Work life balance is an elusive dream to many Singaporeans who clock long hours in the office during the week and sometimes even on weekends.
But not for Mr Raymond Wee Sian Wen, 40, associate director with Financial Alliance, currently one of the largest independent financial adviser firms in Singapore.
Mr Wee treasures the job’s flexible working hours. Says the father-of-two: “Before I had children, I used to climb mountains and run marathons. I liked the fact that I could take time off work to train for that.
“Now that I have children, it’s great to be able to occasionally take them out on weekdays when we can have a leisurely time without the weekend crowd.
“To do that, I don’t have count down the days of leave I have left till the end of the year.”
Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1994, Mr Wee stumbled into the world of finance, thanks to his dad who was an insurance financial adviser.
His dad had invited him to a recruitment talk his company was giving. The young Mr Wee was impressed by the speaker’s claim that new graduates could earn an average monthly salary of $3,000 if they could seal five insurance deals.
“I thought finding five clients a month should be a piece of cake and this would then leave me with flexibility of time to do what I really wanted,” Mr Wee recalls.
He soon discovered that finding new clients was not that easy. He says: “It required focus and a measure of hard work – this is no different today.”
Still, the flexibility of his job kept him going. When the Financial Advisers’ Act was passed in 2002 to facilitate the setting up of Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) firms, many of his colleagues resigned to join such organisations.
With some research, he learnt that many developed countries had realigned their financial services industry to market financial products the IFA way. That prompted him to join Financial Alliance.
However, as the IFA trend had yet to catch on in Singapore, Mr Wee had to explain the role of an IFA to his potential clients.
Says Mr Wee: “Consumers understood the role of banks and insurance companies. However, they were puzzled as to how our set up worked, that is, how we could represent so many insurance companies yet not be an agent of any of them.”
As Mr Wee was convinced of the benefits his work could bring to his clients, he was able to overcome the initial challenges.
He still holds on to that conviction.
He explains: “I feel it will benefit my clients if I represent more than one insurance company, to offer the best fit for my clients’ insurance planning.
“Accessibility to more insurance companies and a wider range of financial products allows me to complete the building blocks in a client’s overall financial plan more adequately.
He has had to work harder to gain his clients’ trust him as they were used to dealing with banks and other established financial institutions.
“I was constantly asked, ‘what if your company closes down?’ I had to explain that even though we are an IFA, their business was still placed with our product providers.”
On a typical day, Mr Wee spends his mornings signing documents or sorting out paperwork.
Lunch is with his clients or with consultants in the small team he heads. In the afternoon, he is back in the office or sometimes he works from home to make calls to clients or potential candidates who might want to join the industry.
To stay motivated in his job, it is important that Mr Wee connects with clients to convince them of the benefits of a sound financial plan.
He says: “Looking into one’s financial planning and setting aside money in the event of premature death or for retirement may not seem immediately attractive compared to buying the latest electronic gadget or signing up for beauty treatments.”
Mr Wee likens his job to that of an entrepreneur. He says: “We have to be ready to seek out opportunities, understand consumer trends and tell others about our services.”