AIA, which employs about 8,000 agents, will spend HK$100 million a year to train the best and brightest young applicants in a two-year programme, and take them to the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) - an international association of insurance professionals.
"Membership in the MDRT provides a clear target. It not only means high production, but the highest standards of professionalism," says Jacky Chan, chief executive of AIA Hong Kong and Macau. "We have the experience to develop a roadmap to MDRT because we have a track record."
Over 800 of AIA's agents are members of MDRT - the highest number of any agency in Hong Kong, and the sixth highest in the world.
There are no set numbers for recruitment to the academy, but they are starting out with 30 to 40 trainees per batch and will take in one group every three weeks.
"We are targeting quality people - young, vibrant Gen-Y university graduates. We require a minimum of a year's work experience," Chan says, adding that AIA has developed a tough interview process, including an aptitude test, interviews with the agency manager and district director and, finally, with management leaders.
Applicants should be bold, entrepreneurial and service-oriented. Most important, are interpersonal skills.
"This is a profession where you face a lot of rejection. You need a high [emotional quotient], a strong belief in your profession and self-confidence," Chan says.
Successful applicants will be offered a place plus a financing scheme, competitive with the salary they drew before joining AIA. They will be offered the title of manager - wealth management and protection.
The programme includes a three-week core training, and weekly follow-up sessions, joint fieldwork with managers, and on-the-job training for three months.
"That is followed by overnight camping for team building. We cascade down our core values. Our corporate DNA has five focuses - bold, forward looking, pro-active, solid and nimble," says Jim Jan-zen, vice-president of AIA Premier Academy.
There will also be monthly follow-up and motivational sharing by MDRT life-time members. "It's not only about knowledge and skills, it is also about what they can offer society," Jim says.
In the second year, trainees learn about more sophisticated products and services, such as business insurance and premium financing.
Nadia Wu, who worked as an auditor in Singapore before joining AIA Hong Kong, says the training is tough but necessary. "If you are late, you're not allowed in [to the classroom], and, likewise, if you didn't do your homework," she says, adding that having six trainers to every 31 trainees was impressive.