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Sector seeks savvy sellers and influencers

Published on Sunday, 22 Sep 2013
Marc Burrage
Arlene Stokes

Amid rising affluence and a greying population, Hong Kong’s insurance industry is enjoying steady growth – a fact which is being reflected in the job market.

Arlene Stokes, head of people for Asia and emerging markets (AEM) at Standard Life, says that AEM is a key focus for the company’s business growth. “Over the past 18 months, we have invested significant resources in the region. We launched two branches in Singapore and Dubai in October and November 2012, respectively, and continue to build our business in Hong Kong,” she says.

At the beginning of this year, Standard Life made a strategic decision to create a hub for its AEM business in Hong Kong. “Bringing our AEM leadership team to Asia is a strategic next step in enhancing and streamlining our local business, product proposition, and bringing more of our people closer to our local customers,” Stokes says.

This has led to the creation of around 40 jobs in the company’s AEM business across product services and development, sales and marketing, risk, and operations.

“Most of these jobs have been created in Hong Kong, but some are also in Singapore and Dubai,” Stokes says, adding that people with experience in digital marketing are in especially high demand.

Gail Elliot, people consultant for AEM at Standard Life, explains that many organisations are starting to become more aware of the need to ensure a positive customer experience across all customer “touch points”. “I believe that people with the skills and experience to create and drive a genuinely customer-focused agenda will be in demand,” she says.

It isn’t necessarily qualifications that make candidates stand out, but the skills and experience that they have developed throughout their career, Elliot says. “For example, we look for people with strong commercial awareness, who can work with and influence people regardless of their seniority, cultural background, functional expertise or geographical location.

“These people can hold themselves and others to account and want to be part of an organisation that is committed to putting the customer at the heart of everything we do,” she says.

 A clear career path is very important to people in Hong Kong, she adds. “Since we announced our plans to create a hub for our AEM business in Hong Kong, we’ve experienced a lot of interest in our new vacancies from candidates who are keen to get experience working across the region in order to develop the skills required for regional leadership roles in the future,” she says.

“We believe that it’s important to develop our future leaders early on in their careers. For example, we have recently launched a graduate scheme for our AEM business and are currently recruiting for the first intake of graduates.”

Salaries in the insurance industry depend on a variety of factors, such as the sector, role, and the skills and experience a candidate brings to the table.

“It’s always tempting for candidates to move to another organisation to secure incremental salary increases, but my advice is always to play the long game,” Elliot says.

“It’s important to have your long-term career aspirations in mind and to seek out roles that help you build the skills you will need for the future. I also encourage people to think, not just in terms of base salary being offered, but of the overall benefits package and opportunities for development and career progression.”

Marc Burrage, regional director of Hays in Hong Kong, notes that many candidates, especially those in the buoyant insurance industry, are still predominantly motivated by money when deciding to change jobs. This could, however, backfire in the long run.

“Employers who recognise candidates may be moving between companies in order to increase their salary are now being very careful with the candidates they select and are not giving in to unrealistic salary expectations,” he says. “They would rather spend more time looking for someone stable, regardless of how urgently they need to fill a position.”

More and more candidates are keen to work for multinational companies and will consider new opportunities within this space. “There are also a growing number of overseas and China-based candidates, particularly in the insurance market,” Burrage says. 

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