Attracting talent to the insurance industry is a perennial challenge. More so a financial advisory career. So how does Advisors Alliance Group, an authorised representative of AIA Financial Advisers in Singapore, run varsity internship programmes that are so successful that it has had to turn away interested undergraduates?
Advisors Alliance Group’s executive director Sunny Yap Soon Jin is proud of his company’s track record in attracting well-qualified individuals into the financial advisory business – with more than 90% of its advisors being university graduates.
“In fact, we are proud to say that many of them are scholars and graduates with first-class honours or double-degrees,” he said. Advisors Alliance Group (AAG) currently has close to 600 advisers.
Key to its ability to attract talented graduates is the successful varsity internship programme. The Group has built deep roots in Singapore’s major universities and has conducted its Varsity Internship Programme annually since 2005. On average, it attracts more than 100 participants for this programme every year.
Internship programmes are nothing new. Many agency leaders and companies run such programmes to give a taste of the industry and to sell the benefits of a career in the insurance industry to attract talent.
For AAG though, he said, “We don’t sell the career in our internship programmes. What we do is to create a platform where these talented undergraduates can truly understand what’s embedded in the financial services industry over the course of eight weeks. So at the end of the day, whether they choose this career or not, they will know why. We offer fair and balanced perspectives, so that people can make a sound decision whether this industry is for them.”
While it may sound like a minor detail, it is a critical one which has helped the programme become so popular, interested participants have had to be turned away due to oversubscription.
Sharing its winning formula
Proud of its track record in attracting undergraduates and graduates, AAG has often shared the way it run its programme to both local and overseas peers. The group believes that being able to attract talent to the industry is to the benefit of everyone.
But it has been a challenge for many organisations to replicate its model. “For sure it is difficult for anybody running this for the first time. Similarly for us. We started with very few people. We made mistakes. But over the years, as we evolved, we became better and more experienced,” he said.
Agency leaders also have to change their mind-set. A lot of time and resources go into running these programmes. “And the first thing on their mind is ROI. How many recruits can I get out of this? How much sales can I get out of it?” That’s the wrong way of approaching it and the interns can feel whether you are sincere or not.
While much has been reported on how millennials are different and the need to be managed differently, Mr Yap holds a different view.
“To be a successful adviser, and in some respect to be a successful entrepreneur, the fundamental demands have not changed much. It requires a fair share of hard work and commitment. So whether it is for millennials or for ‘X,Y,Z’ generation, to be successful in this industry, the fundamental equation for success has not changed much,” he said.
And once you have laid a strong foundation of infrastructure, operating systems and culture, coming to office early, being disciplined, being well dressed, or embracing the philosophy of helping people become the norm. So new advisers, millennials or not, joining the organisation and wanting to be successful, do not have to be convinced to do so or expect to be treated differently, he said.
And AAG’s results speaks for itself. It is well represented on both the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) and International Dragon Awards (IDA) platforms.
In 2018, it became the first IDA 100 team in Singapore, a recognition that is awarded to any team in the world with 100 IDA awardees in a year. In the Singapore context, given its regulatory environment, to produce 100 IDAs in a team is a miracle, according to IDA founder Liang Tian Long.
Mr Yap, said: “In Southeast Asia, we are the only one. It makes us feel very proud because we can represent the little red dot and have a seat at the table among the big boys from major countries in the world.”
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