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Caring heart for MassMutual

Ralf Sy Wai-tao, assistant unit manager at MassMutual Financial Group, is taking a step forward in his career after being given the chance to build his own team. “Now I have one man working with me. Hopefully, I can build a team with 30 people in three years’ time. With a team of my own, my challenge is to help members make money so that they are willing to continue to develop their career here,” he says.

As a team leader, Sy says it is important to help staff to relax. “I am lucky that I have a team of colleagues who enjoy playing basketball and video games. We play together to blow off steam,” he says.

Sy started as an insurance agent two years ago because he wanted to make more money to support his family. “It is a job that pays more if you achieve more. I remember that when I was doing an office job, my supervisor told me I was not getting a bonus – even though I had worked really hard – because the economy was bad. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to control my own destiny so I decided to switch to insurance despite people telling me that the income can be unstable,” he says.

At first, Sy did a lot of largely unsuccessful cold calling, but family and friends rallied round to support him. “Many people I know are interested in insurance so I offered them advice and started building my network through referrals, and my business began to grow,” he says. “Hopefully, next year, I will be in the Million Dollar Round Table.”

Sy says there are a few things to bear in mind when selling insurance to family and friends. “If you are dealing with people you know, be yourself. Don’t be too much like an agent. Talk to them like a friend. Don’t take out documents and calculate returns; you may want to save that professional approach for cold-market clients,” he says.

The unstable income of an insurance agent is a major turnoff for those who eye it as a long-term career. Sy says senior colleagues have told him that the first year is the easiest because the company provides support, while the second and third years are the defining period for those pursuing a career in insurance.

“I worked really hard in my first year to ensure I would be able to survive when I no longer got subsidies from the company,” he says.

Many join the insurance business for the money, but Sy thinks it was a desire to help people that made him stay. “People interested in an insurance career should enjoy helping others. The income is attractive, but will not help you stay long-term if you don’t have a caring heart,” he says.