Test has aim of raising standards

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 October, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 October, 1999, 12:00am

The Government hopes to boost standards in the insurance industry by requiring agents and intermediaries to pass a qualifying examination.

About 37,000 insurance agents and intermediaries already in the industry would be required to sit the test in the next two years under the Insurance Intermediaries Quality Assurance Scheme, Commissioner of Insurance Alan Wong Chi-kong said.

The entry requirements for agents, who are in effect salesmen, and intermediaries, or brokers, were too lax, Mr Wong said.

The examination was 'aimed as deterring people who are not serious in developing the [insurance] profession from entering into the industry,' Mr Wong said.

The Commission of Insurance predicted a 70 per cent pass rate for the test.

That would mean about 11,000 agents and intermediaries would fail the test and lose their jobs, as they would not be re-registered.

However, consumers would be better-protected once the test was implemented, Mr Wong said.

'There is a need to assure the public of the quality of [insurance-industry workers], both in terms of their knowledge and the standard of service they provide,' he said.

'This is in line with international practices, as insurance intermediaries in many parts of the world are required to pass qualifying examination before they can be licensed.' Under the scheme, all new agents and intermediaries starting on January 2 will need to pass an entry examination before being registered.

Brokers already serving in the industry will have a two-year grace period to comply with the new requirements and pass the test.

According to the Insurance Commission, the SAR has about 50,000 agents and intermediaries.

Even senior staff such as insurance company chief executives and technical representatives will be required to sit the exam.

But about 13,000 insurance workers will be exempted from the taking the exam, among them those who are already qualified and those who have five years of insurance experience in Hong Kong.

The first exam is slated for October 25, and it will be held weekly thereafter.