Mr Vincent Ee, the founder and managing director of independent financial advisory firm Financial Alliance, has made a career out of sound choices and careful reading of the financial climate.
Mr Ee has always had an independent streak. His father was a self-employed building contractor, and he has charted his career from this early example.
After earning a degree in banking and insurance from Nanyang Technological University — an experience he didn’t enjoy all that much, preferring philosophy instead — Mr Ee joined a life insurance company in 1989 as an insurance agent.
“It wasn’t glamorous at all,” he recalls, “but I took up the challenge without much hesitation because I simply felt that life insurance is such a wonderful product for people.”
But even then, as much as he enjoyed seeing how his work changed his clients’ lives in positive ways, he always knew that the independent model was the way forward.
“In the initial years of my career, I acquired knowledge in financial planning and became very passionate about it.
“Instead of only selling life insurance, I started doing comprehensive financial planning for my clients.
“As I dealt with more clients and began handling more and more complex financial planning cases, I began to realise that the entire financial services model should be an integrated one so that it could serve the financial planning needs of consumers.
“The vision to operate an independent financial practice that served as a one-stop centre for clients slowly crystallised.”
Mr Ee was so passionate about his idea that he took his idea of setting up an independent outfit as a life insurance broker to the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 1992.
The timing, though, wasn’t right.
It wasn’t until he attended a talk in 2000 given by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Securities Investors Association — in which he supported the emergence of a single class of independent advisers who could offer comprehensive financial planning advice — that Mr Ee saw his chance.
Within two years of that speech, Mr Ee had gathered sufficient start-up funds and a team to launch Financial Alliance.
These days, the company has over 200 financial advisory consultants on the pay roll as well as 30 support staff. It covers comprehensive financial planning for both corporate and individual clients.
On the corporate side, Financial Alliance advises on key executive bonus schemes, employee benefits and succession planning.
Individual clients, on the other hand, tap into the company’s wealth protection, maintenance and accumulation expertise.
For Mr Ee, the pay-off goes far beyond his fees.
“As a financial adviser, the most fulfilling part of my job is seeing clients change and improve their financial well-being when they follow my planning advice.”
There is the intangible reward of prepping the next generation for its turn on the financial stage — the pay it forward effect, if you like.
He says the most satisfying part of his job “is being able to groom many successful and professional financial practitioners”.
And despite the turbulence of the past couple of years, he believes that “there are immense opportunities in the finance and banking sector. The industry has evolved, but it will always be around”.
It is a faith that he has acquired through sheer hard work and tremendous foresight and he is determined to instil it in his juniors.
“Though finance is all about numbers, more importantly, you need to be good with people,” he advises.
“Be a good worker. But also be a good learner.
“The skills you learn in one segment of the industry are highly applicable to other segments of the industry because of the great convergence of banking, insurance and investment services within the sector that has been taking place since the beginning of this decade.”