Sep 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
Leading the way to extraordinary
By Mike Beirne
The best financial advisors are not afraid of rejection. For MDRT President Peggy Tsai, RFP, CCFP, rejection is merely the beginning of a sale. She has pursued prospects who turned her down repeatedly before becoming clients, and one of her biggest clients took seven years to finally buy coverage.
“Their objections are not directed at us but are based in fear: fear of making a wrong decision, fear of risk or the desire for more insurance information,” said the 21-year MDRT member from Taipei, Taiwan Area. “Customers usually do not say directly why they are declining, even if they want to buy. We must be willing to pursue the root cause of a rejection.”
Such tenacity won her the award for No. 1 sales achievement at Shin Kong Life Insurance Co. for seven consecutive years. One might expect Tsai to say the most transformative part of her working life was when she switched from a stable job as editor of a local newspaper to the unfamiliarity of another profession working in an insurance company’s claims department. But Tsai, who on Sept. 1 became MDRT’s first President from the Asia-Pacific region in the association’s 95-year history, says the most “amazing journey” of her career started in a café where she learned from the owner about an elderly couple and their disabled adult daughter. The family lived and owned many properties nearby. Tsai knew that in their situation, proper financial planning would be necessary to ensure their daughter’s future. After months of reaching out, she connected with the daughter, who attended the same church and eventually introduced Tsai to her parents. When there was an opportunity to mention wealth management concepts, they were not interested.
If you do every necessary and ordinary thing well, and if you insist on never giving up, you will achieve something extraordinary.
However, over time, Tsai’s relationship with the family deepened. As the parents’ 50th wedding anniversary approached, the daughter asked Tsai to help her host an event to celebrate the occasion with friends and family. Tsai didn’t hesitate. During the celebration,
Tsai spoke so eloquently about the couple while a video of their life together played that the father was brought to tears. Tsai and her husband, Terry, helped the wife, who was so nervous her hands were shaking, cut the anniversary cake. The relationship became stronger from that moment.
“After saying no to me, Mr. and Mrs. Chen opened their arms to me and said, ‘Peggy, this is our asset. We want you to manage it completely. We trust you,’” she said.
Such was the bond that after Mrs. Chen died a couple years later, and Tsai helped the family with funeral arrangements and settling the estate, she found out that her client left her with personal mementos and a letter, thanking Tsai for all she had done for her family.
“The lessons from our customers’ stories are we should examine the kind of service image we project, she said. “Any consultant in the world can do what we do, but the gap is in customer relationship, service attitude and sales approaches. These highlight the difference between us and non-MDRT member consultants.”
Tsai’s persistence and commitment to service produced a resume that includes eight Court of the Table and six Top of the Table qualifications. She is a Diamond Knight of the MDRT Foundation and has held numerous volunteer leadership positions for MDRT. Her favorite roles have been serving on the Membership Communications Committee (MCC), where she has been Divisional Vice President, Region Chair and Zone Chair.
“Being on the MCC team has been very interesting and challenging because it is one of the most important teams for communication with all members around the world,” Tsai said. “Being an MCC leader is different from other committee leaders. An MCC leader must have more appeal, a sense of mission, a plan for membership development and activities for the coming year, and they must write the implementation guidelines so all committee members have a common direction, clear goals and good teamwork.”
Since joining MDRT in 2002, she has observed MDRT’s membership growth, particularly among Asian advisors, which has impacted the association’s strategic plan and organization structure. During that period, MDRT stewards, Tsai said, exhibited constant reflection, pursued continuous improvement, and gauged members’ needs with a macro perspective to pick up on trends and deliver clarity amid chaos. The chief challenges for the Executive Committee and staff will continue to be anticipating and identifying challenges affecting the financial services profession and to take those on with strategic thinking. To that end, the new President sees herself being a servant leader.
The lessons from our customers’ stories are we should examine the kind of service image we project.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is authenticity, most importantly being myself and treating people with integrity,” she said. “I have had the privilege of working with many leaders in my organization who have this trait and have clear goals and values and are also willing to share with others.”
One priority during her tenure will be promoting digital transformation, one of MDRT’s strategic initiatives that redesigned three association websites into one location for easier navigation and login. The effort also aims to intuitively deliver more personalization and relevant content to members. A second priority, shaped from her MCC days, will be enhancing services provided to members that specifically satisfy what they need in their markets.
“People from different countries have different cultures, hopes, ideals and ways of doing things. They might have different sales techniques that are specific for their market. So, through what I call grounded services, we provide exactly what the member from each country needs,” she said.
The MDRT difference
To her point that there is a difference between MDRT advisors and nonmember financial services professionals, Tsai contends that joining MDRT changed her “working DNA.”
After starting in claims, she took on a part-time sales job for six years before developing thyroid neoplasm, which rendered her unable to work while undergoing treatment. She did have medical and cancer insurance, and fortunately was able to take a six-month leave from work without enduring the financial hardships she wrote about many times when she was a journalist covering uninsured families that fell on tough times after a major illness or injury. Tsai’s tumor experience gave her even more empathy for clients and motivated her to become a full-time insurance advisor.
That path included initially failing to qualify for MDRT and, after doing so, finding ways to achieve the elite membership status. Tsai credits the association with helping develop an approach she calls “sprinting toward your work.” For example, if you have six hours of work, divide those tasks into three parts and design a series of 45-minute sprints to run through each session.
“Working in sprints forces me to plan my work in detail and create more specific tasks,” Tsai said. “This means that when I sit down and start working, there is no confusion and no mental friction. I’m more likely to stick to the task and create a systematic way to identify priorities.”
Another strand in her DNA is investing in herself. “Never settle for status quo; always learn. Attending MDRT meetings is an investment in our career.” Finally, spread love and kindness. “Help others and you will be happy. Helping others makes me feel like I have done something, and I see others appreciate what I have done,” she said.
The bottom line is MDRT’s emphasis on ethics and professionalism increases members’ ability to help more families. Asked if she could travel back in time, what advice would she give to herself during her first years as an advisor, she responded practice good time management and ask for referrals. And of course, knowing your purpose for being an advisor in the first place is why members show up for work.
“No arrogant attitude, only sincerity will help each customer and change their lives,” Tsai said. “If you do every necessary and ordinary thing well, and if you insist on never giving up, you will achieve something extraordinary.”
Gaining by balancing the Whole Person
MDRT is unique among professional associations or corporations for having the Whole Person concept as a core tenet of its culture and for consistently advocating that members achieve balance in seven critical areas: relationships, health, education, career, service, financial and spiritual. Those are lifelong goals and getting started took a while for Tsai.
“I worked 17 hours a day,” she admits. “Looking back at myself, have I achieved balance? I was so busy making money that I neglected my health. I was so busy pursuing status that I neglected my family. For all kinds of reasons my work and life were out of balance.”
The concept helped her find a sense of purpose. First, she accepted the short-term imbalances in her life and sought to erase them through pursuing goals for long-term balance. Then she devoted her energy to meaningful projects and brought family and friends along to provide inspiration and motivation for these endeavors. Third, she reserved time for the people and ideals she valued most.
“Life is a balancing act. If you take just one side or the other, you will lose everything,” she said.
CONTACT: Peggy Tsai firstname.lastname@example.org