ACE Life is optimistic about the outlook of its business, and is poised to expand its agency force in Hong Kong from the current 1,000 to 2,500 in three to five years' time to meet a jump demand amid a demographic shift across the city, according to a top executive.
"We expect the demand for retirement, medical and life insurance products to increase as a result of the ageing population, a challenge many countries are facing," says ACE Life Hong Kong chief agency officer David Tam, adding that the growing importance of financial planning services is also driving its business.
"Insurance consultants will continue to play an important role as customers' needs become more sophisticated and complex - they want the advice of professional experts."
A member of ACE Group, ACE Life started its Asia business in 2005. It has become one of the biggest insurance firms across the region, with operations in Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia employing a total of some 30,000 agents.
Tam believes that recruitment seminars, internship programmes, campus recruitment activities and roadshows are the key vehicles to recruiting the right people.
"We have a robust recruitment process to select high-calibre candidates. Our best-in-class training and development programmes help to attract and retain the most professional and motivated agents."
Customer satisfaction is based on quality, and a high standard of service delivered by employees who should be "committed to a long-term career in financial planning; open-minded to opinion and criticism; passionate and energetic, with a positive attitude; result-oriented and self-motivated to attain goals; and willing to learn, among other traits," says Tam.
Training for the new recruits starts with a compulsory "Future Career Success" programme, covering an introduction to the company, product training, selling techniques and managing a professional image. ACE Life also offers agents programmes and workshops to improve their product knowledge and soft skills, such as effective communication and relationship building.
"To enhance their competitiveness and professionalism - not only for the protection of customers' interests, but also for the betterment of the insurance industry as a whole - we guide [the agents] to obtain professional qualifications," Tam adds.
But providing training courses to agents is just part of efforts to motivate them. According to Tam, who has over 28 years experience in the insurance industry, the best strategy to retain skilled agents is to provide an excellent platform for them to perform, and to develop a successful long-term career.
"This is achieved through a carefully thought-out and competitive compensation system, a respectful, equitable and conducive work environment, and opportunities for development and advancement in a successful and growing company," Tam says, adding that there are two career paths that agents at ACE Life can take: one on the "business" side, the other on the agency management side.
"[The agent] can be an executive business director who focuses on his own business, or an executive agency director who leads a team and nurture sales agents," Tam explains.
But before reaching these top posts, an agent has to go through various tiers, from development manager or executive, to assistant manager, director and senior director.