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Speaking the culture
Speaking the culture

Mar 01 2024 / Round the Table Magazine

Speaking the culture

Christian wins clients’ trust by embracing cultural nuances.

Topics Covered

As a vast archipelagic country, Indonesia has a lot of cultural diversity. So much so that advisors might shy away from reaching out to prospects who speak another language and are different from themselves. But for Henokh Christian Ray, a four-year MDRT member from Jakarta, Indonesia, who is Minahasan, an indigenous ethnic group from the North Sulawesi province, knowing just a little bit about another ethnic group’s language, beliefs and rituals are the keys that can open what others see as a barrier.

Cultural fluency

“I come from Bandung but am a native descendant of the Manado tribe,” Christian said. “Most of my clients are ethnic Chinese, but this is not a big obstacle for me because I can learn several things about their culture such as their holidays. The first thing I do when I meet with prospects or clients from a different cultural background is lighten the mood by greeting them in their local language. This has to be done in a way that’s as natural as possible. For example, when I meet clients from the Batak tribe, I will greet them by using the word ‘horas.’ When I meet clients who come from the Sundanese tribe, I will greet them by asking how they are doing or ‘kumaha damang?’ Before meeting a prospect for the first time, I will find out their ethnicity, so I don’t say the wrong thing when we meet.”

Custom service

Knowing the holidays that his prospects and clients celebrate is another way to establish a connection. He learns about such festivals and important days by talking to his fellow advisors who come from those tribes. He has friends from the Batak tribe, so he can ask them about the customs and traditions that occur at their celebrations. Understanding the traditions and practices of a client’s culture helps establish trust, which builds relationships.

However, the common challenge Christian faces when engaging prospects or clients from different backgrounds is their long-held perceptions about how finances are supposed to be managed. Some of his clients have been running businesses for many years, so they resist the introduction of a new idea and an alternative understanding of financial management. Christian overcomes this resistance by accepting that it could be a product of opinions reinforced by a culture that is different from his.

“One of my clients of Chinese ethnicity has been operating a business for more than 25 years,” Christian said. “He has a mindset that he has believed in for decades. So, if I, as a financial advisor, suddenly come up with a new ideology to believe in, of course, he will refuse. So, I will start my approach by asking open questions like how do you manage the company’s profits? What instruments do you use to save for an emergency fund? Do you have a retirement plan?”

The clients’ objection to buying insurance typically stem from their long-held practice of buying assets like properties and precious metals such as gold. That was how their parents taught them to manage finances. So, Christian will ask several more questions such as: Apart from investing in property and gold, do you have any investments elsewhere? Have you ever thought about providing additional protection for any savings you have invested in properties and gold? After the client answers, Christian educates them about how insurance can be a financial management tool that can protect those assets and be part of wealth distribution to beneficiaries upon death.

Rather than being an obstacle, for Christian, understanding how a client’s ethnicity shapes the way they perceive financial management can steer an advisor toward tactics that can overcome objections and make for a stronger relationship. 

Lia Eunika Pamela writes for Team Lewis, a communications agency assisting MDRT with content development for Asia-Pacific markets. Contact: mdrteditorial@teamlewis.com.