For the first time, the Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards is recognising the region's best young corporate talent who has championed the interests and importance of advisers. We speak with Sabrina Ong, a worthy finalist in the inaugural Young Executive of the Year category.
Sabrina’s career progress has been impressive. At a relatively young age, she already has some 15 years of experience in the insurance industry specialising in learning and professional development of advisers, with close to five years in a regional role supporting China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan. More recently, she played a key role in helping to set up AIA’s business in Cambodia and is now based in Indonesia.
Find the right mentor and invest in growing yourself
On her enviable career progression, she said, “I’ve been very blessed to have many great leaders and mentors who guided me and gave me many opportunities throughout my career. It is very important to have someone who cares for you and wants to see you succeed,” she said.
But speaking with Sabrina, it is clear that she creates her own luck. On her various roles and assignments around the region, Sabrina, who has been with AIA for some eight years, shared her thought process.
“I have three basic criteria to help me decide on a career move. First, the leader or direct superior must be someone that I can look up to and have something to learn from. Second, I must be able to learn and grow from this new opportunity. Then, lastly, it’s the pay which needs to provide for my needs,” she said.
Always invest in growing yourself, and the right opportunity will come. And when you are given an opportunity be grateful for it, she added.
Setting the right foundation
One of the highlights of her career is in helping AIA Group set up its business in the fairly new market of Cambodia, where agency forces were mostly part-timers and focused on selling endowment-savings products.
She was responsible for setting up the “Premier Training System” to educate and develop AIA Cambodia’s fulltime professional agency force. In the midst of it all, she also took up extra responsibility to head the agency recruitment team, where she recruited and developed young Cambodians to be insurance entrepreneurs.
Sabrina helped to recruit, train and coach 16 local Cambodian young executives who became key members of AIA Cambodia. Within 12 months, 80 fulltime sales agents, 10 MDRT members, two COTs, six local Business Managers and 13 local Associate Business Managers were successfully developed.
On her success in setting the right foundation in a new market, she said never try to use a ‘perfect’ solution for every ‘problem’ you have. “Every market is different. The dynamics, culture, people and social norms are different. Fundamentally, the principles and processes can be similar, but you must always respect the local culture and customise a process that is suitable for them locally.”
A transformational industry
While the insurance industry may not be as sexy as, say, the banking industry, Sabrina is highly passionate about it.
She said, “Insurance industry is never just about sales and number, it is a place for turning a dream into reality for those who are willing to put in the effort. Plus, I have seen how ordinary people transformed after joining the insurance industry. I’m not referring to just financially, often there’s also a positive change in character, personality and belief.”
Even for herself, she said that it had been a great transformational journey since she first joined the industry as a trainer. “I was exposed to insurance knowledge, agency management knowledge, leadership training, and, best of all, financial planning knowledge. Before joining an insurance company, I managed my finances poorly. But knowledge of financial planning and using insurance as a tool for financial planning has helped me to manage my finances better.”
Great potential still
The insurance industry in Asia continues to grow, and great potential still exists for both companies and advisers.
“Digital transformation can only help us progress so much. With consumers getting wiser, savvier online, and more resourceful, agents and advisers need to move from relationship selling to professional needs-based selling. So fulltime professional financial planners are vital,” she said.
“And a platform like the 4th Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards helps to boost the recognition of insurance agents and advisers as professionals. Awareness is further raised when the entire insurance industry from the region gather to honour and celebrate the right qualities in insurance. With such a regional Awards for the insurance industry, it will help to raise the standards and uphold professionalism regardless of the country customers are in,” she concluded.
Sabrina would be attending the 4th Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards Gala Dinner . The winners will only be announced at the Awards Gala Dinner. So, come and join us in the celebration where we honour and recognise the best in Asia.
Cocktail session starts at 6:30pm. See you there!