Hunting for a job? Hong Kong’s insurance sector may be looking for you

Insurance industry needs workers for opportunities created by ‘insuretech’ and projects in the Belt and Road and Greater Bay Area initiatives.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 2:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 11:06am

Hong Kong’s insurance industry has a shortage of specialists in risk management and technology – right at a time of growing opportunities from China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Greater China Area economic integration plan.

Bernard Chan, convenor of Hong Kong's Executive Council and president of listed insurer Asia Financial Holdings, said in an interview that the “huge” shortage makes it harder for Hong Kong to compete with Singapore, London and the likes for insurance business as well as threatens to slow the development of the city’s insurance sector.

“It is difficult to attract good students to study risk management and other technological insurance subjects at the universities,” Chan said. “This is because many people have the incorrect perception that it is difficult to find good jobs in insurance and risk management. Many people mistakenly believe that working in insurance industry is working as an agent.

“This is inaccurate, as there are many different professionals needed in the insurance industry. The talents could definitely find a clear career path in the industry. The insurance industry executives in Hong Kong have already complained that there are insufficient newcomers to meet with the strong demand of talents in an expanding insurance market,” he said.

The insurance sector employs nearly 90,000 people in Hong Kong. Long a sleepy industry, it is beginning a transformation that will, for example, make buying insurance and filing claims easier, thereby cutting costs while expanding the customer base. Known as “insuretech,” this technology-driven change is similar to the one that has revolutionised the financial sector, with such things as cashless payments and non-traditional loans.

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AIA, Manulife, Prudential, HSBC and MetLife, for example, have announced plans to use new technology to sell products online or allow customers to seek claims. This came after the Insurance Authority last September announced measures to encourage such steps.

That change points to one reason workers trained in technology are needed.

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“Insuretech is developing rapidly in Hong Kong. This is important for Hong Kong insurance industry to develop its technology to compete in the international markets. London, Singapore and other markets have focus on developing their technology to allow customers to be easier to buy insurance products and to seek claims quickly,” said Laurence Li Lu-jen, the chairman of the Financial Services Development Council.

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In addition, the Greater Bay Area, a plan by the central government to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a financial and innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley, will create new insurance business. Some of that, for example, will be insurance for commercial projects, which requires assessment of risk that helps determine insurance pricing. That is likely to increase the need as well for workers who have a background in risk management.

HSBC told the South China Morning Post that its insurance arm will set up an office in Shenzhen in October to capture business in the Greater Bay Area, which will have a potential market of 27 million people.

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Similarly, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure programme aimed at reviving ancient trading routes between China and Central Asia, Africa and Europe, is a boon for the insurance sector because the projects need insurance to secure bank loans.

“The Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Greater Bay Area would need a lot more of insurance professionals. The Hong Kong government is keen on promoting training in the sector,” said Chan.

The 2017 Insurance Industry Manpower Survey Report, which assessed the hiring and training needs of the sector, projected that an additional 3,107 workers would be needed by January 2019.

As part of his pitch to attract talent, Chan will speak in the “The Conference on the Future Development of Insurance Industry in Hong Kong” to be held on September 10, which co-hosted by AR Charitable Foundation and Lingnan University.

The conference will give an opportunity to government bodies, regulators, industry professionals and scholars to exchange views over training and regulatory issues.