Apr 25 2022
The winds of change
By Elizabeth Diffin
When the Year of the Ox gave way to the Year of the Tiger, the Lunar New Year was more than merely a flip of the Chinese calendar. February 1 also marked a large shift, at least according to the Chinese Zodiac. The Year of the Tiger is thought to be one of great change, a phenomenon that no doubt will be welcomed by advisors in China, where change already is in the air.
“A series of changes are taking place in the marketing environment of China’s insurance industry,” said 16-year MDRT member Jie Jiao. “It has gone from a basic era to an advanced time with refinement, stratification and specialization.”
Jiao, of Qingdao, Shandong, already has seen many changes over the course of her career. One of the biggest shifts has been the increasing knowledge and awareness from consumers about insurance products. Insurance used to be purchased as a favor to whichever friend or family member was selling it. Now, she says, clients are more aware of the benefits of having insurance and are interested in diversifying the products they own.
Haiyang Wang, a seven-year MDRT member from Yangzhou, Jiangsu, also has observed this change. He says insurance products that focus on basic protection have given way to more sophisticated annuity products, which are popular. He credits this evolution to the demands of the first-tier markets and predicts it will continue.
“In the future, this industry will change to be truly customer-centered, and thus provide premium services,” he said. “So, there will be further improvements in product design, service provision and agent professionalism in the industry.”
Wang says the higher level of professionalism was assisted by the 2018 merger of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission into the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC). That consolidation led to stricter supervision of advisors and attracted individuals with more professionalism.
Additionally, Jiao says that since the differences between products can be negligible, clients choose their advisor based on something much more subjective: their opinion of whoever is selling it.
“Clients pay more attention to the professionalism of the agent and the long-term service in the future when choosing products,” she said. “So, the reputation of the agent is very important.”
She also believes that maintaining strong relationships with clients is crucial to ensure their satisfaction and retain them in long-term relationships.
“It is necessary to keep great relationships with clients by greeting them on every important festival, as well as helping them solve difficulties effectively, settle claims in a timely and warm manner, and make regular inspections of plans annually,” Jiao said.
She says the CBIRC’s focus on insurance as a protection product has led more agents to move beyond pure salesmanship to become true risk planners for their clients, taking the time to more fully understand their clients’ needs and goals.
“Now they need to understand different functions of insurance and use them to solve various problems for their clients,” she said. “This also requires the knowledge of law, taxation, finance, financial management, etc.”
Of course, the biggest test that Jiao faces is one of the few constants in an ever-changing market: people.
“Whether you are new, old or even Top of the Table, the challenge is the same, that is, human nature,” she said. “I genuinely help clients to think about how to show their love and responsibility if there is no tomorrow, and guide them to plan 10 years, 20 years or even 50 years ahead. These things are bound to happen, but people are not willing to think about it yet when the time has not come. We should boldly tell clients the significance and value of insurance without reservation.”
Wang also believes the key to overcoming objections is through building personal relationships.
“As long as we first establish trust and develop business for the interest of the clients, the problem will be weakened,” he said.
He remembers a client early in his career who purchased minimum health insurance coverage for herself and her children. When he approached her about buying more protection, she confessed that she didn’t believe in the product and only bought it as a favor to him, not believing she’d ever have a major illness. However, two years later she became very sick and had to waive her child’s remaining premium. Wang still regrets that he didn’t push her harder to increase coverage, although she has since added additional family protection and wealth management products.
“Our job may not get a ‘thank you’ from clients until many years later, but it is worth it,” he said. “I firmly believe that we will get more belated thanks and rewards.”
And despite the struggle of dealing with a profession and a world that are always in flux, China’s advisors remain committed to rising to the challenge and serving their clients faithfully.
“To adapt to the changes in the Chinese market, we must change the old mode of relying on speaking skills, favors, meetings, meals and huge crowds,” Jiao said. “The future is the rapid development of China’s insurance. If we are mindful, follow the right path, and stay concentrated, dedicated and professional, we will surely succeed.”
Jie Jiao firstname.lastname@example.org
Haiyang Wan email@example.com