Embracing a new culture

| 04 Apr 2022

Video edited by Azri Bahari

For a financial services consultant (FSC), finding the right financial advisory firm can be the catalyst that takes them to the next level.

We recently spoke to Manulife Financial Advisers (Manulife FA) Assistant Vice President, Financial Services, Sarah Lee and Director of Sales, Financial Services, Mandar Padhye to find out how the training and culture at the firm helped them achieve greater success in their careers.

The difference a proper firm makes

Noting that the both of them had come from tied agencies before their move to Manulife FA, Mandar pointed out the stark differences and paradigm shift in focus – from that of selling insurance products to a more holistic advisory role, with the firm being a platform that offered greater access to alternative insurance providers and investment options as offerings to clients.

He also highlighted how the training that was provided at Manulife FA helped him improve as an FSC.

“When you come to a financial advisory platform, you need to understand different insurance and investment products. Therefore, we were put through an intensive and rigorous training programme during the onboarding process and it brings a lot of value to our clients,” he said.

Sarah said that the number of things to learn upon joining a financial advisory firm can be quite overwhelming. She went on to elaborate how Manulife FA structures its training into three tiers: Training at company level, training within each agency office, and finally, at the personal level where one-to-one training is conducted.

“Training is deemed as one of the most important pillars in the whole process,” she emphasised. “We have a very structured training programme in place, and we bring different people in to provide training on a variety of subjects every week. Ultimately, it’s really to equip our people with the necessary skillsets and competency to go out there and seize the market.”

The winning culture

Sarah also spoke fondly of the very welcoming family culture in Manulife FA and how they maintain an open-door policy.

“Whenever we go on convention trips, our CEO will be mingling with the rest of us. It’s really like talking to a friend – you don’t notice the hierarchy levels and differentiation,” she said. “That’s the culture we embrace. It’s not so much an employee-employer relationship, but more of a partnership.”

Agreeing with Sarah, Mandar echoed it is very important to have the right culture in place as it is crucial to the future of the company – it will keep FSCs motivated and encourage them to stay with the firm.

He recounted an anecdote of how Manulife FA’s CEO had taken him and his director at the time to lunch after he closed a high-profile deal as an example of the culture within the company, and that such gestures are key to giving people a sense of belonging.

Sarah also highlighted the growth mindset prevalent within the firm as a good source of motivation – even though Manulife FA is currently one of the largest financial advisory firms in Singapore, the management teams are constantly striving to ensure its continued success. Having such a culture is also critical to attracting new talents who will be looking to join a growing and progressive organisation.

“The three key shareholders are all agency people, so they are exceptionally familiar with the business and constantly aspiring for better growth year after year,” Sarah stated. She also added that on top of the vision to be daring and setting ambitious targets, they will also think of gameplans to motivate and encourage people and make sure everyone is pulling in the right direction for the firm to achieve its fundamental goals.

The right training

Cognisant that people come from many different backgrounds and walks of life, and some may lack an in-depth understanding of the business, Mandar shared how the directors would spend a lot of time and professional resources including engaging third-party trainers to find and identify those gaps so as to ensure that every FSC is brought up to speed.

“This is a very crucial thing – identifying those gaps and then bridging them,” he said. “And this is all done in a very seamless manner.”

The firm also takes great pains to tailor the training it provides to its FSCs depending on their current levels of knowledge and performance.

“In terms of training, we actually differentiate and cater different programmes that can either be common to all, or (at other times) be specifically targeted to certain segments,” said Sarah. “On my team, I also conduct one-to-one coaching on a monthly basis for the experienced FSCs, and for the newer ones, it’s typically more of a weekly coaching and training.”

Raising the game

The pair also spoke of how everyone in Manulife FA constantly challenges and pushes each other to do better. Sarah described how during the first year when Manulife FA was started, she achieved the agency’s first Court of the Table (COT) qualification. Fast forward to today, and there are many others in the firm who have gone on to achieve similar and greater successes including the prestigious Top of the Table (TOT) qualification.

She also paid tribute to her director who encouraged her to explore the high-net-worth space, as well as the wealth of solutions and investment options available on Manulife FA’s platform which allows its FSCs to go beyond just risk management and instead offer more holistic financial services.

Similarly, Mandar spoke of how his boss identified his potential and gave him the coaching and necessary support he needed to take his career to the next level. This catapulted him from being an MDRT achiever, to COT and eventually consecutive TOTs in 2020 and 2021.

He had also been invited by other agencies as well as Manulife Vietnam to share his experience and knowledge and he feels this culture of sharing and learning from each other is yet another important and positive aspect of Manulife FA.

Nevertheless, Sarah stressed that it is also important for someone to be self-motivated. To do this, it is critical not just to give them advice, but also to understand what they want to achieve.

She explained that with proper coaching skills, it is possible to discover a person’s innate drivers of behaviour and help them generate their own ideas which will in turn lead to personal ownership and accountability, thus enabling them to feel fully motivated.