There are several factors that make an insurance agent tick. One is a strong belief in the products that one is promoting. 'It is very fundamental and it is the motivation behind every sales professional - to believe in the products that are able to help those in need when the time comes,' says Derek Yung Kai-ming, vice-president and assistant general manager, agency, AIA. 'I have seen a number of people failed in the business without this belief, particularly for those who treat the profession as a job rather than a career.' Besides the belief factor, agents have to possess excellent product and industry knowledge gained through continuous training. Since 2000, insurance agents are required to pass examinations in order to qualify to sell products in areas such as MPF, life insurance, general insurance or even trust products. The company provides comprehensive training to the agents, whether to get them started or to enhance their expertise. A 15-day product and skills training is a prerequisite for all new agents. Ninety days after starting work, the agents continue their training out in the field using their seniors or dedicated agency training personnel. Agents also need to be very determined in order to be successful. 'The agents can only make a living by receiving commission. The industry requires one to be highly self-disciplined and committed. Attitude and mentality are critical.' There are many hurdles to overcome - from identifying a customer's need to the closing of a deal. 'If one is not strong and prepared enough, one would easily be defeated.' In addition, agents have to consistently work hard, not only for months but also for years. 'Persistence and consistency are also the essentials for success,' says Mr Yung. As consumers become more educated and knowledgeable, they are also demanding similar qualities in agents. 'Besides communicating with and understanding their clients, agents need to study hard and pay attention to what is happening around and beyond us. They should understand every clause to avoid misrepresentation or to mislead in order to protect the customers as well as the company.' The industry's associations - the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers and the Hong Kong Insurance Authority - are also offering education and training programmes to its members. The goal of the profession is to expand to wherever one can and to develop one's own clientele and business. 'It is all about the person, not the rules and regulations or training. It is true that you can build up your own empire. 'We have one district director who has over 2,300 agents in his team; that makes a real business organisation.' Statistics from the company show that it might take an outstanding agent seven to 20 years to be a district director. Besides the abundant training opportunities offered to agents, the company is also proud of its uniqueness in providing a place for agents to launch a career. 'We are the only insurance company in Asia that receives AAA financial rating by the premier credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's. Our customers are mostly educated, which in turn attracts high calibre agents to join us,' says Mr Yung. This is also reflected in the passing rate of the examination within AIA. 'The average passing rate across the industry is 50 per cent, while ours is 75 per cent.' In addition, the company's products are also comprehensive, ranging from general and life insurance, credit cards, pensions and trustee, mortgage and tax loans, high-amount deposit savings to private banking through various business entities within the AIA Group. Beyond Hong Kong, the company is enjoying a strong brand presence in China. 'This is certainly an edge over our competitors. We are the only foreign insurance company to operate in China independently.' Moreover, AIA was named the No 1 insurance company by international publications Fortune and Time. 'These are the factual strengths that we are thrilled to share with our quality members.'