AXA covers itself with quality hires
As the complexity of investment decisions grows and Hong Kong becomes a maturing insurance market, the need for insurance consultants and financial planners who are well-trained and knowledgeable is on the rise.
“These days, the financial cycle is two to three years. Products have also become very sophisticated and hard to understand. Life expectancy is longer and the ageing population needs help with medical costs. The MPF [Mandatory Provident Fund] may not be enough to support retirees’ lifestyles, so professional help is needed for peoples’ finances,” says Alger Fung, chief proprietary distribution officer at AXA Hong Kong.
To keep abreast of these developments, AXA uses a two-pronged strategy. It organises regular recruitment while offering a systematic and synchronised training programme for its employees at its bright and spacious AXA Academy, which opened last year.
“We want to increase our team size from about 4,000 to 4,500. However, the numbers are not important – the quality is. We have high selection criteria as the industry is quite sophisticated,” Fung says. “People rely on us to help them achieve their dreams, so we are serious about selection and training.”
AXA holds an in-house recruitment seminar one evening a month for up to 300 people. Another is held each quarter in a hotel that is usually attended by 600 to 700 people.
To attract more young people to its new AXA Associate programme, created for university graduates aged 22 to 25, AXA hosts a career expo at AXA Academy once a month, which it started in April. The expo, which features an exhibition divided into six themed zones, including enquiry booths, provides attendees with hands-on career information. “In targeting the younger generation we wanted to create a more relaxed and interactive environment,” says Fung.
The exhibition displays an introduction to the history of insurance and of AXA, as well as pictures of successful employees that include brothers and sisters, a four-member family who are all AXA financial planners, and consultants who joined with a variety of work experience. “With fun interactive elements, visitors can walk through the journey of financial planning,” says Fung.
There is also a personality test with 100 questions that can reveal a person’s strengths and weaknesses in just five minutes. Fung emphasises, however, that it is not to eliminate candidates: “No matter what your strengths, we can find a place for you.”
Recruiters also have time to chat and explain what working at AXA is all about, and find out whether applicants are happy in their present jobs and what their aspirations are.
The next career expo will be held at AXA Academy on August 11 and 12.
The academy has, on average, four training courses a day, attended by about 50 people each. Bigger classes take place when required, such as seminars on market outlook.
There are compulsory courses for new consultants who need to learn about compliance and pass a basic qualifying exam before starting work. These consultants go on to attend a 12-month training series upon starting.
“We want to build habits such as self-discipline and being punctual, and to have a culture of sharing. We teach telephone skills on collective ‘telephone nights’ to make learning more fun, and participants get support and comfort from each other,” Fung says.
This is followed by “experienced consultant training” and “manager training”, the latter of which includes leadership training and preparing consultants for management roles.
AXA associates tend to be well-educated and learn fast. They prefer group exercises and working on projects to finding solutions by themselves.
“We talk about news in Hong Kong and around the world so that they will have topics to talk about with clients and create better relationships. We have wine tastings, golf days and barbecues. We want associates to learn how to network, to have a feeling of belonging and to develop social skills,” Fung says.
Associates will also participate in practical training, such as activity management, to learn to be productive and to deal with emotional or difficult people.
“The training budget is huge, but it is a good investment. We want to define industry standards,” Fung says.