With Hong Kong's unemployment rate continuing to grow and many employees disgruntled by pay cuts and enforced unpaid leave, one forward-looking insurance company aspires to double its financial planning team, offering new recruits attractive financial benefits and promising career advancement opportunities.
MassMutual Asia, the Asian flagship of the US-based MassMutual Financial Group, delivers one-stop risk and wealth management consulting services, as well as a wide array of financial products, through its 1,900-strong professional financial consultant team.
In an effort to gauge the effect of the global financial crisis on Hong Kong employees' career aspirations, the company conducted a survey involving 1,934 employees in the first quarter of this year. The findings revealed that more than 65 per cent of respondents believed that the economic climate would affect their career prospects. About 70 per cent were dissatisfied with their slow pace of income growth and a lack of opportunities for promotion.
The survey also showed that employees saw opportunities for promotion, income growth and job satisfaction as the three most important factors in their careers.
"There are currently about 150,000 people in Hong Kong actively looking to change jobs. We see this drift in employment sentiment as an opportunity to consolidate and strengthen our talent pool," says Jeanne Sau, senior vice president, marketing support, MassMutual Asia Ltd. "Given the volatile economic climate and the stagnant employment market, we believe financial planning is a good career alternative for motivated individuals looking for better prospects in terms of both income and career development."
One key advantage of choosing financial planning as a career is that income levels are directly linked to the effort put in. "Based on in-house statistics, one in four of our managers earns more than HK$1 million annually, while one in three of our consultants earns more than HK$300,000 a year," Ms Sau points out.
"Our financial planning consultants essentially run their own businesses, with complete control over their income and career," says Manly Cheng, senior vice president, agency development — Hong Kong; and president — Macau.
Taking advantage of current economic adversities and unemployment levels, the company has drawn up an aggressive recruitment plan, aiming to employ about 1,000 additional financial planners by the end of the year.
"We received more than 500 job applications in the first five months of this year alone. More than 270 of the candidates were registered agents who had already passed the Insurance Intermediaries Qualifying Examination," Mr Cheng says.
Aside from the increasing number of new graduates applying for jobs, the company has also found applicants in general to be younger than in the past. Up to 40 per cent of new recruits are under 30, with 25 per cent between 30 and 40.
"This shows that the younger generation is now widely accepting of financial planning as a career. From our point of view, younger recruits have a rejuvenating effect on the team," Mr Cheng remarks.
While other industry players are using attractive financial incentives to lure experienced banking professionals, MassMutual Asia takes a different approach.
"We believe monetary rewards are short-term measures to attract people looking for quick returns," Mr Cheng emphasises. "About 30 per cent of our new recruits have no relevant work experience. We believe integrity and the right attitude are more important, and we aim to provide the right candidates with opportunities to grow in the field."
MassMutual Asia provides new recruits with comprehensive training. The company also prides itself on its sophisticated service platform and a diverse range of life insurance products, retirement plans and investment services.
Candidates applying for financial planning positions with MassMutual Asia should have at least a Form Five education and be 21 years old or above. The company prefers candidates with strong entrepreneurial qualities and outstanding interpersonal and networking skills. Applicants should also be keen to learn and work hard, and be outgoing and diligent.
"New recruits undergo 40 hours of annual training. They are also assigned managers who act as mentors to provide daily coaching and hone their interpersonal skills and professional knowledge," says Mr Cheng.
He notes that the company has an effective people management infrastructure, supported by a transparent and objective promotion mechanism based mainly on sales performance. "Outstanding performers can be fast-tracked to chief general manager within six to seven years," he adds.
In contrast to typical industry practice to centralise recruitment and distribute new recruits to different teams, MassMutual Asia prefers team-based recruitment activities. To help aspiring individuals to confirm their career goals, the company has invited a number of renowned personal coaches and professional development consultants to host seminars as part of its recruitment drive.