Attitude the most important quality

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am

A fortnightly column introducing key trainee programmes

Anyone hoping to join an insurance-based financial services provider needs more than knowledge, background and experience.

Dedication, co-operation and contribution are key qualities the Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong) is looking for in individuals who want to join its management training programme.

In need of more frontline staff, the company is seeking people who are mature and experienced in sales rather than fresh university graduates. Candidates should also have strong people skills, a broad network and be open-minded.

Miranda Wong, head of Zurich Advice, said the company wanted individuals with a 'strong business mindset', and they should 'adapt to the selling process quickly'.

The training programme focuses on handling day-to-day tasks and managing client accounts rather than classroom training. Real-life experience is provided for the trainees so that they will have a clear picture of the working process, and methods, culture, beliefs and aims of the company.

Trainees will be offered positions as chief advisers after the 12-month, fast-tracked training, which is shorter than the usual 18-month programme. Mentorship support is included in the programme. An experienced chief adviser will give advice and support to the trainees on a one-on-one basis. A 'model week' will be set up at intervals during the training period. A help desk will also be set up for experienced advisers and business partners to give professional advice to the trainees.

'Knowledge, skill, attitude and way of thinking are all important aspects,' Ms Wong said. 'Attitude is the most important factor. Trainees should understand that financial planning is to help their clients to achieve their financial goals. It is not merely about business and revenue. They need to develop and maintain a trusting relationship with clients.'

Teamwork is key as the profits will be shared among advisers. A note will be taken of applicants with business, financial or investment backgrounds, though emphasis will be placed on co-operation and the ability to follow the company's guidelines.

A willingness to work according to the company's requirements are essential in the eyes of the interviewing board. 'Everyone will contribute to the training process as we have a common culture, belief and aim,' Ms Wong said. 'Our working environment is enjoyable as we all have the same way of thinking.'

The selection process consists of a number of tests, including the candidates' ability to handle numbers and write an essay to describe their priorities in work and life. After this, there are three interviews. During the first interview, candidates will learn about the different aspects of the company, including its vision and mission. This also focuses on the selling process.

In the second interview, candidates have to present their understanding of financial planning. This is followed by a sharing session on the reasons for choosing the industry and applying for the training programme. This stage is expected to reveal the character, attitude and perceptions of the candidates. Selected applicants will be then invited for the final interview to discuss job duties, salary package and benefits.

Successful applicants will start their careers in Zurich's new 'Business Associate Programme'. The company hopes to recruit about 30 new trainee managers this year.