In our Faces of Co-operators series, we speak to young co-operators who share their passion for promoting the well-being of the communities where we live and work.
Tan Wan Ling, 27, who took up an unconventional career path as compared to her peers after graduating from the Singapore Management University with a major in Marketing three years ago. According to survey done by Glints in 2018, fresh graduates in Singapore place great importance on work-life balance. This definitely does not apply to Wan Ling, who has chosen the challenging path of Financial Consultant, a job that requires almost 24/7. She never regrets her decision. Wan Ling is the youngest Vice President in the NTUC Income Summit Club of NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative Ltd (INCOME). Members of the NTUC Income Summit Club represent the top 15% of the sales representatives of INCOME.
Read on to find out more about Wan Ling!
How did you embark your career as a financial consultant?
My agency director approached me when I was in university to consider taking on the role of financial consultant on a part-time basis.
I thought: ‘’why not give it a try? There’s nothing to lose anyway.’’ The working hours are flexible as compared to working as a part-timer in a restaurant which I find it very challenging.
My aunt’s battle with cancer was another reason why I was interested in the insurance industry.
When I heard about her illness, my first thought was regarding the finance involved for the treatment. However, my aunt was totally calm. She has a trusted financial consultant who had helped her to purchase the necessary coverage for such scenario.
It was an eye-opener and I decided to embark on this career so that I can help people who may not possess such knowledge. I started off as a student advisor first before assuming the position of a Financial Consultant.
Why did you choose to work in Income?
The team that I was attached to was with another insurer decided to move to Income. I originally intended to try it out at Income for a year. However, Income’s social mission – to make insurance accessible for people from all walks of life, especially to the underserved and the elderly – resonated with me. Income makes insurance protection available to all segments of society, including low-income families, individuals with special needs and the elderly.
What motivates you?
Networking! I love meeting people as I get to glean valuable knowledge through interacting with them.
Every day is a new learning opportunity for me. In this industry, I get to meet people from all walks of life, including C-suite executives who sometimes offer valuable investment advice which helps me in my work.
Name one or more life-changing experience(s) that shaped you into who you are today.
I have handled death claims for clients who were in the prime of their lives when they signed up their plans with me. Death is very unpredictable and since life is so short, why should I worry about all the ‘what ifs’? I just give my all in this job since there’s nothing to lose from this experience.
To many clients, I have become more than just their financial planner as they see me as one of their own family members. I have been touched many times by their care and concern for me. For example, when some of my clients see that I am still active on WhatsApp in the wee hours of the morning, they will remind me to sleep early and not neglect my health. I find this so heart-warming.
What are the skills you would need to excel as a Financial Consultant?
I value consistency highly. I treat all my clients the same, and I will always make it a point to handle every case with the same level of commitment and professionalism.
Discipline is also very important. The flexible nature of our job is actually a double-edged sword. We need to be disciplined and avoid procrastination if we want to excel as a financial consultant. I avoid overthinking and constantly remind myself to complete my work well, even if I have to stay up to 1-2am.
What are the responsibilities of a financial consultant?
To be a one-stop solutions provider. Most clients appreciate financial advice beyond insurance, like being able to tell them which bank currently offers the best interests for savings, or which credit card has the most benefits, etc.
Share with us a day in your job.
I’m usually out and about most days, meeting up with my clients who want to see me for some advice or even for a short catch-up, looking into their queries, and trying resolve issues that they may have. I only come into the office when I need to process clients’ claims or come up with a proposal for clients.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Creating lasting impact in others’ life.
Every case is unique. I find this job meaningful as clients see me as a guardian angel because I am able to help them whenever something happens. It can be processing death claims, going through medical struggles or even matters relating to their children’s education. I don’t feel that it is work but rather as learning and sharing from one another and helping people to make the right decisions.
What are some of the challenges faced?
My youth and my baby face.
Clients usually associate age with experience and success, so new clients sometimes have the impression that I do not have enough experience to help them. Since I can’t change my age or look, I take every opportunity to upgrade my skills and improve my knowledge so that I can stay relevant and connect better with different groups of clients. For instance, I would read up on CPF schemes and share it with my older clients as a value-added service.
