While most industries and professions are cutting jobs, the number of insurance agents in the city has reached a record high. The total stood at 57,586 at the end of April, up 6 per cent from 54,006 a year earlier, according to the Insurance Agents Registration Board. The sales force employed by insurance companies was 30,999 at the end of April, a rise of 7.33 per cent, while the number of senior officers gained 3.7 per cent to 2,326. Insurance salespeople employed by banks have risen just over 6 per cent to 24,261. Meanwhile, the city has a jobless rate of 5.3 per cent. Manulife International has been among the most active in hiring new agents, taking on 500 in the past year to bring its total to about 4,000. Michael Huddart, Manulife's Hong Kong chief executive, said that figure could even reach 5,000 by the end of the year. 'This is a challenging year for the insurance industry as the economy is still in recession,' he said. 'However, it is a great time to recruit because a lot of talented people are looking for jobs.' While it may be easier to recruit staff these days, Mr Huddart said it was more difficult to sell investment-linked insurance products as policyholders were now more interested in the traditional policies offering guarantees and additional dividends. 'Investors want to put their money into safe places. We have seen a big shift from investment-linked product sales to traditional policies this year.' 4 struck off defendants' list The provisional liquidators of collapsed aluminium maker Ocean Grand Holdings filed a writ earlier this month to remove four former directors from the list of defendants. They included Vincent Lee Kwan-ho, a director of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, and the company's vice-chairman Herbert Hui Ho-ming. The liquidators filed a draft writ in 2007 claiming HK$111 million against the 15-strong board. Former chairman Michael Yip Kim-po, who remains on the list, was acquitted of a string of fraud charges in March but was remanded in custody on separate charges connected to business dealings at Ocean Grand. The case will be heard in the District Court next month. According to an HKEx announcement last week, Mr Lee said the writ had never been served on him and following his removal from the list, he was not a party to any legal proceedings. Ocean Grand and its subsidiary were both put under the management of the provisional liquidators in July 2006 after more than HK$800 million went missing. Ocean Grand Chemicals was rescued by a white knight last year and renamed Hong Kong Resources Holdings. Ocean Grand Holdings, of which Mr Hui is still a director, is also negotiating with a potential white knight. Video talk with John Wylie This week's video report features John Wylie, chief executive of ING's insurance and pension business in Hong Kong and Macau. Hailing from Perth in Australia, Mr Wylie followed in his father's footsteps to become an actuary, while a son has also joined the profession. He joined ING in 1992 and was chief executive of the firm's Australia operations before moving to head the Taiwan business in 2006. He came to Hong Kong last month to replace Cheng Man-kwong, who has retired.