Multinational insurance giant Zurich regards a competent army of customer-oriented professionals as key to its business development.
"Financial planning is a service industry with little tangible assets. It is the people with their professional skills that promote the financial protection products, which are, again, abstract concepts," says Felix Wong, deputy head of channel, Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong).
"As an industry insider for many years, I believe educating the public on the importance of good financial planning is our priority," Mr Wong observes.
He adds that the recent minibond incidents and market fluctuations have made the general public more aware of the need for professional financial advisory services.
Recognising the need for teamwork, methodical training and operational support to help its financial advisors accomplish their daily tasks, Zurich launched a pioneering business model Zurich Advice three years ago.
The model draws best practices and expertise from the financial planning sector and shares these systematically with financial advisors within the channel.
This differs from traditional models where individuals typically worked on their own, with little supervision or help from peers and limited training from the company.
"Zurich Advice allows us to concentrate on the key aspects of our job which are to help clients better understand their financial situation and establish goals for the different stages of their lives. Our primary role is to provide our customers with goal-based financial solutions," Mr Wong emphasises.
"We have a well-structured cross-checking system that enables effective knowledge sharing between advisors, coaches and mentors. In addition, experienced mentors look at and discuss every customer case. By doing this, we learn how to tailor professional financial advice to our clients' needs," adds Kitty Au, risk and financial chief advisor, Zurich Advice.
Besides this, Zurich is committed to developing its staff and offers financial advisors abundant opportunities for learning.
Teamwork is also reflected in the holistic compensation scheme. Profits are shared among team members, based on a range of parameters, including overall business performance and achievements.
Financial advisors of Zurich Advice enjoy the advantages of the highly confidential centralised database system that administrates compiling, retrieving, updating and processing client information securely and efficiently. As a result, team members are able to focus on serving their clients.
"Zurich's advanced customer-detail organising systems release the burden on our advisors and give us the time to remain active in the business," Ms Au notes.
To attract potential clients, the company provides valuable support for its financial advisors in the form of a business strategy team that helps to expand Zurich's client base by running promotional events such as investment seminars.
"Before Zurich Advice was implemented, financial advisors spent a lot of time cold calling under the traditional model. Now, with the backing of the company's many resources, we are able to break boundaries and move up a level," notes Mr Wong.
Zurich has attracted and retained many star advisers who are nurtured and placed on the Zurich Advice fast track, which is available to talented professionals with the right personality, attitude and values that tie in with those of the company.
"When it comes to people, we are looking for quality rather than quantity. Our aim is to groom financial advisors who share our vision, namely satisfying the long-term needs of our customers. It is our people that have built up the Zurich brand over time," Mr Wong stresses.
"We are proud to work together as the Zurich team. When Zurich Advice was proposed in 2002, it was a groundbreaking idea and, over the years, our foresight to implement it has proven a wise move."