Win demonstrates dedication of staff
Best Company for Financial Planning Excellence - Insurance
Canadian-based life insurance giant Manulife (International) emerged as Hong Kong's leader in the insurance category of the awards as Best Company for Financial Planning Excellence (Insurance).
'It really demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of our financial planning advisers,' said Michael Chan Yui-lung, vice-president of distribution in Hong Kong. 'Our advisers are not just practising financial planning, they are doing it well.'
The fifth-largest life insurer in the world plans to boost its army of representatives from 3,500 to 5,000 by 2010.
With over a million life insurance and investment policies on its books, Manulife's remarkable growth underlines the growing awareness of the importance of health insurance in Hong Kong.
The Health Authority's moves towards a fee-paying system, as elsewhere in the world, is one 'major driving force' behind the attitude change, according to Mr Chan.
'People are aware that hospital bills can be astronomical, especially if they prefer to go private,' Mr Chan said.
'For long-term wealth management, Hong Kong people are also increasingly aware that a single pension plan, such as MPF, is unlikely to assure reasonable prosperity into old age - especially since average life-spans are extending way beyond 70.'
The market has experienced 15 per cent annual growth since 1991, he noted.
In terms of Hong Kong's GDP, the insurance sector's share grew from 1.6 per cent in 1991 to 9.1 per cent last year.
'Clearly, insurance companies have become a major player in providing financial planning solutions to the people of Hong Kong,' he said.
The firm has noted a 'significant shift in product mix' in recent years. 'As people live longer, they are placing greater emphasis on living benefits such as retirement and medical protection.
'Improved lifestyles have made people think more about planning for when they are old. These are the drivers of the growth in the market. Planning for the future is quite simply the only way to go.'
The firm and its subsidiaries manage funds worth over C$410billion (HK$3.3trillion) and have a 'significant competitive advantage in the market because of our reputation and strength in protection and retirement', he said.
'The breadth of our knowledge allows us to look at financial needs of customers from all angles and help develop comprehensive solutions.'
While the firm is one of the biggest, Mr Chan stressed that personal service, tailoring plans individually according to the personal circumstances of customers, is the key to success.
'For any company, or advisers, to succeed they must start with the customers,' he said.
'Financial planning is about zooming in to understand customer needs, and then providing solutions. Planners have to put the customer's interests first.
'That is a really important factor if the industry is to continue the growth momentum that we have seen.
'That is the direction we are heading. Our vision is to be Hong Kong's most caring and professional agency, so we are obviously proud to be recognised in these latest awards.'
Manulife continually achieves an impressive rate of recruits meeting government qualifications to work in the insurance industry, and the Insurance Intermediary Quality Assurance Scheme, required to sell insurance policies. More than a third of the firm's agents are also licensed by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission to sell investment plans.