United front points to new opportunity
A global Preferred Strategic Partnership (PSP) between HSBC Insurance Brokers (HIBL) and Marsh, a leading insurance broker and risk adviser, is expected to provide career opportunities within both firms' Hong Kong and mainland operations.
According to Paul Wilkins, Marsh's chief executive for Greater China, the region provides strong growth potential and career opportunities across a diverse range of skills. However, like many multinationals, Marsh is facing a shortage of professionals.
"Acquiring talent, training talent and retaining talent are always in the top two or three business issues. There is no magic solution. A talent shortage is something we have to live with and adapt our business model to fit by taking a realistic look at where we are going to recruit people from," Wilkins says. The insurance area Marsh covers is diverse and requires a workforce with a diverse skills set.
Unlike an insurance agency, an insurance brokerage is a licensed, professional intermediary which represents the interests of clients, both consumers and businesses,in the purchase of insurance and risk products. Essentially, a broker provides risk management advice, designs insurance policies, places insurances and provides claims administration on behalf of the client.
To help overcome the talent shortage, Marsh's parent company, Marsh & McLennan, has allocated extra funding for training through a China People Development Programme. On a per capita basis, Marsh now spends more on staff training on the mainland than any other jurisdiction. "We provide extensive training and also give people the opportunity to move around within China and Asia," Wilkins says.
He adds the firm will look to recruit people from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Since 2004, the mainland has been gradually lowering the entry threshold for foreign insurance brokers as the country adheres to commitments it made to open the domestic industry when it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001.
Ranked as the number one international broker on the mainland by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, from an operational, cultural and geographic standpoint, HIBL's activities dovetail excellently with Marsh's own suite of insurance and business services, Wilkins says.
Under the terms of the PSP, Marsh will have preferred access to provide insurance broking and risk management services to HSBC's corporate and private clients. The transaction, which is subject to all relevant regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the first quarter of this year.
Marsh was awarded the mainland's first Wholly-Owned Foreign Enterprise insurance broking licence in January 2007.
In addition to the 70 existing mainland HIBL staff, who provide a wide spectrum of services to clients, Marsh plans to build on its expertise to offer clients financial practice valuation, enterprise risk management, supply chain risk consulting, operatives insurance and product liability. Marsh believes the areas where both have big positions are the same areas identified for growth.