Insurance Discussion SG, Singapore’s largest insurance Facebook community, held their inaugural Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) session last week.
Popularised by Reddit, AMAs give communities a unique opportunity to have candid conversations directly with individuals with unique insights about the issues that are close to their heart.
This AMA’s guest was Vincent Ee, CEO and Co-Founder of Financial Alliance, Singapore’s largest independent financial advisory firm. Vincent has been in the financial advisory industry for about 30 years and has helmed Financial Alliance for 17 of those years.
For two hours, Vincent, together with his colleagues, fielded questions from the community. What resulted was an engaging discussion on topics that spanned from individual financial planning to broader trends and the future of the industry.
For those who missed it, this article contains some of the highlights from the AMA. The questions and replies have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Alternatively, you can also view the thread below:
Financial Planning Process
Question #1: “How can financial advisers get appropriate training to better advise individuals with special needs or their caregivers?”
Vincent: “Financial advisers should be adequately trained by the financial advisory firm they represent on various financial planning subjects, including financial planning for those with special needs. Where life insurance is concerned, life insurance companies do provide such training from time to time as well.
In particular, to assist clients with special needs or their dependents, it is important to be well-versed with the Special Needs Trust. Financial Alliance does invite the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) to conduct sessions to help our representatives better understand Special Needs Trusts.
In my view, the knowledge required to pass the papers and acquire the MAS license to give financial advice and distribute insurance or investment products is barely enough to serve the diverse needs of clients.
At Financial Alliance, we provide a lot of training to equip our advisers to carry out their job well. All new advisers are also required to undergo intense, compulsory training courses before they could start advising clients. When they start advising clients, they continue to learn on the job, mentored by a qualified supervisor.
And even for veteran advisers, the learning doesn’t stop – on an ongoing basis, we conduct training on the latest policies, processes and products to ensure all our advisers are always up-to-date.”
Question #2: “To what extent should a financial adviser take responsibility for their clients’ buyer’s remorse if a recession occurs within next five years and they suffer prolonged unemployment or investment losses? In light of this, how should advisers approach recommending financial products that impose regular financial commitments?”
Vincent: “Buyer’s remorse in life insurance comes when a client has bought a plan without really knowing how it works and why they need it, or if the client has overstretched to buy a plan without carefully considered their financial ability.
At the point of purchase, a good adviser needs to take responsibility to properly find out what the client’s needs are and discuss their suitability for a particular plan, and then recommend a policy that is within the client’s budget. When determining the ability to afford premiums, it is important to not just consider your current financial situation but also the financial commitment over the long-term.”
Question #3: “Is it true that buying a policy from a tied agent (a representative of the insurer) means that it is easier to make claims or resolve issues if you encounter any problems with the insurer in future?”
This question was answered by Michelle Ee, Director for Life Insurance & Financial Planning at Financial Alliance: “Whether a claim can be made depends on factors such as whether the claim event is covered, whether it falls under any general or specific exclusion, and if are there pre-existing conditions not disclosed to insurer.
Of course, a financial adviser who is knowledgeable, experienced and helpful can go a long way to make the claims process a lot smoother, and even advocate on the client’s behalf to assert their claims. The above attributes are what matters, and not whether they are a tied agent or independent financial adviser.”
A Career As A Financial Adviser
Question #4: “What are the traits and skills needed for a successful career as a financial adviser?”
Vincent: “For those looking for quick success, sheer determination and persistence can help one to be fairly successful in the short-term.
But for those who regard this business as a profession and are looking to build long-term success, they need to look at how they can earn and keep the trust of clients and other professionals.
This will require advisers to have traits such as patience, empathy, competence as well as being ethical. Having good people and communication skills is also necessary.
As self-employed individuals, financial advisers need to wear many hats at the same time: being a financial professional who has in-depth knowledge and gives quality advice; being able to market oneself and build a sustainable business network. Those who want to do well in this business need to strike a good balance between a businessperson and professional.
For Financial Alliance, we believe that finding the right fit is most important. Not everyone is suitable to be a financial adviser, even though the rewards and satisfaction can be attractive for many.
When we look for prospective advisers to join us, we are looking for candidate who share our belief in establishing a win-win relationship with clients that can stand the test of time. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many advisers in the industry who might have the interest of their customers at heart, but ultimately make compromises because of business pressure.”
Question #5:“Is there any difference in commissions earned by representatives of an independent financial advisory firm compared to a tied agency?”
Vincent: “Regarding renumeration for distributing insurance or investment plans, the insurance companies pay the same commission to tied agents and financial advisory firms like us. Any difference should be negligible.”
On The Insurance And Financial Planning Industry
Question #6: “Regarding consumer buying decisions, advisor remuneration, and potential changes MAS may make to the way insurers and advisors operate, where do you see the industry being in the next five to ten years?”
Vincent: “First of all, I am positive about the outlook of the industry in the next five to ten years and beyond.
As for trends, consumers are getting smarter, more informed and prefer multiple channels of dealing with financial institutions and financial advisers.
I believe that consumers’ awareness on the choices available to them will continue to rise. Those who have been served by agents from a single life insurance company are becoming aware of the existence of alternatives like independent financial advisory firms like us.
Thanks to FinTech, it would be harder to not embrace technology because younger clients prefer the best of both – the human touch with convenience of technology.
Regulations will continue to be tight but remain stable. Advisors who follow rules and do right by their clients should have nothing to worry about.”
Question #7: “How do you foresee the profession of financial advisors changing in the next decade and beyond, considering the many digital insurers and investment brokers springing up, as well as options to buy products directly online? Will human financial advisers still be relevant?”
Vincent: “Technological advancements have pushed changes in many industries, and the financial advisory industry is no exception. But the nature of our business is one where not all processes can be replaced by digital and online channels, and human empathy and expertise is still required to guide clients along their financial planning journey.
Thus, it is my conviction that human financial advisers will still be relevant in the next decade and beyond, with advisers needing to change the way they conduct their businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that digital innovations bring.”
Join Singapore’s Largest Facebook Community For Insurance
Insurance Discussion SG would like to thank everyone for their participation in this AMA session, with special thanks to Vincent and his colleagues for taking time to answer all the questions.
If you haven’t already done so, do join the group and take part in ongoing conversations on insurance products, policies and the everything in between.
For those who are interested to learn more about Financial Alliance, either as a client or to join their team, do visit the Financial Alliance website and get in touch with them.
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