AIS News

Hong Kong Careers: Interview with Alliance Insurance Services CEO Michael Smith

2019-05-22T13:12:27+01:00

Smith was born and raised in Manchester in the North West of England where he also graduated from the city’s prestigious University of Manchester.

Almost before the ink was dry on the certificate he upped sticks and headed to Hong Kong, to follow his dream of living the fast lane in one of the world’s biggest and most exciting financial centres. “I had an aptitude for connecting and engaging with people and I knew that there would be fantastic opportunities in Hong Kong”, said Smith. “I decided to put all of my energy into making it happen while I was still young. My first few years were tough but I knew if I worked every hour I could and soaked up the advice given to me by senior people around me I would really be able to make the most out of the opportunity I found myself in”. Smith could now throw himself into the work-hard, play-hard culture of his new home.

Over the last decade he has steadily worked his way up, enjoying a relatively swift career trajectory, from junior broker, broker, department head, director, through to his recent appointment as CEO of Alliance Insurance Services (AIS).

Smith’s drive and ambition is infectious and he radiates positivity with every word. “My aim is to continue with the phenomenal progress and achievements we have made over the last few years. While I am very proud at what we have achieved at Alliance there are still huge opportunities for further growth and this is something which is a core focus for the years ahead”.

When compared to his peers and other high-ranking executives in the industry it is obvious that Smith is undeniably young to hold such a position. “It’s not something that I worry about; if you are good enough you are old enough. I think that one of the challenges the industry has is its fear in adopting new ideas and relying on old and outdated processes. These are inevitably ingrained in organizations by people who are averse to change and don’t want to upset the status quo. I think having a younger, fresher outlook gives me a massive advantage and allows us as an organization to incorporate new ideas faster and remain strategically agile to adapt to change”.

With Smith at the helm, AIS now operates as a stand-alone company within the Alliance Group and is ready to take on the world – literally. “We work face-to-face with different cultures with different expectations. Our diverse clientele relies on our professionalism, expertise and personal approach as a leading independent broker. We always aspire to provide the standard of service that our cash rich and time poor clients expect which really does set us apart”.

Landing in Hong Kong was the best move of Smith’s life. “Whenever anyone moves to a new country if that is Hong Kong or anywhere else there is a certain level apprehension. I think trying to make the most of everything, whether that is meeting new people, experiencing the new culture to its fullest is really important. You would be surprised what you can find when you get beneath the surface of Hong Kong. Many people see Hong Kong as a very crowded city however in under an hour you can easily find yourself hiking on the trails of the country parks where there is some breath taking natural scenery and beaches.”

Charming and attentive with his responses there is much more to Smith than the corporate world of financial services. Smith has always been an all-round sports enthusiast, with a talent for football which almost saw him turn professional in his youth and an impressive golf handicap.

Undeniably adept at underwriting, yet it is underwater where he really feels alive. Whenever he gets the chance he indulges his passion for scuba diving. “There is a certain calmness which you can only really experience from diving. It’s a great way to detox from city life. In only a short flight you have access to some of the best dive sites in the world. If you have just started out or you want to something more adventurous like diving with sharks or wreck diving there is something for everyone. Hong Kong is a great hub to travel from and explore the region”.

Smith lives in the Mid-levels district of Hong Kong only a 10-minute walk to bustling Central and Hong Kong’s financial heart. “It is nice to be able to live so close to the office and in the middle of the area which makes Hong Kong the city what it is. You can feel the energy and I that really resonates with me”. Despite his hectic schedule he still makes time to visit the UK every year to see family and friends and ensure that he doesn’t lose contact with his roots which have helped shape the man of today. “I love spending time back home where I grew up and being with my family and friends. There is something comforting about that which I think a lot of people who live outside of their home country get when they visit home”.

Like many tourists who visit Hong Kong, Smith continues to be smitten with the city, lifestyle and people.  Apart from the iconic harbour, international commerce and melting pot of cultures, Hong Kong is surrounded by peaceful natural beauty and it also one of the safest places in the world.

“Essentially it is such fun to live here…Hong Kong really is a state of mind.”

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