IN THIS period of economic uncertainty, financial planner Jenny Aw has clinched more deals than she did when times were good.

She believes this is because people have realised the importance of managing their money better and have turned to her for advice.

Says the associate financial consultant with MAA Financial Planners: “It was an opportunity for me to highlight to my clients the importance of not putting all their eggs into one basket but to diversify their investments.

“I always believe that in every crisis there is a silver lining somewhere. We just need to work harder to find it.”

Good career move

A career in insurance was not her first choice. She ran a retail business after finishing her studies, but after 10 years of long working hours, she decided to take a break.

A chance meeting with an old acquaintance — an insurance agent — got her interested in joining the industry, and she applied for a position with MAA Financial Planners.

“What they offered tallied with what I had in mind, so I grabbed the job,” she says.

What she wanted in 1999 was flexible working hours, zero start-up capital, being her own boss and long-term prospects in the industry.

The job also allowed her to use her experience in the retail business and to serve from the heart, because being an independent agent meant that she could provide a wide range of products from various agencies.

She says: “I don’t approach clients with an eye on their pockets; rather I think of how best to service the specific needs of each client even if the commission doesn’t cover all the effort I may have to put in to get what they want.”

Generally, financial planners or insurance agents work on a 100 per cent commission basis, she says. According to Ms Aw, a novice can collect a five-digit commission in the first year.

Her efforts have paid off. From starting as an agent, she has risen to the position of sales manager with a team of seven advisers. She has also qualified for the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) producers’ award every year since 2002. To qualify for the MDRT, one must earn at least $100,000 per annum.

MAA Financial Planners, started in 1997, has 80 independent agents. On a typical day, the agents meet at least two or three clients, while managers like Ms Aw also supervise the junior advisers.

Ms Aw, 41, enjoys the work-life balance that the job offers and derives great satisfaction from being able to help people in times of financial need.

For example, she has helped a 37-year-old kidney patient with two young daughters to make a dread disease insurance claim. Dread disease insurance is a type of health insurance that provides coverage for specified chronic illnesses such as cancer.

Still room to grow

With about 15,000 insurance agents working in Singapore’s insurance sector, one may think the industry is saturated, but Ms Aw begs to differ.

People’s needs change, so there is always the potential for more business. She has met families who have up to 20 insurance policies.

She says: “This business not only rewards you well, it also nurtures you to be a better person in life. You learn to be patient, to listen and to put your client’s interests before your own.”

To work in this industry, a person must be at least 21 years old, have a minimum of four GCE O-level passes and obtain a licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The latter will be given when the candidate passes four examinations on the rules and regulations of financial advisory services, unit trusts, life insurance and health insurance.

Ms Aw’s target is to triple her headcount of seven advisers. With her enthusiasm for the job, she may well achieve this target with ease as the economy crawls back to health.