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Nowadays in Hong Kong, the term ‘a lifetime job’ is likely to be one from the past. But one man has made this the exception. Since graduating from university, he has devoted his career to a single global corporation. He rose through the ranks from a management trainee to CEO in charge of the company’s Hong Kong branch, which reaps an annual income of nearly HK$3 billion. His is the dream-come-true story of a hard-working employee. He is Eric Hui (BBA 1989, MBA 1999), Chief Executive Officer of General Insurance, Zurich Insurance (Hong Kong).
Eric completes his MBA program at CUHK to turn a new page in his career
Eric has formed an extensive affiliation with CUHK having enrolled there twice. When he completed high school, Eric signed up for the BBA ― General Business Management program ― through the inaugural Provisional Acceptance Scheme. He described the program as comprehensive, involving economics, finance, marketing and accounting with a vast of topics related to everyday life. Then, after having worked in the industry for nine years, he felt it was time for him to upgrade his management knowledge, so he returned to CUHK to pursue the Master of Business Administration program.
Eric has unforgettable memories of his earlier university days, in particular, residing in the Quonset Huts (which were temporary dormitories made of galvanised steel, in the shape of a semicircular cross-section). Though they were poorly equipped — warm in the summer and cool in the winter ― the students did not complain. The experience trained them to become tougher. He recalls that after graduation, he felt deeply honoured to be among a group of top students invited to a cocktail party hosted by Vice-Chancellor Prof. Charles K. Kao and his wife. Such experience of socialising with elite seniors inspired him a long way towards building his own leadership path later on.
In addition, Eric is indebted to a group of senior students who introduced him to the International Association of Students in Economic and Business Management (AIESEC), a worldwide organization which promotes student exchange. This gave him the opportunity to make contact with students from foreign countries to broaden his horizons. Later on, he became the President of AIESEC’s Hong Kong Chapter, which provided many chances to extend his network with leaders of local businesses and service groups.
As a student, Eric (back row, 3rd from right) becomes President of the Hong Kong Chapter of AIESEC. His overseas travels on exchange programs have broadened his horizons
Upon graduation, the major British firm, The Swire Group, promptly hired Eric. He started as a management trainee and was placed working in trading. Since he had indicated an interest in the investment-related field, he was transferred the following year to Swire’s Insurance Division (the predecessor of Zurich Insurance Hong Kong) to look after the non-life related general insurance business, which included travel, labour and automobile insurance. Since then, he has never left.
Over the years in the insurance profession, Eric had been assigned different posts. Other than his current CEO position, the time he spent in the Claims Department was really etched on his mind. It also accelerated his understanding of what the insurance trade is all about. “Compensation is the most important part of insurance products. The challenges include the study of the fine print in the insurance policy, the understanding of legal requirements and the handling of customers’ expectations. We have to deal with all kinds of claimants, and collect all types of intelligence and share them with other departments. These became excellent personal experiences.”
Eric pointed out that when handling compensation, the legal principle must be the primary basis. Then he would take the humanity factor into consideration. It would be ideal if he could combine both. He cited an example: “There was a tour group that went to mainland China for the Lunar New Year holidays. Their bus flipped in a road accident, injuring a number of travellers. The travellers asked to be flown back to Hong Kong for medical treatment on a chartered flight. Despite the fact that only a few were seriously hurt, and that most of the victims had suffered minor injuries that did not require emergency evacuation, we understood their strong urge to come home after the accident. Eventually, we bent over backwards and chartered a flight to bring them all to Hong Kong. This illustrates our vision that our customers always come first.”
Eric (front row, centre) values team spirit. He is keen on promoting communication and cooperation among colleagues
Competition is fierce in the insurance business. Eric believes that being versatile can help one responding to the ever-changing business environment swiftly while devising effective strategies in the respect of products, services and sales. “For example, since electronic trading has prospered in recent years, we have introduced Internet Security and Privacy insurance to protect our clients in the event of business loss caused by leakage of sensitive information such as business data and personal privacy. Also, in order to support a diversified and integrated society, we have offered a group medical insurance plan to all employees at Zurich Insurance (Hong Kong) and their immediate family members, including coverage of their live-in companions, regardless of gender.”
Eric stated that, in general, when people talk about insurance, they usually associate it with the agents who try to sell them life insurance. They think insurance is all about sales. In fact, insurance is tightly linked to the whole economy, involving multiple job areas other than sales, such as actuary, legal, medical, underwriting, risk management, engineering, etc. As a CEO who has to manage over 600 employees effectively, Eric believes that apart from constant listening and learning, he should perfect the management framework supported by different structures that bring together a pool of talents working towards common goals. He chuckled: “A CEO does more than merely play golf!”
Eric (right) receives the 25 Years Long Service Award by Zurich Insurance (Hong Kong) in honour of his contribution to the company
Eric has worked for more than twenty years in insurance, and for the same company. We wonder what his secret to such loyalty is. “In fact, like many others, the idea of changing jobs had crossed my mind. Fortunately, each time I stood at one of life’s intersections, there were always senior peers and good friends to guide me through. Moreover, there are so many departments in the company for me to try out. Rather than putting myself in a dilemma, I thought I might as well focus my attention right here to seek better opportunities. Isn’t that much better?”
Eric has a few words of wisdom for young people. He urges them to think clearly before changing to a new job: “Do not be lured by several thousand dollars of additional salary or be misguided by a fancy title. You should take into consideration such factors as the new company’s culture, prospects, work requirements, personnel environment, etc. Ask yourself if there is any potential to grow your career before you make the move. This could avoid giving a bad impression to employers because you switch jobs so frequently.”
Finally, Eric concludes with words that everyone should abide by: “When working, one must fight with the strength of ten; when thinking, one should not let a small fraction block the big picture.” There is always a chance for career progression!
Eric (2rd from left) loves to serve the community. In this photo, he volunteers as a kitchen helper at Food Angels to prepare meals for the needy
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