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Money Moves

Practice makes perfect

by Sophie Leung

On-the-job training nurtures financial clarity and charisma

Rex Wu, head of training and development services
Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Nolly Leung

It is no secret that the key to success lies in hard work and perseverance. Competence can be inborn, but training develops the capabilities of any professional. This is fundamentally important in a realm where mental agility and presentational finesse go hand in hand.

With this in mind, Rex Wu, head of training and development services, Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong), lauds the company's 12-month intensive Business Associate Programme (BAP). Mr Wu notes, "While the first four weeks of classroom sessions prepare trainees for the foundation stage, subsequent on-the-job training is crucial to consolidate their learning in the latter stages of the programme."

A fast-track course for people aspiring to reach an elevated level of financial advisory, the BAP is strategically divided into five learning stages. After completing the foundation stage, trainees become business associates who undergo on-the-job training and subsequently proceed to the application stage in the following months. In the seventh month trainees advance to the enrichment stage as they begin to naturally embrace Zurich's core values of customer focused service and lifelong client partnerships.

Mr Wu adds, "On-the-job training provides business associates with ample opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real life situations and acquire hands-on experience. They are then able to progress to the advancement stage and then finally on to the master stage."

Guides and leaders

Prior to becoming chief advisors who operate independently, business associates practise their skills in joint fieldwork sessions where they are called upon to explain the nuts and bolts of financial planning to clients. As Zurich prides itself on its customer-driven approach to financial planning, business associates are trained to encourage customers to identify their explicit and implicit financial needs through dialogue. In short, this type of training ensures associates are confident enough to present appropriate financial solutions to customers.

"Associates progress further through action as opposed to observation. What's more, Zurich's experienced coaches join these sessions offering invaluable feedback to associates based on their observations," Mr Wu says.

During such sessions, coaches may offer clients elaboration on the details of certain financial products if associates have yet to develop the ability to paint the complete picture, or if certain product licences are lacking. "Zurich is acutely aware of its commitment to ethics and compliance, and our training sessions are tailored accordingly. To this end, coaches also demonstrate the level of professionalism we advocate as an institution if associates so request it," Mr Wu remarks.

Zurich encourages knowledge and expertise sharing by cultivating an open platform and enabling the possibility of multiple mentors for associates. Mr Wu says, "BAP trainers impart classroom knowledge, managers monitor fieldwork progress and coaches offer suggestions for improvement. All of these key figures play a supporting role as associates navigate their career development path."

Mature and motivated

The BAP aims to recruit people with at least three years' experience in sales and only high-calibre and mature candidates are admitted to the programme. Mr Wu emphasises, "People who complete the BAP often become our business partners in three to five years. In this sense, today's BAP participants represent the future of Zurich."

To set BAP participants apart from their industry peers, Zurich has devised a model advisor development programme which focuses on building professional image, fostering a positive business mindset, encouraging life-long partnerships, and advocating ethics and best practice. Mr Wu reveals that the BAP is based on a "KASH" model, which stands for "knowledge", "attitude", "skill" and "habit". "Comprehensive training provides not only skills practice, but also helps fine-tune the model advisory mindset," he says.

Hands-on experience acquired throughout the programme is critical to associates' future success because knowledge learnt from experienced mentors in the real market cannot be underestimated. In Mr Wu's opinion, success also depends on factors such as the market environment, company policy and personal drive. He adds, "Training enhances individual capabilities and motivated participants can play this to their advantage by combining sophisticated techniques with their own acumen to create a winning formula."

The overarching goal of the BAP is to develop a team of high-achieving financial advisors at Zurich. However, the company welcomes programme graduates who are interested in taking up the challenge of other post-qualification positions like professional trainer or management. "The BAP strengthens participants' commitment to exceptional financial professionalism and offers brighter career prospects for the driven few," Mr Wu concludes.

Career springboard

  • On-the-job training offers hands-on experience and practice opportunities
  • Joint fieldwork with coaching support enables associates to learn in real market
  • Training ensures participants demonstrate model advisory traits as second nature


Taken from Career Times 26 September 2008, p. A4

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