb new information on rules, regulations and products constantly, they must also be willing to learn," he adds.

Myriad opportunities

People from all kinds of backgrounds can be successful bancassurance advisors. "We have a well established business and offer comprehensive training," says Mr Johnson. "We provide ample support, so people can excel in this challenging and rewarding role."

All FSMs are full-time salaried staff who also receive commissions and benefits including health, retirement plans and incentives. In addition to financial rewards, Mr Johnson says there are great career opportunities for high performers. "Our bancassurance team members have a number of career options. Many of them opt for the typical sales management path, progressing from FSM to senior FSM, assistant division sales manager, division sales manager and then on to senior management positions," Mr Johnson notes.

He says that, in addition to progressing through the sales management route, opportunities also exist in other supporting functions such as training or marketing. "We also have people who love serving customers and enjoy the frontline environment," he remarks. "They are in control of their own careers." Though such experienced frontline staff may remain as FSMs, they reap the financial rewards. "Relocation opportunities to join Prudential's management teams in the UK, the US or 13 countries in Asia are also offered to the right persons," Mr Johnson notes.

Rewarding career

Queenie Yang, assistant division sales manager, was attracted to Prudential's bancassurance team as she saw that Hong Kong's insurance business offered many opportunities to develop her career.

Ms Yang studied social services at university. In 2000 a friend who was already in the bancassurance team suggested she join the team. "I wanted a job where I could see many different people," says Ms Yang. "Also, Prudential offers an attractive package and the relationship between Standard Chartered Bank and Prudential guarantees a wealth of referrals."

Every day is different for Ms Yang, who now works in one of the bank's branches. She may start the day by giving a five-minute briefing to the branch team on bancassurance updates, and then offers customers professional financial advice which includes policy updates for existing clients and tailored financial solutions to new customers.

She also trains her bank colleagues to enhance their cross-selling skills so as to generate more referral opportunities. Ms Yang and other Prudential colleagues who also work at the branch join in weekly branch meetings which facilitate idea exchange on improving bancassurance sales. She also finds time to visit Prudential's head office for team meetings.

Reflecting on her job after eight years as a Prudential bancassurance advisor, Ms Yang says, "I like it. I get great job satisfaction as well as recognition from the company."

In 2005, Prudential also gave Ms Yang the opportunity for territory-wide recognition, entering her in the Hong Kong Management Association's Distinguished Salesperson Award Programme. She won the award, and found it a great experience. Ms Yang also finds it rewarding to help her clients obtain access to the best insurance and financial planning service advice, especially over the long term.

Key attributes

  • Commitment to customer service
  • Strong people skills
  • Discipline to undergo rigorous training
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Career ownership

Taken from Career Times 04 July 2008, p. A2
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