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'It's being committed to the lives of others'

Published on Sunday, 22 Sep 2013
Ho Shan
Photo: AIA

What attracted you to the insurance industry?

I have been working at AIA for 10 years. Actually, I was interested in this line of work long before I joined, having looked into the careers of financial planners in Europe – and America – where the financial planning industry is well respected and generally carried pretty good career prospects.

When I graduated from accounting, the Asia financial crisis was raging and the recruitment market was tough. So I decided to go for a profession that allowed me to reach my potential yet let me interact with various people. I am glad that AIA has given me the opportunity to start my career as a financial planner..

How did you get started? What were the qualifications you needed?

There are a number of basic qualifications required to become a licensed financial planner, depending on your specialisation and experience. I am a qualified Chartered Financial Consultant (CFC) and Fellow Chartered Financial Practitioner (FCFP). I also hold other relevant licences. There is a trend to upgrade your qualifications as you progress up the career ladder. So long as you’re up for a challenge, almost anyone can become successful.

What do you like about your job?

I derive great satisfaction from being able to interact with people of all backgrounds and circumstances. It’s even better that I can help people understand their financial situation and realise their financial goals. It brings great meaning to my work.

In addition, this is a profession where hard work is rewarded. A steady and healthy income allows you to provide a better life for your family.

Most importantly, the profession provides you with the freedom to take charge of your career development. Whether it’s your personal career development or the direction of your team’s business, you have free reins and can be your own boss. This kind of independence is very important to me.

Finally, together with my team, we have received recognitions such as the Top Manager Award and the Million Dollar Round Table.

In what position would you like to be in the next two years?

I have made a steady climb up from a financial planner, assistant unit manager, unit manager, senior manager and now to branch manager. Again, you are fully empowered to take charge of your career development.

Several factors are key to career advancement, including your personal production or how much business you do, team production and recruitment. In the coming two years, I aim to become a district director. Given the current level of business, I would say I’m on track.

How important is training? How about development opportunities?

It’s pretty essential. As I’ve mentioned, being your own boss is really important. This means being able to take ownership of your business, your career, the development of your team. There is a lot of mentoring involved. My supervisor and I have a very close working relationship, one that is built on trust and respect. I am rarely told what to do, instead I’m given the opportunity to express my opinions and act on them.

There are training programmes year-long. We’re always up to date on industry developments. AIA genuinely values its staff and its people, this creates a real sense of professionalism and sets a high-standard work ethic that motivates and challenges everyone.

Describe your typical day.

I arrive at work at 8:10am and have 1.5-2 hour meetings with my team every morning. I have four teams so I spread out the meetings throughout the week. Our meetings cover a variety of topics, from business reviews and market updates to career development and individual coaching.

I usually reserve time for individual staff members after that. After lunch, I usually have meetings with my clients and prospects, process paperwork or attend office meetings. I usually finish work at 7-8pm. If there’s no dinner appointment, I’ll head home to be with my wife and daughter. There is a very big element of you being able to manage your time. Do it well and work-life balance is definitely achievable.

What have been your career highlights in the insurance industry?

One of my clients is a sweet, senior lady who would invite me home to dinner after I helped her narrowly avoid an investment disaster. I got to know her through her son, who is also my client, who fell in love with and married my university friend, who’s one of my earliest clients. I have helped them financially plan their wedding.

It’s not about selling a product or discussing returns. It’s about the journey made with someone you originally knew nothing about and achieving things that were once only a dream. It’s being committed to the lives of others, providing protection, offering the right solutions and helping them plan ahead.

People often ask me about AIA’s “The Real Life Company” branding campaign. I think this is a good example of what I have been doing – it’s all about being genuinely engaged in the real lives of people.

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