Why I do what I do: [Heart to Heart Talk]

Posted 2 March, 2017 by Clearly
in Guest Contributions

It is not every day that you get to sit down for a good hour with a Life Insurance agent to just… talk about Life.

We were pleasantly surprised when Kim Tan reached out to us to have a most transparent and illuminating interview. Over a quiet Sunday afternoon, we talked about life, life Insurance, and the life of an agent.

This article presents the insights and innermost thoughts that we gleaned from her.


Why did you choose to be an agent? Isn’t job stability important to you?


It starts with a Trust Fall


Job stability is indeed very important to me so I have never thought that I will be an agent. Till I went for a convention trip to Istanbul with my boyfriend and spoke with one of the directors. He was only 27 years old and is very successful in the business.

He shared with me the purpose of an agent: how we can ensure if a catastrophic event happens the families are taken care of, how your work will be appreciated by your clients and how you can touch their lives.

He also shared with me that since I am still young,  to give the career a try, if it really didn’t work out, my corporate job will be still there for me.

There was nothing to lose, and I was also feeling sick of my previous job. I guess it was all about the timing and I decided to give it a try. It also helped that I always have wanted to be there for my friends and family in times of need.

You could almost say that it was a calling. I’ve not looked back since.


How long have you been an agent? How is the going so far?


I have been an agent for over two years. It has been a rough journey, with lots of rejections and it hurts when a few of my closest friends bought plans from other people instead of me.

Sometimes it makes me question myself, but I guess I can’t make everyone my client.  At the same time, I’ve met strangers and referrals who become good friends of mine and I am glad that some of them referred their friends and families to me too.

There have been rough patches but certainly plenty of good times too.


What are the downsides of being an agent? Do you lose any of your friends?


A lot of hidden costs that other people don’t see, both monetary and personal costs.

For example – We have to pay for roadshow fees, Agency Dinner and Dance (Editor: What?), course fees, calendar and planners, and gifts for clients. It’s also a career that required me to step out of my comfort zone to talk to strangers on the street and to learn not to take rejections too personally.

I did lose a few friends but those friends are not even close in the first place so I wasn’t affected by it. If by joining the insurance industry and those friends start to avoid you then I guess those aren’t even true friends to start with.


Do you see yourself continuing in this line, knowing that there may be tough times ahead?



Yes, although there might be tough times ahead. Tough times don’t last but tough people do!

I believe as long as I continue to work hard I will definitely do well. My friends and clients put their trust in me; I do not want to disappoint them too.


Given that there are Direct Purchase options available online, do you see that as a threat to your livelihood?


Surprisingly, no. They are not a threat as what we provide is service, advice, and most importantly a personal touch. (Ed: It’s true, she gave me a planner with decorated with my name on it – and it was handwritten! And no, I did not buy anything from her. Yet.)

I feel that most people will still prefer to have a service agent that they can look for in the event of a claim.  Moreover, not all products are available via Direct Purchase, thus if they were like to conduct a comprehensive financial planning process, people would still have to work with a financial planner for now.


What other challenges do you foresee that agents will face in the near future (3-5 years)?


The bar just keeps getting higher and higher


There will be increased regulations and advances in technology – ironically I think it will help the industry as a whole.

For example, MAS has been coming up with regulations for Financial Planning Services. There has been news that they would be more stringent even for door-to-door sales with tighter controls and records.

These will serve only to keep agents on their toes and to improve the quality and offering of their services, knowledge, and professionalism. The real challenge is for agents to step up their game and improve!


What keeps you going in this line? What do you like most about being an agent?


My existing clients keep me going. I enjoy the satisfaction that I get when my clients appreciate my work and effort.



Is there a happy story you would like to share?


I met this door knock client over the door and manage to close an accident plan. Subsequently, she was busy with studies, travel, and work so it took me a long yet to follow up with her. When she was finally less busy we managed to meet up and I shared some thoughts and insights about savings since she had the intention to save regularly.

She complimented me saying that I am genuine and sincere in servicing her. She then referred her sister to me and manage to persuade her dad to switch their servicing agent to me as she felt that the previous agent was not active in keeping in touch.


