Money Moves

Recruiter keen as mustard

by Grace Chan

Roger Steel
chief executive officer
Sun Life Hong Kong Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Strategically structured people management infrastructure feeds the talent pipeline

With the number of savvy investors growing, one life insurance company plans to recruit 300 financial consultants to capitalise on market buoyancy.

"Talent acquisition is a key item in our six-month plan," says Roger Steel, chief executive officer, Sun Life Hong Kong Limited. "The time is ripe for young graduates to tap into the profession as people remain generally uncertain on how to invest for a reasonable return, creating demand for financial advice."

Established in 1892, Sun Life Hong Kong's all-encompassing protection and wealth management platform offers a wide range of insurance, investment and pension products and services.

"Our heritage is a business advantage but we are keen to boost business growth through new partnerships with banks and expanding our MPF (mandatory provident fund) market," says Mr Steel, noting that the company's Rainbow MPF Scheme was ranked sixth in terms of investment performance in the second quarter of this year.

He believes in the company's edge to ride on growth opportunities brought by its proven track record of financial strength ratings, capital ratios and risk management practices: "The global financial crisis has confirmed that financial security is key to business sustainability. It is therefore of paramount importance for us to continuously operate in a financially prudent way."

Thorough understanding

With a view to providing today's increasingly sophisticated customers with lifetime financial security, the company implements a comprehensive financial needs analysis and risk profile questionnaire which help its financial consultants to identify their customer's financial needs and risk tolerance level.

Since financial and protection needs may vary at different life stages, financial consultants regularly review and adjust the investment portfolios with their customers in order to meet their evolving needs.

Consultants are supported by the company's in-house specialists and have access to up-to-date market data as well as investment strategies and market outlooks from different fund partners.

Currently, Sun Life Hong Kong employs about 1,200 financial consultants.
The company looks for people with good interpersonal and communication skills along with strong numerical and economic sense. "A consultant's role entails meeting people from an array of backgrounds and requires dedication to understand customers' financial needs," Mr Steel adds. "An entrepreneurial mindset and integrity are essential for professional advancement."

He remarks that university graduates with a qualification in commerce or economics are well suited to the job but school leavers with the right attitude are also welcome to sign on and work their way up the corporate ladder.

Extensive support

As a result of the recent financial upheaval, the wealth management sector has now stepped up compliance and internal controls. To this end, Sun Life has in place a stringent system for selection and assessment of potential candidates including document checking and an aptitude test.

Once recruited, all financial consultants take part in a mandatory training programme that covers everything from product knowledge and skills, to regulations, licensing and financial needs analysis, in addition to sales development. They are required to pass internal examinations on product knowledge and compliance before engaging in their own business.

"To help new recruits get started, we immerse them in an intensive induction training programme," says Mr Steel. "Senior consultants act as mentors and coaches to help groom and motivate them."

The company also invests considerable resources to continuous training and career development, ensuring particularly that its financial consultants follow compliance guidelines and regulations.

Aside from this, Sun Life has also forged a partnership with the Chinese University of Hong Kong since 2003, offering its consultants a dedicated platform to obtain a diploma in executive financial planning. Upon completion of the programme, consultants may move on to study for a master's degree in international business administration (IMBA) conferred by New Zealand's University of Wellington.

"A total of 741 of our financial consultants have graduated with the diploma already," says Mr Steel, adding that the company supports its financial consultants with subsidies for continuous learning and professional qualifications.

Career prospects are essential to talent retention. Financial consultants at Sun Life are given two career paths, either advancing up the ladder in sales development or moving into management while building up their own teams. "Financial consultants are our business partners and they are free to choose their own path and do so at their own pace," Mr Steel says.

Key drivers

  • Volatile financial market creates opportunities
  • Plans to hire 300 new financial consultants
  • Considerable resources dedicated to continuous training
  • Dual professional development paths fulfil different career goals

Taken from Career Times 8 October 2010, A7

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