Professionalism in the Financial Industry

Chartered Financial Consultant Mr. Wilfred Ling comments on the state of professionalism within the financial industry in Singapore.

Professionalism has always been a concern to me since I stepped into this industry. From day 1 of my work, I have been carrying the grandiose title of Financial Consultant despite the fact that I have only passed three simple MCQ papers and underwent some sales training. Moreover, it appeared to me that the manner I was trying to solicit business was completely unbecoming of what I understood by a Financial Consultant. I was either being a pesky telemarketer doing cold-calling or a street solicitor accosting random passer-bys. It was physically tiring and mentally draining, and all this so that we have the chance to be nothing more than a salesman trying to sell a product that neither was the most suitable, nor the most superior in the market.

For a time I tried to dissociate myself from being a financial adviser and see my job as a sales representative. I believe that if I couldn’t be a professional financial adviser because of the various restrictions I faced as a tied agent, I could still be a professional sales representative. Anyway, the training we received were focused on how to sell particular products and imparting sales techniques so it was not a big shift in job duties but merely my perception of what I was doing.

It did not work for long. It’s one thing to sell a computer, a car or even something as expensive as a house, but a financial product is an entirely different thing. Unlike the tangible items mentioned, a financial product’s true cost and value are not clear to a layman consumer. In my opinion, even a salesman must ensure that whatever he is selling is of reasonable value to his customer. As my financial knowledge improved, I realised that even I was being under-insured. I quickly made the decision to find a better environment for myself.

I am glad that for the past few months, I have been able to meet new clients – entirely without cold calling or harassing passer-bys – in the professional setting of my office where all the materials are readily available and the discussions are private. With the massive amount of time freed up from prospecting, I am able to focus more on researching the best financial portfolio for each client, and also constantly improve my financial knowledge to better serve their needs. I believe this is a good hallmark of a true professional financial adviser.

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