Determined to fly Singapore's flag on the global stage, Advisors Alliance Group created history in the financial advisory world when it became the nation's first "100 IDA Team" in 2018. They are now the only group in Singapore to have been awarded thrice. Asia Advisers Network had a chat with Sunny Yap Soon Jin, Executive Director of Advisors Alliance Group, an authorised representative of AIA Financial Advisers in Singapore, to learn about the secrets behind its success.
United by core values
Even as AAG grew significantly in manpower and productivity over the years, it has remained a cohesive and tightly-knit group, and that is what Sunny is most proud of.
“The members of the group continue to embrace our firm’s core values of Integrity, Compassion and Competence,” he said. These may be three simple words and may even sound vague and intangible to some, but these words form the foundation of AAG as a group.
“As long as AAG continues to truly embrace these values, we believe we can continue to bring value to our advisers, the industry and the customers that we serve,” he said.
AAG made history in 2018 by being the first group in Singapore to achieve “100 IDA Team”, which is awarded to any team in the world with 100 IDA awardees in a year. And it is now the only group in the country to have done it consecutively for three years.
The IDA is a mark of excellence for professional Chinese financial advisers representatives in the world. “A point worth noting is that an IDA qualifier must fulfil a minimum of 36 cases — that is, besides being highly productive, an adviser must have impacted 36 lives,” he shared.
The International Dragon Award (IDA) annual meeting, is held in conjunction with the biennial World Chinese Life Insurance Congress (WCLIC), the leading learning platform for Chinese financial advisers representatives worldwide.
And it was at the 2013 WCLIC that the seed was planted in AAG to aim for “100 IDA Team”. There were only two “100 IDA Team” honourees at that time from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Sunny said, “That sight at the World Chinese Life Insurance Congress stage ignited our imagination that perhaps, one day, AAG can also represent Singapore on this international stage. If those countries could produce 100 IDA Teams, why not Singapore?”
Driven by national pride
It became a unifying goal for AAG, driven by national pride. “We were determined to put Singapore’s flag on the world’s stage!”
AAG had to blaze a trail because it was seen as an uphill mission. In some countries, groups may have an “army of advisers” because there is no restriction on the number of direct agents a manager may recruit. In Singapore, however, regulations limit each manager to only 15 direct agents.
Apart from the limitations on the number of advisers to a manager, Singapore also has strict regulatory control measures. “These standards are needed for Singapore to maintain a reputation as an international financial hub. However, the restrictions have also made our operating environment tougher compared to our counterparts in other parts of the world,” he said.
On top of the highly regulated operating terrain, to be an IDA qualifier in Singapore, the qualifying criteria is $100,000 FYC, which is the highest requirement relative to the rest of the countries.
Singapore is also at a disadvantage in terms of population size. Singapore has a population of only 5.6 million, far smaller than in other markets such as China, with 1.38 billion, and Taiwan, with 23 million. “In mainland China alone, there are 8 million financial advisers representatives, which exceeds the total population of Singapore,” he said.
The pursuit of “100 IDA Team” with these odds stacked against AAG forced the group to improve its operational capabilities. “Over a five-year period, this mission profoundly strengthened the spirit of the organisation.”
Advisors Alliance Group was not only the first “100 IDA Team” representing Singapore when it made the mark in 2018, but it was also the only “100 IDA Team” in Southeast Asia and the only “100 IDA Team” in AIA Group’s 18 Asian countries.
“We are proud that it has been three years running, and we have been able to continue to represent the industry and put Singapore on the world map,” said Sunny.
The People behind AAG’s success
The strength of any firm lies in its people. “Singapore’s story has taught us how a third-world nation can transform into a first-world nation in a single generation. Education was one of the key factors that transformed the thinking of its population and brought about the economic success we enjoy today. If education can transform a nation, so can education transform an agency,” he said. “I sincerely encourage everyone in this business to keep learning, observe and participate actively in the global scenes.”
AAG is also thankful to have the firm support of AIA Group. “The company believes in our vision and have always supported us in every possible way. I must say that as a global brand, AIA Group is truly of a different league!”
What’s next on the horizon
Asked what’s next for AAG, he said: “As our vision and mission reflect, especially in these times of rapid evolutions and disruptions, we will continue to adapt and pursue to be a world-class financial services group. We aim to be able to always bring people from where they are today, to the places they have never been before, ‘Impacting lives, always’.”
“I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everybody in this industry well. May we continue to serve and make a difference in the people and the lives that we come across,” he concluded.
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