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Insurers on recruitment drive

Published on Friday, 20 Nov 2009
Recession-hit consumers have moved from investment-linked products to traditional protection and savings schemes.
Photo: May Tse
Andrea Wong
Darryl Pidcock

In a clear sign of confidence that the local insurance market will see substantial growth next year, AXA Hong Kong is planning to hire a significant number of financial consultants and new recruits for its corporate office.

"Hong Kong people are more conscious of the need for long-term investment and protecting their health," said Andrea Wong, chief marketing officer of AXA Hong Kong. "We have seen a shift towards traditional protection and saving products. However, we also expect a rebound in investment-linked business as the economy recovers."

The insurer is aiming to hire 2,000 financial consultants in the next 12 months while also bolstering its back-office team. Recruits can expect to enter a training programme in which they acquire professional knowledge and leadership and interpersonal skills in courses stretching over 48 months.

These emphasise core corporate attitudes, such as attentiveness and reliability, and provide all the knowledge and practical skills to offer the level of professional advice and service required by clients.

"We believe that our consultants are an invaluable asset," Wong said. "Apart from the internal training, we also encourage them to attend external workshops, examinations and industry competitions to sharpen their skills."

She said career progression was closely linked to performance measures. Consultants who prove their worth will be able to move quickly into management roles and then up to director level. Regular courses are available to enhance technical knowledge, build new proficiencies and refine soft skills.

"We have a tiered approach designed to develop and enhance leadership skills at different levels," Wong said.

To groom senior executives, the company has run the AXA University in Paris for the past 20 years. An Asian campus was opened in Singapore in April this year and offers tailor-made training for middle and senior managers from around the region.

AXA also has an employee assistance programme providing confidential counselling by professionals.

"The programme is designed to help colleagues resolve issues such as work-related, health, mental, marital or financial problems," Wong said.

She said there was plenty of opportunity for growth even though the local insurance market remained competitive as the overall penetration rate was relatively low.

"We believe that developing a strong and professional team will help achieve our ambition of becoming the preferred company in the industry by 2012," Wong said.

Global reinsurance company Swiss Re is looking to attract young people with international aspirations and an interest in joining the interdisciplinary graduate@swissre programme. "Our business is highly diversified, sophisticated and globalised," said Darryl Pidcock, head of client management for Hong Kong at Swiss Re. "A very strong pool of talent is critical to our continuing business success."

He said the priority was to identify graduates with a strong academic performance, international experience and excellent communication skills. They may be recent college leavers or young people with less than three years' work experience. Candidates with degrees in disciplines such as actuarial science, business administration, economics, engineering, finance, law, mathematics and risk management have an advantage.

Swiss Re needs business development analysts for client markets, actuarial trainees, casualty treaty underwriters and contract assistants. The latter position entails addressing and correcting ambiguous or disadvantageous language used in drafting contracts.

It is important to have strong analytical and quantitative skills and to be able to master complex challenges. Interview panels will look for clear evidence of leadership qualities and co-operation.

"Good team players who relate well to people from different backgrounds and cultures would be the ideal applicants," Pidcock said. Recruits will gain exposure to markets in Asia and around the world. They have to complete an 18-month intensive training programme combining modules on general business education with essential practical experience. The well-rounded curriculum aims to develop analytical, communication and leadership skills that tie in with the company's principles.

On-the-job training includes projects and job rotations.

Operating in more than 20 countries and with about 1,000 employees in the Asia-Pacific, Swiss Re works with major local insurance companies. It enables those primary insurers to spread financial risks.

"Reinsurance has significant economic benefits," Pidcock said. "By providing capital relief, it makes insurance protection less costly and allows coverage to be extended to more risk. This in turn promotes economic development."

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