MR COLIN ONG, 41, is a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). The executive director of financial services at Great Eastern, a leading life insurance group in Singapore, and chairman of Advisors’ Clique, a group of agencies representing Great Eastern, is a veteran who has achieved the MDRT 13 times.

The MDRT is an international association that admits top insurance practitioners with annual accounts surpassing $100,000 in eligible paid commissions, or $300,000 in eligible paid premiums.

Selling insurance requires an entrepreneurial streak and a knack for finance but more importantly, a “fighting spirit and a love for building lasting relationships”, says Mr Ong.

“I come from a modest background and these are the values that I’ve learnt from my parents and grandmother. I found them invaluable when I started work because it’s a job that requires you to think and act in the best interest of your clients and associates.”

Early inspiration

A graduate in political science and sociology from the National University of Singapore, he was an active hostelite in Eusoff Hall and was involved in “just about everything”, he says.

It was during one of the many hall events that he was spotted by his business mentor, known in the industry as “Chuan” (from Chuan & Associates), who inspired him to realise his potential in the life planning business.

The job suited him because he believes that life planning is a noble profession.

“The MDRT is a reference to the legendary King Arthur and his knights of the round table [according to their code of chivalry, they were tasked with helping those in need]. The truth is, nobody likes to discuss death, disability and illness. It is in one’s nature to prefer immediate gratification as opposed to setting aside money today for a benefit in the future,” he explains.

For him the noble side of the job rings true whenever he personally delivers claims cheques to his clients. “That’s when I feel that I have been of value to people when they needed it the most.

“I deeply believe in adding value to people’s life. If you focus on doing just that every day, value is naturally added back into your life in some way,” he says.

Today, Mr Ong provides life-planning services for some 300 clients, but as executive director (Financial Services), his main task is to recruit, motivate and mentor his managers and associates to see them “fully realise their potential and dreams”.

He does so by advocating strategies that he has learnt from his mentor: make at least 20 calls a day to gather at least three new leads, treat every potential client meeting as a job interview and have the discipline to update one’s financial planning knowledge every day.

He also encourages his associates to tape-record their personal goals and listen to them on a quarterly basis as a reminder of their dreams and aspirations.

Team building is so high on his to-do list that he has reserved the entire third floor of his home for his directors, managers and associates.

“There’s a theatre bar named after Advisors’ Clique, a gym and an outdoor area with a jacuzzi. It is a place where everyone can enjoy my dad’s cooking, work out, chill out, have meetings and engage in their recruitment activities in a more informal setting,” he says.

His wife is also a founding member of Advisors’ Clique and a former Court of the Table qualifier – a status that requires one to earn thrice the MDRT membership requirement. They have a three-year-old daughter, Nicolette.

Thinking big

What sets his company apart from other insurance agencies is its “Eusoff Hall culture”, where associates get involved in different committees to help organise team bonding activities.

Many of his associates were also student leaders and active hostelites in their university days, like himself.

He adds: “When I was younger, I hardly had any goals — I just kind of lived from day to day. But now, together with the seven other founding members of Advisors’ Clique, we plan to double our 150-member team over the next three to five years.”