Best of Gal Pals now


I felt very happy as I gained a whole family of friends. I have got another client who stays at the same block that treats me like her daughter and even invited me to their place for home cooked dinners. Those are the kind of clients that keep me going when I feel down or when I meet rude people.


Are there sad stories that you would like to share?


Not really, as the most I have ever experienced are just straight up rejections. Rejections from close friends, rejections from people whom I thought will definitely buy from me. But those rejections are usually the same; some people are not ready to do anything to their life, some just don’t like and trust you.

A truly sad story would be someone who was approached to buy insurance but didn’t – and then his family might have to pay the price later on. Hopefully, I do not experience it. And that is what I work towards preventing every day.


What are the common reasons that people join this line?


Flexibility and control over their time are one of them.

Next is (potentially) a bigger paycheck – though I have yet to experience that!

Lastly, there are people who have been through the harrowing process of serious illness, premature death, or major accidents with their loved ones and experienced the importance of insurance first hand.


What do you have to say about the negative attitude that some people have towards agents? 


The classic knee jerk reaction to Insurance Agents


Understandable. We have come to expect and accept it. Some people just have negative experiences with previous agents or perhaps even with the insurance company directly. So that tends to colour their perceptions.

But that being said, I think that is is unfair that most people feel insurance agents are merely salesmen, probably due to certain shortcuts and product pushing that some bad sheep engage in.

However, there are plenty of great agents out there who genuinely care, and do what is right for their clients.


What kind of advice would you give to someone who is about to join the line?


Many people consider joining but many of them stop after they experience first hand what it really requires.

It definitely is a simple job, but not an easy one. Simple because it is all about meeting people and playing a numbers game. (Ed: Most agents are indoctrinated that way)

All you need are activities (constantly being productive), knowledge, and good habits. As we like to say in our agency: ASAP. Activities Solves All Problems!

You might not see results at the beginning but do not give up.


What kind of qualities do you think a successful agent needs?


Many people think that being personable, and being able to “sell” is a must. I think that works for the short term. To succeed over the long term, there needs to be something more in the tank.

For me, I would say that a successful agent needs to have a genuine passion for compassion, needs to be coachable (to keep learning), hardworking, responsible and motivated.


Tell us about your typical day



It is a long and hard day indeed! (Cheerful laugh)

I’m usually in the office by 930 am for an hour of calling. Next would be to catch up on administrative work or prepare some proposals till 1145 before I head out to my lunch appointment.

Then back to the office again for more proposals till dinner (where another appointment awaits). If there isn’t a dinner appointment for the day, I usually will head out for a door knock session from 430 pm till 9 pm. (Ed: that’s 4.5 hours on her feet!)

My designated rest day is Wednesday (One day out of the week), but I will head back to work if required.

No one said it was going to be easy.


And finally: Give me a famous quote that keeps you going


We have plenty of that going around!

My personal favorite is from Winston Churchill:



“If I had my way, I would write the word ‘insure’ upon the door of every cottage and upon the blotting book of every public man, because I am convinced, for sacrifices so small, families and estates can be protected against catastrophes which would otherwise smash them up forever.

It is the duty to arrest the ghastly waste, not merely of human happiness, but national health and strength, which follows when, through the death of the breadwinner, the frail boat in which the family are embarked, founders and the women and children and the estates are left to struggle in the dark waters of a friendless world.”

Ed: Alas! We don’t write like that anymore. As witty and pithy as can be.


Editor’s Closing


She is as genuine as they come. Kudos to Kim for sticking it out in a notoriously tough industry and keeping the joy of work alive. If you would like to reach out to her to say hello, or encourage the work she is doing, here are her contact details.

Kim Tan from the Advisors Alliance Group (Representing Great Eastern Singapore)

HP: 9815 6562

Email: tanlikim@rep-sg.greateasternlife.com



If you are an agent with a story to share, we would love to hear from you! Just reach out to us here and we will do the rest. Heart to heart talks are our specialty. Onward!


www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.

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