Asia Advisers Network sat down with Bernard Lim, President of Financial Services Managers' Association, Singapore, to tap over 25 years of insurance industry experience.
Bernard is a judge and FSMA is a supporting organisation of the 3rd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards. He is also Financial Services Director at Prudential Singapore.
More than 25 years in the industry. What hasn't changed?
What hasn't changed is that people still need to be encouraged, still need to be pushed into doing something for themselves in the area of financial planning.
25 years ago, my leader used to tell us, "Nobody wakes up to tell themselves, 'today is a good day to buy life insurance'." I think today it's still relevant, nobody wakes up to say that.
Of course, nowadays the population is more educated, they are more savvy, they know more things than previously.
But the catalyst to do something is still not there. Unless we are the ones that do it.
Now there's a lot of talk about insurtech and artificial intelligence, how does FSMA view it?
At FSMA we don't actually feel it as a threat. We feel all these is to enhance what we are currently doing.
Like maybe it can give us a more comprehensive report on what our clients might need and so-called target marketing of our clients, and that could help our consultants be more focussed on what to do with that particular client.
What makes a good financial planner now?
Understanding what the prospects and clients need is still one of the most basic and most important aspects.
We always tell our people, "we are not product peddlers". We don't go out and tell our clients, "this product is good for you" but rather we want to know what exactly will they require if something happens, and that's when we will recommend certain products.
What do you think is the biggest change on what makes a successful adviser?
Hard work is still a key point whether 25 years ago or now. Knowledge and understanding the concept of financial planning.
Most of the people who are long in this industry, that is a critical point. Doing proper financial planning. As in every industry, there are always people who come in, make a quick buck and in a matter of time they are no longer around.
At the end of the day, understanding the client is still the most important aspect.
What are the characteristics you think make a good leader?
Empathy, being able to understand, able to listen, that's important. Everybody their build-up is different, being a good leader, you must be able to apply different stroke for different folks. I think that's important.
What you can achieve, it doesn't mean your FC can do the same. Sometimes we have to be a bit more patient, I have FCs who were slow initially, but they have grown to be very good at what they are doing and they are already 13-14 years in the business.
What have you and FSMA been busy with?
Continuing the good work that our previous committee has done, that is to promote our AMTC course for leaders. This course is a 23-week course. So it is a very intensive course.
Hopefully with more companies participating, we can get a good cohort of agency leaders that are well trained to do all the necessary work in developing agents and FCs alike.
Because this association is for leaders, we feel that in Singapore right now, there are not many courses that are catered to agency leaders.
This starts from planning to recruitment to performance management, so it is a very comprehensive course.
And of course, a lot of our senior leaders in the industry graduated from this course. Until today they are still relevant. So we feel that this course is really good for all the agency leaders.
Why is FSMA supportive of the Asia Trusted Life Agents and Advisers Awards?
Years ago, in the insurance industry, almost everyone was willing to share. We had yearly LUA (Life Underwriters' Association) conference. And it was very well attended.
But over the years, due to competition, due to some managers moving to other companies, the support wasn't as good over the years.
Actually, in the industry, all of us should be supportive of the industry's activities.
That's when you will learn different techniques and how companies do what they do. At the end of the day, no company can claim to be the best at everything. It is only through associations like these, that we can actually learn more.
And Singapore is a small market place. There's only so much that we can learn locally. If you go to a bigger market like China or even Hong Kong, I think we can adopt some of their practices and what they do. And that can only be beneficial for us.
Submit your entries for the 3rd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards. Some 25 senior insurance executives and leaders on the judging panel in an independently-audited judging process.
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