Dec 04 2023
Investing in your own growth
The subject of financial planning does not typically evoke excitement in most individuals, and many often adopt a passive approach to learning more about it. Yet, Huang Weiqi, a six-year MDRT member with one Court of the Table qualification, has noticed a positive shift in Singapore's public perception towards financial planning.
She has observed a growing interest in financial content across various social media platforms, signaling a more proactive approach to money optimization. Discussing finances is becoming less taboo, with individuals able to access a wealth of financial information, tools for calculations and making direct purchases, oftentimes without even needing to interact directly with financial advisors. Despite these advances, Huang emphasizes advisors play a crucial role, offering empathy and competency as key ingredients in a client's lifelong financial journey.
She emphasizes while many clients are aware of the core functions of financial planning, they might lack awareness or resources to truly maximize how deep they can go towards optimizing their resources. Therefore, it is up to financial advisors to educate and empower their clientele.
To act in the best interest of clients, Huang underscores the need for continuous improvement in both hard and soft skills. These tips have helped her refine her practice over the years:
- Be interested
Huang believes insights and lessons can be found everywhere, provided you choose to tune in. In social settings or casual conversations, she observes the behavior, energy and communication of the people she interacts with, expanding her understanding on different perspectives, areas of concerns, emotional reactions, personality nuances and behavior drivers. During such interactions, she also proactively holds space for people, asks questions to probe deeper if appropriate or simply makes mental notes on areas she needs to consider or topics of interest that she can bring to future client meetings.
To illustrate this, she shares, “A client once referred me to her father seeking advice on managing excess funds. Being a loving father and husband, his first thoughts were to safeguard it for his family’s future. However, based on my observations of his family, I developed a strong sensing that they wished their father would use it for his own enjoyment during his retirement, as he had always been putting his loved ones first.” Recognizing he had already made provisions for his family, Huang redirected his focus to retirement planning and generating a lifelong passive income.
- Be resourceful
Emphasizing self-investment, Huang recommends avoiding non-value-adding content and focusing on personal and professional development instead. “There was a period in my career where I conditioned myself to only watch Ted Talks or YouTube videos that would add to my personal or professional development. It exposed me to many aspects of the ‘human condition’. [This does not mean that] everyone should cancel their entertainment subscriptions, but I strongly recommend we feed ourselves with a healthy dose of value-adding podcasts or videos and reading up on topics that are of interest to us as well as clients with the same level of enthusiasm that we bring to soaking up our favorite drama series,” Huang shares.
She also advocates attending industry conferences and training courses to expedite growth. The MDRT Annual Meeting is one such conference that is non-negotiable for her. Furthermore, she sets aside a significant budget every year to attend courses on both soft skills and hard skills. Courses she has taken to grow her competencies include estate planning, Central Provident Fund (CPF) retirement planning, investment planning, while also getting certified as a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). To improve her empathic skills, she has taken up classes on decoding and understanding personalities, communication skills and leadership as well. “We are our most valuable asset, and we ought to invest generously in our growth,” Huang stresses.
- Be proactive
As a firm believer of a 'doing' mindset, Huang believes knowledge and skills only bear fruit through action. She encourages advisors to create opportunities by consistently reaching out and showcasing the value they bring. “It is in the ‘doing’ that we gain the best learnings and growth. We will never be fully ready or know everything there is to know, so with whatever knowledge, ideas and skills I’ve learnt, I would push myself to act on it, to do it scared, do it flawed and do it even when I do not feel like it,” she notes.
Recounting a pivotal experience, she shares, “Four months into the business, I had the rare chance of crossing paths with a multi-millionaire running a thriving financial company. Despite my inexperience and limited financial knowledge, I knew I had to secure a meeting with him. Gathering all the courage I could muster, I asked for a business appointment, and to my surprise, he granted it." What ensued were late nights spent reading up on relevant information and meticulous preparation for the appointment. After multiple challenging meetings and underwriting battles, she successfully closed the ‘highest sum assured on a single life’ within her agency at that point in time.
Becoming the best version of herself
On her journey of self-improvement, Huang shares, "I don't focus much on other financial advisors; we all carry distinct strengths. Perhaps this focus on self-growth is what will set you apart from others."
Over more than a decade in this business, Huang emphasizes the importance of choices in responding to challenges. “Each time I think I’ve reached a new level, the next challenge I face gets tougher. I believe how you respond to one challenge will set the foundation of how you respond to future challenges,” she reflects.
Recounting an example, she shared how her initial foray into the industry was far from smooth sailing. “I was completely lacking in exposure, connection and knowledge to the financial world. Finance with its technical knowledge and never-ending numbers were foreign, complicated and uninteresting to me. I struggled in my early training days; I was relatively slow in picking things up, which caused much frustration to my leader, and I was afraid I was going to fall behind or fail. I knew at that point that I had two choices, either accept that I am slower, be comfortable with average performance and give myself time to slowly build up, or put in more work, hours and effort to keep up, commit to growing myself and strive to exceed expectations. I am thriving today because I chose not to take the easy way out,” she shares. Today, Huang is one of the youngest female senior directors in her agency.
Ultimately, she believes it all boils down to the choices you make. No one is to say if you made the right or wrong choices or to choose for yourself. “We need to take ownership of our choices, accept what comes after and if we do not like it, we take the lessons and make better choices. This allows us to maximize our experience and live with more intention and purpose,” she shares.
On that note, she leaves with this quote, "What you are not changing, you are choosing." Choosing to accept things in your life means actively keeping them. To maximize experiences, live with intention and make better choices.