Career Path

The power of positive thinking

by Wattie Lo

Financial Consultant - Insurance
Janet LuiSenior Executive Financial Manager
AXA China Region Insurance Co. Ltd

Last year, Janet Lui started from scratch as a financial consultant. Her sales performance was remarkable, and she quickly bypassed the step-by-step procedures for promotion. Six months later she was directly promoted to Financial Manager at AXA China Region Insurance Co. Ltd, a mid-ranking position in the divisional ladder.

She then received a further promotion to Senior Executive Financial Manager, the most senior financial consulting position, earlier this year.

She says that "the professionalism of a growing number of consultants and a well-balanced remuneration package" are the underlying reasons why she joined the AXA Advisers division over a year ago, a unit that attracts clients mainly through strategic alliances.

Professional and positive

"Everyone working at AXA Advisors is truly an employee," Ms Lui stresses. "Not only do we receive a fixed salary, but also we enjoy the same kinds of fringe benefits as any employee typically does, [including] medical allowances, an MPF scheme, paid leave, and so forth. Yet, at the same time, all of us are still on commission, which enables us to earn extra income if we can meet or exceed the given sales targets."

"In the life insurance business, you'll be doomed to failure if you shy away from challenges. However, if you always think positively, you may eventually succeed"

According to Ms Lui, today's salaried insurance agents are highly educated: 95 per cent of the division's consultants are degree holders. Although a university degree is currently not a prerequisite for entering the profession, it will set the trend for entry requirements in the near future, she asserts.

Now, that to become fully qualified for an insurance certificate every consultant must pass a series of examinations, professionalism has become increasingly important; at the same time, insurance and financial products have also grown drastically in variety. "Good knowledge of investment-linked products is a must for insurance consultants today," she says.

Thus, the company puts strong emphasis on on-going training and development. A comprehensive training programme is provided prior to and upon commencement of the employment in order to keep the employees' knowledge constantly up-to-date and in line with customers' expectations."

While training and education are essential, a positive attitude plays a big part in winning the business. "This is a common challenge not only special to us. People in other professions also face this problem," she says. "In the life insurance business, you'll be doomed to failure if you shy away from challenges. However, if you always think positively, you may eventually succeed."

Comprehensive financial planning

To promote the company's products, the division enters into alliances with other firms.

In this way, it can expand its client base through leveraging on its strategic partners' existing networks. Drawing on these resources arrangements can be made for meeting up with prospective clients, but only upon the clients' consent.

The strategy is actually quite similar to "bancassurance", an emerging trend in product distribution, whereby insurers form alliances with banks to sell insurance products to bank clients, according to Ms. Lui. "The only difference is we go into partnership with firms other than banks, while the deals are still done through our own consultants," she explains.

The industry is changing at a pace never before seen, and so is the profession. The current pace of change means that consultants no longer can simply confine their work to the field of risk management. Rather, they must learn to break with tradition, and look out constantly for opportunities. "One way to go about this is to be an all-round financial planner," says Ms Lui. "As it implies, financial planning helps clients plan ahead. It touches on everything from insurance to investment, retirement, savings, and estate planning and can arguably extend for as long as a lifetime."

The move towards financial planning is a sure sign that insurance consultants are becoming more professional and knowledgeable about their products. While traditional agents still have an important role to play, the current trend is "different clients look for different channels to satisfy their different needs," says Ms Lui.

China Opportunities

In insurance, presently there are many legal & regulatory constraints with regards to doing business in China but Hong Kong talent can find employment with Hong Kong insurance companies specially authorised to set up business there.
Generally speaking, Hong Kong job seekers need to consider many issues when they move to China. Of particular importance is the ability to communicate with the locals. "Without adequate language skills in Putonghua, it's difficult to conduct any business there," Ms Lui says.
"As the concept of insurance now has penetrated deep into the everyday life of businesses and people, job opportunities will certainly be on the rise in the upcoming years... But despite these opportunities, the most important thing still heavily rests upon an individual's hardiness and ability to quickly grasp context if he is ultimately to survive and succeed in Greater China."

Figures provided by
Centaline Julie's Personnel Consultants Limited.
* No top for earnings of commissions and incentives based on performance

Taken from Career Times 08 November 2002, p. 28
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