How To Be A Takaful Agent Extraordinaire
Heng Shoou Ju left the comforts of a senior post in civil service 23 years ago to join the insurance sector as an agent and has not looked back since. The former government servant describes it as a leap of faith she took then in pursuit of better financial independence and living standards.
Having started off promoting insurance plans under the Great Eastern Life banner, the University of Malaya economics graduate says she waited in great anticipation for Great Eastern to start off its takaful business. Hitting the ground running when Great Eastern Takaful Berhad was launched in 2010 .
Heng is well-known for her consistent top of the charts performance as an agent and takaful advisor. An achievement which she credits to her structured and meticulous nature; and her mission to help people manage risks, recover from the unexpected and realise their dreams. Much like her own when she started out in this business.
Here, she shares useful tips about how to succeed and sustain in a career she describes as self-motivating and self-fulfilling.
Q: Why did you venture into the takaful industry?
A: It was of utmost importance to me because I am very comfortable serving the Malay community, who were my former colleagues when I served in the civil service for 15 years. When I started, these friends of mine supported me wholeheartedly.
I understand their culture, their needs and most importantly, their religious belief. And I also understood very well their negative perception to the term ‘insurance and interest’ and why that was so.
With that, I set out with the aim to create greater awareness among them on the need for proper financial planning and to let them know there were options aligned to their faith.
Q: How did you manage to build trust?
A: Whether you are proposing traditional insurance or takaful coverage, it is important to remember the basic rule – we need to educate our prospective clients on the importance of proper financial management, not sell insurance/takaful plans to them.
I advise my Malay clientele on the need to have three basic type of savings – Amanah Saham Bumiputera, Tabung Haji and money in the bank. Then, I talk to them about unexpected circumstances that could crop up, such as critical illness or the need for hospitalisation, and, on the need to have ready funds for these eventualities. I also advise them that they should not dip into their savings pool when the unexpected happens.
Then, I explain to them the benefits of takaful, about the concept of hibah which can instantaneously result in the creation of a sizeable fund to be used when calamity hits. I also explain to them the concept of tabarru, where the shared fund by all participants is used to pay for medical expenses, even up to the age of 99. Understanding the takaful product is one thing, but understanding why it is important that these products are aligned to their religious belief is paramount.
Q: What are the characteristics of a successful takaful advisor?
A: To be successful in this business, you must understand people and their needs and have a desire to help them manage their finances to prepare for the future ahead.
Currently, I have more than 4,000 clients and I must say I get great satisfaction from the realisation that I have helped so many families prioritise financial planning as an effective way to protect them from the uncertainties and surprises life can spring up on you.
Q: What are your key strengths that other advisors could emulate?
A: I am very meticulous and I have a very clearly defined SOP, which is backed by a strong servicing team made up of pre-sales, post sales and administrative departments. When we have a prospective client, my pre-sales team will prepare a file with basic and pertinent information on the person. When this document comes to me, I put my heart and soul to make the file come alive by creating options that meet the client’s needs and affordability. This is where I focus my energy the most. This is my job sheet, my calling card, my paycheque, all in one.
Q: Why are some advisors more successful than others?
A: To be an insurance or a takaful advisor, you have to be mentally prepared to manage expectations. The luxury car and extravagant holidays will not come at the onset, and it is because of this unrealistic expectation that many advisors fail, because they do not expect to face rejection and challenges.
The other misconception is that freedom is bliss when you work in insurance/takaful – this thinking is a recipe for disaster. You need to be disciplined and put in solid working hours, otherwise you are shortchanging yourself. You have to think like a boss, which means you work harder and put in even more effort than when you were employed. It is possible to hit high targets a couple of months in a year, but quite another to perform consistently every month!
To succeed, one must be willing to stretch their maximum capacity. There needs to be structure, discipline, and the willpower to go the extra mile. You also need to have proper systems and processes in place. As you build your network, you need to invest in a servicing team that will help you with administrative tasks so that you can focus on using your time efficiently and productively.