The government's decision to implement the Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme nine years ago as a means to provide Hong Kong citizens with retirement protection has given a strong boost to the retirement investment market.
According to the statistics provided by the Information Services Department, the net asset value of approved constituent funds of MPF schemes reached HK$223.77 billion by the end of September 2008. Despite an ageing population, the city's pension market will continue to grow because the size of the working population has not shrunk. This momentum is creating new challenges and opportunities for service providers in the retirement fund industry.
Ka-shi Lau, managing director and CEO of Bank Consortium Trust Company Limited (BCT), one of the major MPF service providers in Hong Kong, is optimistic about the prospects of both the company and the industry.
"The current financial crisis has not had a major impact on our business. The pension and trust industry is a growing business and there is room for exploring future opportunities," Ms Lau says.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has always been part and parcel of BCT's core values and, over the years, the company has rolled out various CSR campaigns to help the community and the needy.
In the same spirit, BCT recently participated in the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce's graduate trainee programme. "Our objective is to provide job opportunities for young talent in trying times like this," Ms Lau notes. "Our business is growing and we need quality people to help us scale new heights and raise financial literacy in the community. As a caring company, we want to tell the public — especially the younger generation — there are ample opportunities for them but they must work hard."
BCT's recruitment programme is not limited to university graduates. People who have secondary school qualifications are also welcome to apply, as long as they possess the right attitude and aptitude.
"It is more important to match the job with the right person than to focus on fulfilling certain academic requirements," Ms Lau emphasises. "We now have job openings in customer services and administration and we are now looking for young people who are mature, responsible, honest and have a strong drive to succeed."
According to Ms Lau, BCT attaches great importance to a candidate's performance at job interviews. She says, "Interviewers take into consideration the way candidates respond to questions, especially challenging ones, and candidates should equipped themselves with a basic understanding of the development of the industry and the company they are interviewing with." She also advises young people to embrace a positive attitude and, more importantly, show the prospective employers a passion for learning.
In a move to prepare young aspirants for a good start, the company provides new recruits with an orientation programme while mentors offer them guidance to help them better understand the company's culture, products and services.
Besides on-the-job training, different programmes are arranged for newcomers so that they can meet stringent company and industry standards.
Over the long term, BCT is committed to helping colleagues to realise their potential. The company provides various avenues for career progression laterally and vertically.
Ms Lau remarks, "We conduct performance appraisals with our people to understand their development needs and expectations. Our goal is to facilitate growth by helping them to maximise their potential."
As a responsible employer, BCT not only focuses on drumming up business but also goes the extra mile to strengthen employee engagement and promote work-life balance. A CSR Committee was set up in 2003 to set direction and arrange events covering areas such as youth, elderly, environmental protection, philanthropy and employee-friendly measures. Earlier this year, the company was accredited with the "Caring Company" title for the sixth consecutive year.
Among various employee-friendly initiatives, BCT participated in the first community-wide work-life balance day organised by Community Business last year with a view to promoting a healthy and balanced lifestyle among colleagues. The company was among the first in the industry to introduce a five-day work week and provide paternity leave.
BCT also kicked off an employee caring programme to provide a professional counselling and consultation service for colleagues who are under pressure from work and daily life. Colleagues and their family members can contact counsellors at an anonymous 24-hour hotline. "Our colleagues are our most valued assets. Their well-being is intrinsically linked to that of the company," Ms Lau stresses.