What are people’s criteria in choosing policy?
Clients typically fall into two groups – Those who go for low premiums and wait to see what they can get out of it, and those that trust your advice and take the “I-trust-you-so-I-buy-from you” approach.
What do you think about the perception people have on financial consultants?
Perception 1: Anyone can be a financial consultant
Many people think that as long as you have a gift of gab and know the products, you can be a financial consultant. No qualification is required. This is not correct.
You need to have at least a diploma certificate before you can be a financial consultant. It also requires more than just having ‘the gift of the gab’. You need to have empathy to understand your clients, and emotional maturity to handle many different situations and personalities well.
Perception 2: Job Instability
Most people feel that the job of a financial consultant is not stable. For example, my parents objected my decision to be a self-employed financial consultant as they feel that I could earn more with my degree as a salaried professional. Working till late in the night was one of their grievances too. However, after a year of hard work and determination, my parents could see the results. They even recommended my younger siblings to join me in this industry. It was good to get their affirmation.
How will you differentiate INCOME from a typical financial consultancy firm?
INCOME is Singapore’s only insurance co-operative, established to make essential insurance accessible to all. In terms of product offerings, INCOME offers a wide range of insurance products and services that serve the protection, savings and investment needs of customers at different life stages and across all segments of society. For example, Income is the first insurer in Singapore to offer travel insurance that protects the policyholder against pre-existing medical conditions. It also has a suite of insurance plans tailored specifically to meet the needs of our elderly population.
Income is also a leading digital innovative insurer. Income offers its financial consultants and advisers many digital platforms e.g. Adviser Connect, Personalised Advisor Store to help us connect with our customers.
What advice will you give to people who aspire to be financial consultants?
It all boils down to hard work. There’s no short cut to success. The hungrier you are for success, the more knowledge you will seek to gain in this industry which will allow you to service your clients more effectively and efficiently. Don’t be a transactional agent but rather, try to add value so that your clients see you as a partner in helping them to meet their lifestyle needs.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far?
I consider the recognition I have received as my biggest accomplishment i.e. the youngest Vice President in the Income Summit Club and one of the top 2 youngest financial consultants in API (Annual Premium collected from clients).
Tan Wan Ling receiving her award for being Top 10 Annualised Premium Income.
Group photo with the awardees of NTUC Income Summit Club.
To quote my idol, Jack Ma, ‘Don’t be the best. Be the first!’ Be the first to change. Be the first to take the challenge. Be the first one to overcome the difficulties.
What are your tips for managing personal finances in Singapore?
Save before you spend, and not spend before you save.
Personally, I save 60% of my income. I would invest a portion on liquid investment vehicles such as equities, REITs and commodities trading. It is also important to start saving early and stop procrastinating.
Would you have chosen a different career path now that you’ve been working in the co-operative movement for 2 years?
I don’t regret my career choice. I get to control my time and earning power. I hope to settle down and have kids in three years. I also wish to spend more time to help my fellow advisers to guide and mentor them.
What advice would you give to aspiring co-operators?
‘’Starve your distraction and feed your focus’’. All of us have a lot of distractions and I believe that’s where our discipline is tested. This quote has been pinned on the wallpaper in my mobile phone for quite some time now. It is a reminder for me to focus on what I want to achieve.
Income was established in 1970 to provide affordable insurance for workers in Singapore. Today, two million people in Singapore look to Income for trusted advice and solutions when making their most important financial decisions. Our wide network of advisers and partners provide life, health and general insurance products and services to serve the protection, savings and investment needs of customers across all segments of society.
Right from the start, Income was made different. Our social purpose of maximising value for our policyholders defines us as a social enterprise as we continue to make insurance accessible, affordable and sustainable for all.
In 2018, Income had over $37 billion in assets under management. Our financial strength and diversified investment portfolio is reflected by our strong credit ratings which underpin the delivery of our commitment to customers.
Income’s corporate social responsibility initiative, OrangeAid, is committed to empower a better future for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
For more about Income, please visit www.income.com.sg.