The secrets to building a long and successful career in insurance


By Amir Sadiq

How does one establish a successful career spanning over two decades and stay true to purpose as a financial representative? We spoke to Great Eastern's Mr Glenn Yong to find out just what goes into the making of a great financial representative.

Building a successful career in insurance, as with any other professions, requires hard work and determination, dedication to the craft and to the people. However, it is common to hear stories of people who do not enjoy their chosen profession and choose to leave. This is despite them having undergone the various industry-recognised programmes to pass the mandatory certifications to qualify as a professional financial representative.

For Glenn Yong, Great Eastern’s head of agency business development who first set foot into the insurance industry in 1996, it has been over 25 years. But even after all this time, he is still brimming with youthful exuberance and enthusiasm as he speaks to us about what it takes, to build a long-lasting career in insurance.

Starting the day right

One of Glenn’s secrets to moving from strength to strength in his career over the years is as simple as making sure that he starts his day right to prepare him well for the day ahead.

Once his alarm goes off, he does his daily morning stretches as exercise to him is key to keeping an alert mind.

For breakfast, what many consider as the most important meal of the day, it is a daily menu of a soft-boiled egg with garlic and chilli padi (bird’s eye chilli), accompanied by a homemade “cocktail” of lemon, boiled ginger and honey.

“My mornings are pretty much standard. I realise that with this particular concoction, I get off to a good start to the day. Somehow, it makes me happy,” he said.

How the journey began, and how the passion still burns

Even after 25 years in the industry, Glenn’s passion for his work has not diminished, fuelled largely by the fact that he is able to help people.

Recounting his university days, he shared that having interacted with insurance agents who were doing a recruitment drive in campus, he was inspired to take a shot in financial advisory.

Starting as an insurance agent, Glenn did well and as he continued in his role, he began to realise that insurance is an industry that truly helps people. He also appreciated that his income earned was commensurate with the effort he put into his work.

Though Glenn is not providing financial advisory to customers anymore as his role has evolved into agency business development, he appreciates how he is still able to help people in their lives in his current position.

“Every day I tell myself that I’m able to touch more than 5,000 lives, including about 800 sales leaders here in Great Eastern, and that’s why I love my job,” he said.

Money is important – but not the be-all and end-all

Glenn is no stranger to the many misconceptions about insurance, for as long as he has been in the business, and one of the most common being that insurance agents are “in it purely for the money.”

Rather than trying to play down the role of money in a financial adviser’s career, Glenn said, “For everyone starting out in a career, or building a business, money is important. For a successful financial representative, to remain in the industry and to continue servicing the clients who have entrusted him/her with their long-term financial planning it is important to make a decent income to stay in the business because there are opportunity costs and so forth.”

Agents who stay the course and continue to do a good job over a long period are the ones who remain true to themselves, their people and their clients. According to Glenn, traits such as altruism and empathy, on top of having genuine care for other people and helping newbies and established financial representatives achieve longevity and success.

Keeping up with the times

It is inevitable that one would face changes and challenges in the span of one’s career.  Glenn believes that it is crucial to move with the times and embrace change to overcome challenges.

For most of us, COVID-19 is likely to be the biggest driver of change that we have encountered so far. With physical contact and face-to-face interactions becoming a bit of a luxury these days, insurance agents have had to adapt and go digital to interact with their clients.

Great Eastern had already started its digital transformation process even before COVID-19 struck, and the company was one of the first in the industry to roll out a non-face-to-face advisory platform to support its financial representatives, and to provide its customers with the ability to buy insurance solutions they sought through digital platforms.

In the insurance industry, this forward-looking digital approach quickly continued to enable its financial representatives to conduct their financial advisory services as usual, facilitated continuing engagement with their customers, and enabling them to service customers’ needs anytime anywhere.

“We also made use of personal URLs, allowing our agents to actually engage their customers and prospects via a personal link.” he said.

Supporting such initiatives required a holistic approach where the necessary IT infrastructure needed to be put in place, while training needs were made accessible and available online to Great Eastern’s financial representatives and communicating the latest changes to all financial representatives.

Great Eastern also made efforts to constantly engage its staff and financial representatives through webinars to understand their challenges and share the latest updates so they could continue to provide seamless advisory services to their customers.

“It was critical for us to make sure that they could continue doing their business and servicing clients’ needs,” he said. Great Eastern also ensured that their financial representatives were upskilled to match up to the increasingly digital lifestyles of their customers through multi-faceted training programmes that included using digital tools to engage with their customers.

Glenn said that it is also important for people in the industry to be up-to-date with digital marketing and social media as potential and existing customers are increasingly digital natives, while digital migrants (older customers) are similarly conversant in all things digital. “Things are going to be so different from now on and I really look forward to what happens in the next couple of years,” he said.

What does it take to be successful in financial advisory?

Glenn shares his drawer of secrets to become a successful financial representative.

Firstly, it is important to be truly hungry for success. He has observed that people who stay as financial representatives/insurance agents, perform well and enjoy their career. They are the ones “with a true sense of hunger to do well for their customers, their teams, themselves and their families.”

This ties in with the purpose of their role ­– that they are “truly helping, and doing a service” for their clients by demonstrating values such as altruism, empathy and care for others

 “I’ve seen people who come in with hunger – deep hunger – but not being sincere to themselves and their people, and unfortunately, they don’t last long,” he said.

He added that for those who are considering a career in insurance business, it is important that they take their time to think about what they want to achieve in their career, and find an insurer and a mentor that is the right fit for them. He continued, “Take the time to shop around and speak with people who will ultimately stay and care for you for life.”

And his last piece of advice?

Glenn says, “Insurance is a complex topic that people do not generally think about, and financial planning is not a one-size-fits- all approach either. To approach and educate people on the importance of doing financial planning early with a professional financial representative, is an ongoing advocacy for us in this business.

“At Great Eastern, we ensure our financial representatives remain professional and ethical, and continue to perform their role by investing in their training and emphasising our ethos as a customer-centric insurer to them as empathy and care to our customers is key. This is extremely important as insurance is never meant to be “sold”, but rather “bought” by customers to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

“To me, a successful financial representative is one who is committed to a long lasting relationship with their clients through different life stages because they care and have earned their customers’ trust by making a difference in their lives.”


This article was first published in Asia Advisers Network on 22 September 2021.