Berkshire Hathaway is controlled by Warren Buffett, who is chairman and chief executive of the company which owns a range of companies, including GEICO and NetJets, a substantial stake in Heinz, and has stakes in American Express, Procter & Gamble and IBM. The company is noted for outperforming the stock market under the leadership of Buffett, a value investor.
Customer satisfaction at a premium
Working for a financial institution has many advantages. Apart from becoming a banker or a financial planner, there are many different positions that need to be filled. For example, American Express is looking for new employees for its Membership Travel Services (MTS) - 'the company's best-kept secret weapon and a fast-growing business', according to Vincent Lai, director and head of MTS in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
MTS employees are there to support premium card members - a customer segment of high net worth senior executives at the top of the social pyramid - and take care of their travel and lifestyle requirements.
With about 2,000 employees worldwide, MTS fields more than three million telephone calls a year and caters to about half-a-million requests globally, keeping premium card-holders satisfied.
'This is a very good platform for gathering industry knowledge and for exposure within the company,' Lai says. 'We also encourage staff to look for opportunities within the whole company; career development is not restricted to MTS.'
Lai himself is a good example of lateral exposure within Amex, as he previously worked in customer services and marketing all in the last four years with American Express, gaining experience of both the front- and back-ends of the business.
Dealing with a high-profile customer base, requirements are exacting and MTS prefers recruiting experienced staff. 'We need people who have an active interest in travel and lifestyle and are passionate about these things,' says Lai.
The most important skills needed for the job are problem-solving abilities, a passion for servicing customers, an eye for detail and excellent communication skills, including listening and speaking.
For example, answers should be specific, fast and direct. Employees should also always be able to offer an alternative option if the original request cannot be fulfilled.
Ada So, premium travel executive with MTS, says: 'The biggest challenge for me is building up a strong analytical ability to assess travel destinations and solve problems in a quick, efficient way.'
The recruitment interview includes both a psychometric and a written test to check technical skills such as planning a door-to-door travel itinerary. Role-play is sometimes used to assess applicants' telephone manner and interaction with clients.
A full induction takes four weeks, followed by on-the-job training and twice-monthly coaching.