Money Moves

Promoting staff attributes and strengths

by Isabella Lee

Sharing the bigger picture with staff sets insurance giant light years ahead

Miranda Wong, head of Zurich Advice
Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Nolly Leung

Fostering trusting relationships with customers is not only a priority but also a goal of fundamental importance for any company in the financial planning world. "Customers disclose a wealth of personal information and in so doing bestow a great deal of trust on their insurance agents," says Miranda Wong, head of Zurich Advice, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong). In this regard, Zurich Advice is one step ahead and has revamped its business model to establish a novel practice that not only enhances overall customer service, but also creates a more harmonious working environment for staff by encouraging feedback and accountability.

"We have developed a systematic mechanism to retain and retrieve customer data in a move to facilitate more effective customer communication," Ms Wong explains.

Informed guidance

At Zurich Advice, the primary mission of financial advisors is to provide specific advice to clients catering to their individual needs. To achieve this, a unique "fact-find-form" mechanism is in place to collate customer information comprising both numerical data and soft facts.

"It is crucial advisors understand customer goals at different stages in their lives. For example, parents may set targets for their children regarding university funding," Ms Wong explains. "By talking through these soft details, our team members are able to take the next step armed with the necessary facts to offer the best advice to customers."

In essence, all the details carried on the "fact-find-form" are recorded in the company's centralised database system, which is easily retrieved and instantaneously updatable when necessary. If an advisor changes position or company, Zurich ensures a seamless transition for the customer by assigning another team member to that client. Soft facts are then immediately available to the new advisor so customers are not faced with the frustrating task of repeating long discussions with a new advisor.

The fresh eyes of the new advisor then analyse the goals and financial status of the client then review the current products and services held. If financially worthwhile, a comprehensive solution plan is tailored, listing all the expectations, shortfalls and ways to accomplish the goals.

"It is our role to present a clear picture to customers before introducing the financial products they require to complement their changing lifestyle choices," Ms Wong points out. "If the customer accepts our recommendations, we then further explain product features to articulate exactly what clients are buying and why."

Cooperative consequences

To foster harmony in the workplace, Zurich has devised an unconventional sales channel, which bolsters a talent management system built on the concept of long-term partnerships. Zurich Advice business associates are encouraged to attain an aligned goal for the entire team —a sustainable business cycle as a result of excellent services through teamwork and cooperation. In return, they are offered a wealth of professional exposure, career development and opportunities to adopt best practices from other team members.

"For training purposes, managers embrace different roles in our Development Centre, Growth Centre or Achiever Centre. All three establishments were designed to reinforce different levels of talent development, in accordance with staff attributes and strengths," Ms Wong details. "For example, senior staff support newcomers at the Development Centre, while team leaders offer their expertise at the Achiever Centre."

Additionally, in a 12-month Business Associate Programme (BAP), coaches and mentors are assigned to guide trainees through their daily tasks, ensuring knowledge and skill sets benefit on the way. A variety of training sessions, such as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) courses, are also included rendering the BAP a comprehensive learning experience. Currently, university graduates with at least three years of sales experience are welcome applicants.

"The BAP provides a fast track for financial planning professionals who are ready to take their career to new heights," Ms Wong notes. "The most important feature these people share is their faith in financial planning as a business that assists people with their career aspirations."

With this in mind, the recruitment process focuses on promoting mutual understanding between the company and potential recruits. In the first interview, applicants are briefed on the Zurich background and Zurich Advice, the unique business model, while competence tests and CV checks are conducted.

Short listed candidates are then required to give a short presentation on an assigned topic, followed by an in-depth discussion with a panel of interviewers. "As a recruiter, I suggest candidates look carefully at other employers. They should only come back to us when they believe our business model works," Ms Wong notes.

"With such a strong belief in the profession, you can overcome all the challenges in your career path."

Assuring reliability

  • Soft-fact database ensures a clear client picture
  • Whole team rewarded for meeting aligned goals
  • Clear product explanations promote client trust and understanding

Taken from Career Times 18 July 2008, p. A2
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