Being a financial planner isn’t easy. You approach countless people and regularly get rejected and you deal with possible outcomes that no one likes to talk about. Yet, it’s an important part of financial planning. Financial planner Ang Zhi Wei spills the beans and tells you the best way to avoid financial planners at MRT stations.
Financial planner Ang Zhi Wei has been in the insurance business for almost half a decade, amassing a treasure trove of experiences, awards, and stories. He sits down with us and answers a couple of tough questions about the image problem that financial planners have, their tactic of hanging around MRT stations and accosting passengers, and the correct questions that you should ask your own financial planner.
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Seriously, why do financial planners or insurance agents like to hang around MRT stations? It doesn’t seem like a great tactic to get new clients.
It’s funny that you mention this because I am also frequently approached by people from the same trade! Personally, I seldom use this method for prospecting new clients because it’s impersonal and only the lucky or persistent few will have any results. However, just like how people queue up at betting outlets for the annual TOTO Hong Bao Draw, the chance of scoring these clients is just too tempting despite the slim chance. When I’m approached, I just give them a smile and say “No, thanks.” This has always worked!
Financial planners suffer from both an image and ethic problem. What do you think can be done to rectify these two problems?
Singaporeans are extremely wary when it comes to their own money, and understandably so. Yet, interestingly, many are also duped into investing into get-rich-quick schemes or attending free property investment seminars that promise attractive returns. This dichotomy is interesting. For financial planning, truthfully, it’s about careful planning, which takes time and discipline, and it’s difficult to tell someone that they need to have patience when it comes to accumulating wealth. So, regrettably, a few financial planners falter because they over-promise to their clients. Then, when the promise is not delivered, their image is tarnished and is hard to restore.
As for ethics, I’m glad that the MAS has stepped in and narrowed the opportunities for foul play. There are yearly validation assessments to be met and many insurance companies are focusing on generating quality business instead of something resembling a hit and run. With this being said though, no amount of regulation is sufficient to curb the few black sheep and this applies to not just the insurance industry but any other field around the world.
Talking about black sheep, in your opinion, what should be changed in your industry to make it a more attractive and upstanding career proposition?
So, doctors and lawyers are considered professionals because there is a considerable amount of education and training. In my opinion, a financial planner should be considered a professional too due to the knowledge required in the field. Yet, unfortunately, the education and training to become a financial planner is not as extensive as the ones that doctors and lawyers go through. MAS has taken steps to ensure that a financial planner is a better-trained professional and I sincerely believe this is the right move.
In the future, I wish for a stricter set of rules and regulations for financial planners. Perhaps even something similar to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take upon entering the profession will help to push a financial planner into a commitment to uphold a number of ethical and moral standards.
Financial planning, as a career, suffers from the lack of two things that many Singaporeans always look for – security and a steady pay cheque. What are your thoughts on this?
It is human to fear the worst case scenarios. However, I feel that the flipside of the coin should also weigh equally in your mind. There is no ceiling to stop my progress, i.e, my pay in one month can sometimes be more than the annual salary I will earn in a typical corporate company if I had joined upon graduation. Moreover, being self-employed gives me more security. I don’t have to worry about recessions, company overhauls, department restructuring or similar things that are out of my control.
That being said, not everybody is suitable to be a financial planner. I’m always open for a chat if you have any views to share regarding the career or if you wish find out whether this career is suitable for you.
What are the tough questions that you recommend a regular person ask a financial planner?
Try asking: “Do you personally have this plan that you are selling to me?”
Any financial planner has protection needs too and usually investment plans that they own seldom go wrong as they would have studied the plans thoroughly before making their own purchase. However, this may not work all the time especially if you and your financial planner are in different stages of life. You may then tweak the question to this: “Do any of your family members have this plan too?”
Perfect. Following on from this, what separates a good financial planner from a really great one? How can our readers discern the difference?
A good financial planner will immediately recommend you a product the moment he or she identifies a need. A great financial planner, on the other hand, will take the time to get to know you better, making sure to leave no stone unturned, before tailoring a product or a combination of products that is suitable for you. A note for your readers: if your financial planner did not ask what your financial portfolio consists of, then that is a warning sign that he or she is not conducting a proper, what we call, fact-finding exercise.
I have seen many interesting stories that claimants spin in order to make an insurance claim. There was even an inquiry from a father who was suspected of murdering his own child for the insurance pay-out!
One particular story close to my heart happens also to be one of my proudest moments. A not so well-to-do family that I met barely had any insurance coverage. They were initially resistant to the idea of insurance but I plugged away, believing that they could truly benefit from a few policies. I guess they sensed my sincerity because they did take up a few insurance policies. Within a few months, a terrible accident happened and the initial hospital bill came out to be about S$300,000 for a spinal surgery. The follow-up medical consultations and physiotherapy sessions were going to be as massive, if not more. It was a one of my finest moments to reassure him: “Don’t worry my friend, I have you covered.”
I shuddered to think what kind of future would entail for the main bread winner of the family, faced with a $300,000 medical bill. I shuddered to think if their kids would then still be able to continue their education. I shuddered to think if their lives can ever return to what it was before the accident.