Almost imperceptibly, Hong Kong is becoming an aged society, and demographics show that the situation is gradually increasing as this so-called "silver society" takes up a growing proportion of the community. As a result, the forward-looking ones prepare for life after retirement so that during their "twilight years" they will continue to live in comfort and security.
The government took a prudent step forward in December 2000 with the introduction of the mandatory provident fund (MPF) scheme, which ensures that all members of the workforce put a part of their income aside for the future, with the added bonus that the employer matches each contribution. Also, the advent of MPF highlighted the need for financial planning and wealth management not only for the over-40s and 50s, but for the whole of Hong Kong society.
This is confirmed by Johnson Wong, MPF specialist and head of financial planning, AXA China Region Insurance Company Ltd. "In our 2007 AXA Retirement scope survey we found that more than 70 per cent of employees regard the MPF as a sort of guarantee against the time when they go into retirement," Mr Wong says.
AXA was one of the pioneers in introducing financial planning or wealth management into the insurance industry and has maintained its strong position in the field as this sector has recorded vigorous growth in recent years. The company acquired MLC and Winterthur last year and has now become one of the leaders in the market.
"In the past six years the industry has grown rapidly, with a commensurate rise in employees' need for financial planning services," says Mr Wong. "MPF's accumulated benefits have reached a staggering amount of HK$211 billion in the first quarter of 2007 (source: MPFA), and that money must be invested wisely to ensure that the employees' nest-egg will continue to grow."
AXA's financial planning team is now focusing on the 240,000-plus SME corporate potential clients, helping them to review their existing MPF schemes and various aspects including performance, risk comparison and quality of service support of their current service providers, and serve them better with AXA's unique business model and its Elite MPF schemes via multi-manager strategy.
Among the sea of choices of products and fund managers, choosing the correct ones can be a tough decision since no one manager can be perfect in all fields. AXA's multi-manager strategy is to "pool the best of the best" from the various reputable fund houses, sparing clients the headache of deciding which ones to go with — but with the emphasis on safer long-term investments. This is one of the reasons AXA was given the award of the MPF Master Trust of the year in 2006 by AsianInvestor magazine.
In line with the company's expansion plan to meet the increasing demand in the retirement market, AXA is currently looking for financial planning managers (MPF specialists) who possess at least three to five years' experience and an outstanding track record in corporate sales. Those able to provide expert advice on MPF would be even stronger candidates.
"As prerequisites, applicants should possess licenses of MPF, SFC (Type1 and 4) and IC," says Mr Wong. Other advantages would be three to five years' corporate sale experience, while being a certified financial planner (CFP) or certified financial analyst (CFA) is preferable though not necessary. "They must also have a good attitude, mature character and be result-orientated," adds Mr Wong. "We treasure talent and has many opportunities to the right persons along the corporate ladder. Those achieve high can expect non-cap remunerate packages with guaranteed salaries."
Lifelong learning is the company's philosophy. Besides a comprehensive three-week training programme on MPF, retirement products and corporate sales skills, staff are given ongoing training to upgrade their professional skills and so increase their career prospects. For example, new recruits are offered specific corporate sales approach training which will help them consolidate their previous work experience and reapply skills and knowledge into the new roles at AXA. "We also conduct quarterly reviews to track their progress and send staff for relevant training provided by external institutions," says Mr Wong. For high-potential staff with excellent performance, a series of management training programmes is also on offer to empower their career progression.