Building a modern agency

| 11 Sep 2019

At the 19th Singapore Agency Manager's Conference, various experts within the region's agency force and the insurance industry came together to discuss the challenges of building and running a modern agency, tackling topics such as technology, recruitment and achieving excellence.

Achieving MDRT is already a tough challenge for most agents. Getting 100% MDRT is almost unheard of. Almost.

AIA senior district director Wave Chow did the impossible in 2016, when he got over 70 team members to achieve MDRT in a single year. He broke down his process, from the team’s humble beginnings in 2011, to a team that is almost 300 strong in 2019.

Firstly, his recruitment process is stringent. Within his current team, 95% are degree holders, of which 65% have master’s degrees and 5% have PhDs. Recruitment itself consists of three rounds of interviews, an aptitude test, and invitations to morning meetings, so that candidates can find out for themselves if the team and the job is a good fit for them.

The average age of Mr Chow’s team is only 31, representing a young, driven and highly educated force that can identify with the largest underserved market in Hong Kong – the millennials.

“I require that each one of my team members to have 15 meetings each week, because we believe that activity can solve almost 80% of the problems that agents have,” he said.

Despite the rigorous process to get onto the team, Mr Chow is also not hesitant to terminate agents he feels have too much negative energy and throws off the vibe of the team. He equated this to eating and the bodily functions that come with eating. “If there is input, but there is no output, then that is considered a body that is sick. We want our body to remain healthy,” he said.

He also emphasised the importance of early days in the job. Most leaders would teach a recruit how to close sales, but that creates a big, unpredictable variance in how successful a recruit will be. Instead, Mr Chow focuses on guiding new recruits into being willing to do the job. “Knowing why to do the job, is much more important than knowing how to do the job,” he said. In short, he suggests enlightening new recruits on their potential to help people with insurance, rather than approaching it as a simple sales job. This, he said, creates passion and drive within the recruit.

Being different

“Different is better than better,” said executive senior manager Willis Lau. “What this means is that even if we are always focused on being the best, or being better, it will not really matter if nobody notices or cares about you. To me, you can be number one in whatever you’re doing, but if your potential clients and your potential teammates don’t know what you can deliver, it’s useless.”

So how does an agency be different? Mr Lau highlighted three common situations where an agency team could differentiate themselves.

The first is when a client wants to compare products and plans before picking the right one for them and their needs. The modern consumer is savvier and smarter and more discerning than before, and the internet allows them to educate themselves far easier. “At this point, let them know that they are making the right choice, that they’re making informed choices and let them know how you can help them in making an informed financial decision.”

The next situation occurs during the closing. Mr Lau emphasized being assertive over being aggressive, and to focus less on the sale and more on helping the client. This carried onto the third situation, which is the follow up.

“Most of us, when we follow up, its just about the sale. But instead, why don’t we show some concern for them, find out what changes have happened in their lives? Things like social media can keep you up to date with your clients and it’s an easy thing to drop them a text to show that you care,” he said.

He shared his journey into the digital world, from advertising on parenting forums in 2015, to using Facebook ads in 2016, to creating a landing page in 2017. “The landing page gave me more control and more data on who clicked and when they clicked. The page was very raw and very basic, but surprisingly, people clicked on it!” he said. “I had always thought that people wanted to see a well-designed page, with nice graphics, but the truth is as long as what you’re giving them is of value, people will engage with you.”

Last year, he improved on his landing page. This year, he launched a video series called Finance Matters. “It’s about insurance, financial planning, anything related to our daily money decisions,” he said.

The way online advertising algorithms work, ads for insurance will mostly only appear for people who have shown an interest in insurance – typically by searching for insurance products online. Thus, online advertising gets half the job done for you, as you will not have to convince a potential client on the need for insurance.

He broke down the five key pillars that every digitally focused agency needs:

  • Building the profile deck; this requires good quality photos, a good story and a display of all your credentials and accolades
  • Build your content around your audience; tailor your medium and message to your target market. The easiest is to write blog posts and articles. Infographics are also a good and easy method to relay your message.
  • Videos are the hardest to get started, but have the greatest reach and engagement – today, videos under a minute long are the most consumed, and most people watch videos without sound, so subtitles are a must.
  • Incorporate messenger marketing; there are many apps today, such as Facebook messenger, that allows for automated messages and marketing, once a potential client has engaged with your content (typically by leaving a comment on your post).
  • Be consistent in your posting schedule. Once a week is a good start.