30, Financial Consultant NTUC Income BACKER NUMBER #25
I’ve known Genesis for about 16 years now. We went to the same secondary school and have pretty much stayed in contact all these years - when you know someone for such a long time, you’d assume that you know a lot about them, but then I now realise how little I actually know about his line of work.
When we catch up over dinner or drinks, it seems like the last thing we truly talk about is work. Sure we complain about things, but I never knew - what do you actually do? Especially when he’s consistently been in the same industry for such a long time, you figure there’s nothing much to talk about. From a product standpoint, this helped me to realise how shallow the retail scene can be. Before you think I’m about to claim that we are different and above the rest: I’m not. Let me explain.
By no fault of anyone, it’s impossible (or rather really difficult) to cater your product to every single individual’s need because we have issues like MOQs, storage options and the finances needed to support the team and the company as a whole. As a result, you can only hope that what you’ve created fits a majority group of people on one need which you can satisfy, before you go on to make another product that fits another majority group of people on another need. This is precisely the reason why customisation has created such a strong demand - it’s tailored to you.
“This is also the reason why we’ve come up with customer chronicles - we may not be able to make what every single person wants, but we can do our best to understand individuals from all walks of life and build a product that can be used in more than one way - versatile so it can be used by most, albeit in different ways.”
One of the fundamental ways in doing so is to understand our current customers in their line of work, and how our products help them. Over drinks one night, I was explaining the concept of the tablet sleeve and Genesis remarked that it could be helpful for him; but how helpful? That’s when I decided to loan him our sample and get insights on what he thought. But first, his job. Here’s the breakdown of the interview we did.
1. How did you become an insurance agent and what did you think of it then?
It was my first job and I had friends in that same industry so I thought to just give it a try. I’ll be honest I didn’t know anything about the industry before entering but in the blink of an eye, I’ve been in this industry for 6 years. I joined with an open mind, but I knew the stigma that stuck with us – cheating people of money, mis-selling, you know the drill.
2. How often do you think you’re being judged based on your attire?
Oh all the time. They don’t know you so that’s how they form their first impression. It’s normal, really. They notice whatever they can. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone but the usual suspects are there – what watch you’re wearing, how you dress, what kind of car you drive, even the pen you use. Perceptions do matter for the very first meeting.
3. How do you decide on what you’re going to impress the client with? Is it the watch, the shirt, or just grooming?
On the contrary, to me it’s the first three things you tell the client. You have a very limited amount of time (especially at road shows) but the impression you make within the first 5 to 10 lines are the most important. There are no textbook lines here, it truly is all spontaneous because you have to decide what you’re going to say very quickly. Of course at the start as a novice you learn from your colleagues but soon after, you develop your own style.
4. What challenges do you face at work?
I’d say the biggest challenge is having to manage your own time. Then you get the classic rude clients occasionally but you get used to that very quickly. 5. What’s an average busy day like for you?
Non-stop appointments. In our line, you try to meet as many clients as possible in a day. Our working hours are literally defined by: as early as the client wants, and as late as the client wants.
6. During the appointment, do you go straight into closing?
That’s one of the first misconceptions; “We’re not interested in you, we just want to sell you product and move on to the next client.” In reality, the selling part is minimal, probably only 5% of the time. What’s really important is to start with a casual conversation to build rapport, ask what the client already has before introducing anything to prevent the client from having additional burdens. Our industry is much like yours – part of it depends on word of mouth in that if you do well for them, your clients introduce you to their friends and family. I have to be able to understand them in the shortest amount of time and guess on things like how much they might be earning or find out what their budget is. From there I can decide very quickly on what I’m going to sell - I immediately know what is best suited for my client because of my experience in this field.
7. What if you prospected a client who seems very affluent. Will you make special reservations at a restaurant for example?
I’ve always seen what I do as a service that helps them so no, I always treat all my clients equally, even to clients who seem like they may buy more.
8. Do you need to care for the client, or can you be successful just by having very good product knowledge?
When you work in our industry, I think that the most important thing is to make the client like you and believe that you want the best for them. There isn’t a superficial play here, you really have to care for your clients. It means nothing if you have a lot of product knowledge. You need to take the time to understand and know the problems they’re going through and from there, ensure that you have a solid product to sell - a product that will help them.
9. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a financial consultant?
This may sound cliched but you need to put in a lot of hard work, especially during the first few years because that’s when it will help you down the road. You have to be positive because you will face a lot of setbacks, disappointments and rejections but you just have to keep kicking on. In our line, there’s no sitting around - you can’t afford to be lazy. It’s fair in that you are rewarded for the amount of work you put in.
10. You have our Bond Travel Briefcase, Everyday Padfolio and Tablet Sleeve. Why did you make your first Faire purchase?
Besides the fact that we’re friends? Haha. Honestly I thought the products were cool, stylish and completely relevant to me. I like the design, the fact that it’s leather, and that it’s very professional. I carry the Bond Travel Briefcase the first time I meet clients and subsequently, I carry the Bond Everyday Padfolio. A few clients have noticed and asked me about them and paid compliments so you guys are definitely on the right track.
11. You’ve been using the Tablet Sleeve for a little over a week. How does the Tablet Sleeve differ from the padfolio?
It’s smaller, sleeker, lighter, and in a good way, forces me to reduce what I carry. Sometimes all I need is my tablet and some basic stuff, so the tablet sleeve is perfect. For the padfolio, there are times when we need to store A4 documents and you don’t want to fold them so the padfolio is a nice variation. As someone who already has the padfolio, I would still buy the tablet sleeve because you’d use them both for different situations. In fact even for social occasions that aren’t work related, the tablet sleeve has proven to be a great accessory.
12. What’s the Faire product you must carry every day?
Amongst the three that I now own, the Bond Tablet Sleeve is a must-have for me.
13. In essence, how have Faire’s products helped you in your daily life or line of work?
I think the key for me is that I know where everything is and that really saves a lot of time because of how organised the product sets my belongings. Time is really important for me and so this has helped greatly, on top of the sleek design.
14. What would you like to see us come up with next?
A travel duffel bag would be really sweet.
It was the first time that I fully understood (to an extent) what his job entailed. They don’t just sell insurance, they’re there to advise you on things that can protect your health, and grow your wealth. They’re not insurance agents as we’d like to call them, they’re financial consultants and for that, I truly have an added respect for an old friend.