Honesty, openness and fairness are at the core of the insurance industry for Manulife's Michael Chan As vice-president of distribution in Hong Kong for Manulife, Michael Chan Yui-lung's role is to oversee the company's sales force and its distribution and sales strategies, on top of looking after growth and professional development. He joined the company 14 years ago as an assistant vice-president of sales and marketing for employee benefits, where he stayed for five years. Under his stewardship, sales and pension assets grew steadily. In 1990, with the introduction of the mandatory provident fund scheme looming on the horizon, he became head of the company's group life and health business. The premium block tripled during his five-year tenure. Although he has spent 20 years in the insurance business, it was not his first calling. He graduated from Polytechnic University in 1980 with an accounting qualification. He is an associate member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, which he chaired from 1992 to 1993. So how did he end up in the insurance business? Four years after he graduated, the Hong Kong economy suffered a downturn. 'I lost my job, so I had to find another one,' he explained. He moved to an insurance brokerage and because of his accounting background, was asked to take care of a subsidiary that was underperforming. 'Taking care has been my career,' he said. He started off in a caretaker role and looked only at the subsidiary's finances. That led him to examine the company's operating strategies. Soon he had gained an extensive understanding of how the company worked, and finally he was appointed CEO. 'And eventually that was my insurance career started,' he said. 'It seemed to me to be an interesting job because I could see a lot more people.' He has not looked back. Clearly a people person, the sociable aspects of the insurance industry suit him, and he can still draw on his accountancy training. While accountants focus more on numbers, insurance is more about people, but both professions share some core similarities, he said. 'You need to be honest, you need to treat people fairly, you need to be open. Basic honesty is essential in both industries. I always tell my agents, you need to deliver what you have promised. If there's an exclusion in the policy, you should tell your client. If you don't tell your clients, they will find out eventually, and then you will lose your client. You need to be honest.'