Agency on hunt for the best analysts
With a growing portfolio, AM Best Asia-Pacific has grown from 18 staff members last year to 22 this year. Susanna Lam, the company's managing director, expects hiring to grow even faster in the near future, due to growth potential in several emerging markets.
'Asia is one of the growth areas. In the past, demand in Asia was not as high as it is now, as domestic players did not see the need for ratings. Now there is a very big growth potential,' Lam says, explaining that increased demand for insurance and reinsurance in the region, as well as the Southeast Asian insurance market opening up in 2015, provide strong demand for AM Best's ratings services.
AM Best is a global rating agency, issuing credit and financial ratings specialising in insurance companies. The Hong Kong office was set up in 1999, with three people, to serve Asia Pacific, in addition to the headquarters in New Jersey, and the ratings office in London.
The ratings serve a large customer base, from individuals who want to buy insurance from a stable insurer or to invest in shares, to companies interested in mergers and acquisitions, possibly buying into domestic companies in Asia Pacific.
'The balance sheet only shows you the strength of a company at one point in time. But ratings come with an outlook and we also incorporate country risk methodology in our rating analysis,' Lam says.
AM Best has grown its stable of analysts year after year and is now recruiting more associate financial analysts. With a mission of providing unbiased and reliable information, the company protects its transparency, credibility and integrity.
'We have a very clear firewall between the rating and non-rating sides,' Lam says. 'At the same time, candidates should be team players and want to be part of a successful team. They should be self-motivated and pro-active, using initiative to make things happen.'
Two to three years' experience, including extensive insurance experience, is preferred, plus an understanding of how insurance firms operate. Alternatively, applicants with a strong background with banking research units, accounting firms or in a position as an economist with a financial firm, are also welcome.
'The successful candidates will also have a good understanding of the regional and worldwide economies. Whatever happens, every minute can have an impact on an insurance company,' Lam says.
'No matter what level they come in at, fresh hires receive six months' structured training,' Lam says. This includes rating methodology, process and procedures, plus compliance to safeguard the company's credibility and integrity.
'The hires will also be required to sit an individual licensing examination for securities and futures intermediaries, because credit rating agents are now regulated by the SFC (Securities and Futures Commission),' explains Lam.