14th May 2020
Why do we SIAM (Avoid) Insurance Agents?
This topic was inspired after having a chat with my friend. We were discussing and analysing why the general public have a stigma impression of insurance agents. During the conversation, I found myself trying to explain the different view points which I thought should be penned down. Hopefully this article will proliferate and help create mutual understanding between Consumer and Insurance Agent.
Honestly, I thought it was rather paradoxical for me to write this topic. Why? For I was that exact someone who used to dislike insurance agents but subsequently switched out of my Corporate HR role one year ago to become one.
Before my career transition, I used to feel extremely hesitant to meet my previous Insurance Agent for my and family’s financial planning needs. This was even despite the fact that she had been servicing us for the past 10 years. On hindsight, the key primary reason was because I always found the session boring. And worse, I never quite understood what I bought and was going to buy. Every time it’s pay-and-pay-more. Whatever she recommended, we would buy as a family because we just wanted to end the long dreadful meet-ups.
With such a long-servicing Insurance Agent back then, there never seemed to have an apparent need for my Husband and I to listen to any others or to be pulled into a roadshow setting. And you might resonate with this familiar scenario – Whenever you spot a roadshow booth in front (even 50 to 100 metres away), generally most of us adopt the following SIAM strategies:
– Spot the booth banners and even those gigantic bouncy castles that comes along with super adorable animal balloons from afar
– Identify and devise an alternative route to plan a big detour
– Act as if we are on our phone and pretend to be chatting or texting with someone
– Magically change face to a stern aloof one so that nobody dares to approach you when you walk past.
Now it is a complete role reversal – I am facing the “Karma” the exact stigma impression which I used to manifest on the insurance agents.
Considering that I had the opportunities to wear both lens myself – The Consumer vs Insurance Agent, I thought it would be fairly interesting to shed the two bipolar perspectives wearing the lens of each, leveraging on my past 1 year journey with everybody. (Anyway: This boring article was first drafted while I was waiting for my kids to end their Saturday class)
Consumer’s Lens: Insurance Agents are annoying. They bombard and pester me from all possible means and they are everywhere – Cold calls from unidentified number, SMS blast, Email, Roadshows or Canvassing (street surveys).
Insurance Agent’s Lens: Consider this – According to Trading Economics, 85% of the workforce today are employed. If you are a salaried-employee, it means that you hold a job. Do you agree that your job is a combination of various sorts, including answering emails, undertaking uphill tasks, make your boss look good, shield your team from trouble etc. At the end of the day, you work so hard so that you bring food back on the table by performing your job (well).
For the rest of 15%, most of us are self-employed. – Being an Insurance agent is our job. And to bring food on the table would require us to prospect, and naturally we would approach the majority, which is YOU who have the earning power. Period. That’s why we need to be ultra-thick skin to keep trying because we always believe “Success is always one more try away.”
Not because we love to pester people but because we have an important WHY like yours to Bring Food Back to our Family
Of course after prospecting, we seize every opportunity to share valuable insights to influence you to make that buying decision and continue the journey with good follow-up service.
Consumer’s Lens: Insurance Agents are always up-sell me plans which I do not need.
I was once a victim of this and only after I became a Financial Consultant, then I realised I had been over-paying for 3 exact same duplicated riders for so many years!
I was so mad and vowed to myself that I shall adhere to and impose the strictest highest ethical and integrity standards on myself so that none of my clients would suffer the same.
Insurance Agent’s Lens:
According to the 2017 Protection Gap Study – Singapore by Life Insurance Association of Singapore, most of us are under-insured.
The Protection Gap study clearly states that we generally require Critical Illness coverage equivalent to 3.9x of our annual income.
Just imagine this scenario – today if you are a ‘cold’ prospect who have been enticed by that single particular plan (usually it is an endowment plan which in other terms, we call it a savings plan) which was shared hastily over the cold call or roadshow. Why do you think we would start with this as conversation opener? That’s because it is simply human nature to hear “What’s in for me? Don’t beat around the bush. Tell me what do I gain?” So the fastest way to attract your attention would be to talk about the good interest rate returns endowment plan. Simple as that.
But as good as the savings plans might be, even if you might have multiple savings plans, we know this is not sustainable in the long run. The reality is this – Today, if you have a Critical Illness or worse, if you are in Total Permanent Disability (TPD) state, do you think you can withdraw from your locked-in savings plans to pay the exorbitant medical bills amounting to more than $100K? Then after you leave the hospital, do you think you would still have a job? Isn’t that scary that when you have lost your perpetual income and yet still face those unrelenting endless bills at home for your utilities, house, car, family expenses and kids’ education?
That’s why as good and ethical Financial Planners, we need to do comprehensive planning to help you not only grow your wealth (savings or investment plans) but more importantly to protect you and family in the event such crisis happen and you cannot work anymore. This to me, is good financial planning by addressing all the risk exposures.
Consumer’s Lens: Insurance Agents are not well-educated. They are just typical Salesman.
Insurance Agent’s Lens: With effect from 1 February 2014, the minimum academic qualification requirements is either a GCE “A” Levels, an International Baccalaureate or a diploma awarded by a polytechnic in Singapore generally.
In fact in the past one year, I have come across many Millennials who enter this industry who graduated from the local universities that include NTU, NUS or SMU.
On the second point – We are just typical Salesman. I would say it is largely contingent on a few factors:
Whether the insurance agent appears to be overly-pushy and only interested to seal the deal quickly without good proper explanation? Sometimes clients might even find out subsequently that the agent could have misrepresented the plan.
Whether the insurance agent takes time to do proper fact-finding, understand your current needs and priorities, help you identify potential gaps then help you agree that you need to have certain coverage to protect you and family?
Whether the insurance agent is able to communicate effectively by breaking down the technicalities of the complicated plan to give you a simplified concept understanding first? Because from my own personal experience, there is really no point going into the 50-page Product Illustration if client does not even understand the basic purpose.
Whether the insurance agent is still willing to provide best service quality and disregard the fact that, perhaps in the course of servicing, there is No Money to be Made.
On the last point – I was deeply saddened to hear that my own best friend’s Mum (at age 59) unknowingly committed to a 15-years endowment plan paying $3K per year 3 years ago! She’s now still left with 12 more years to pay!!! Worse, she thought it was a hospitalisation plan.
The first insurance agent has since left the industry and she was transferred to another aAgent Y. And Agent Y blatantly disclaimed that he is “Just a transferred agent and do not earn a cent” and hung up on this poor English-illiterate Aunty and my best friend. When I got wind of it, I rushed down to their house and all it took was 15 minutes face-to-face explanation to assist them. My best friend was so thankful that it saved her mum 1.5 hours of travelling time to go to Customer Service counter in Downtown.
In absence of the above, then yes, you can call them Typical Salesman. But I still believe that most of us are good Financial Consultants who truly work towards the best interests of our clients.
Time Check: 9th Sept, 8am.
Time Taken to Write: 4 hours… This article had been re-written twice. =( I lost the first version due to error in saving…
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14th May 2020