Finance leader seeks planners
AIA offers a fast-track career path to recruits as it looks to expand its workforce rapidly
A LEADING insurance and financial services institution is betting on the growth of the long-term investments market in Hong Kong and is rapidly expanding its sales force.
American International Assurance Company (Bermuda) (AIA) wants to hire about 2,000 financial planners this year.
Last year, AIA recruited 1,000 financial planners who helped clients identify their financial needs, made recommendations on investments, and monitored and reviewed portfolios.
Derek Yung, vice-president and assistant general manager of AIA, said the company was able to offer a range of investment-linked products to individuals and groups.
The firm is a member of the American International Group (AIG) and its clients can invest either in AIG's funds or those of others.
Mr Yung said an aspiring financial planner should have a university degree and be at least 21 years old. Professional qualifications would be an advantage.
'The prerequisites for a financial planner are good interpersonal skills, a drive for excellence and entrepreneurship,' he said.
In addition, candidates should be self-disciplined and hard working.
People with experience have an advantage because of their business and social contacts.
AIA offers a 15-day training programme for the selected candidates, covering sales skills, product information, company procedures and ethical standards. This is followed by more training courses.
Those who perform well in the first year can be promoted to the position of assistant unit manager and given the task of recruiting and building a team of financial planners to work under them.
Mr Yung said this fast-track programme was unique as most companies did not offer similar promotions in the first two years.
A standard career path in the insurance and financial services firm leads from assistant unit manager to unit manager, branch manager and district director. Financial incentives include advance commissions, life and medical insurance and provident fund.
The company has a sales force of about 8,300, which includes 2,300 financial planners. Those hired as insurance agents do not necessarily need a university degree. This year, the company plans to recruit another 3,600 agents, 2,000 of whom will be financial planners.
Mr Yung foresees high growth for the financial services industry in Hong Kong. He said the penetration rate for insurance policies in the local market was about 88 per cent, compared to 400 per cent in Japan, 200 per cent in Taiwan and more than 100 per cent in Europe and the US.
Hongkongers were always open to new products, making the city a market with high potential, he said.
'Financial services is an increasingly popular field in Hong Kong,' Mr Yung said.
'A lot of people were affected by the stock market crash a few years ago and have learned to diversify their investments away from just the property and stock markets.'
He said there had been a surge in the number of companies offering financial services in recent years, partly because traditional insurance firms were now providing a complete range of financial services such as investment, savings, retirement planning and risk management. Local banks were also targeting the same areas.
There had also been increasing interest in 'living benefit products' - as opposed to life insurance products - because as people lived longer they needed financial cover to deal with critical illness and old age.
AIA aims to recruit 3,600 agents for its sales force, including 2,000 financial planners.
Financial support will be offered to recruits, in addition to other benefits and extensive training.
Those who perform well in the first year will be promoted and can recruit their own teams.
Good financial planners need a good network of contacts, the determination to achieve results, and should be hard working and persistent.
The Hong Kong market has great potential for the financial services industry, since people have learned to diversify their investments for long-term benefits.