‘It all comes out of your own pocket’: Insurance agents step in to give away freebies at roadshows

SINGAPORE: A disgruntled mother last week took to Facebook to complain about an AIA insurance agent who gave her daughter a ball at a roadshow, only to take it back after realizing the mother n was not an appropriate prospect.

Netizens slammed the agent for his ‘cheapskate’, saying the decision to take the ball back was ‘humble’.

But the insurance agents and financial advisors CNA spoke to were split on the issue, with some disapproving of the agent’s behavior while others said it was understandable.

Indeed, the expenses related to road shows, such as rent, logistics costs and gifts, are generally borne by the agents.

“I’m not surprised to see agents behaving like this, because even if they want to make a good living, they have to protect themselves,” said Jack (pseudonym), who has been an agent for two years.

“Everything comes from their own pocket. If they do not handle it well, it is easy for them to have financial difficulties.

“I know there are consultants who are facing financial difficulties, that’s why they got a little desperate and resorted to this to cut costs…the internet says this person is cheap , but it really depends on the perspective.”

Costs for roadshows vary depending on factors such as location and type of giveaways, but participating in one can cost you an average of S$100 per day, according to agents.

Another financial adviser, who only wanted to be known as Gary, added that while agencies can co-sponsor the event, agents still have to disburse the money on their own.

Rent is also higher these days, said Gary, who has worked in the industry for 14 years.

He added that agents attending roadshows tend to be juniors or new graduates trying to build their networks.

GENEROSITY IS IMPORTANT

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Guidelines stipulate that financial institutions must ensure that gifts offered to customers do not “unduly influence” their decisions to purchase a financial product or service.

But beyond that, there is no specific guidance on giving or taking gifts.

Because it’s a “grey area,” agents often defer to their mentors, especially if tour costs are split among a group of agents, insurance agent Han Yao said. fung.

But in such a case, generosity is sometimes the key, he said.

“You give a little, you get a little more in return. That kind of small money, don’t think too much, don’t be so calculating,” said Han, who has been an agent for five years.

For example, giving away the ball in such a case could allow him to establish a relationship with a prospect.

“If we vibrate well, I can give you my business card. If you like me, we can see each other over coffee… If I make new friends, it’s because I have a new contact on my list.

“If the time comes (when the person is) ready, he will get something from me, and if he thinks my service is good, he will refer people to me. It’s a very friendly cycle.

Amanda (pseudonym), who has been an agent for less than a year, had similar views.

“I firmly believe that building human relationships is far more important than selling a product.

“I certainly wouldn’t trust my money to someone who has little social conscience and clearly only cares about their own interests.”

The officer also could have done better by being “more candid” and explaining the situation more clearly, Gary said.

ENSURE AGENTS FOLLOW GUIDELINES

He also noted that the incident has unfairly generated negative reactions towards insurance agents and financial advisors as a whole.

“Maybe 95% of us work through referrals and good financial planning, but the incident puts practitioners in a bad light,” Gary said.

Insurance companies and industry associations contacted by CNA did not provide statistics on complaints about agents’ marketing activities.

But in response to questions, AIA Singapore said it takes customer feedback seriously and will investigate the conduct of its representatives if necessary.

He added that his touring guidelines are aligned with MAS’ standards of conduct for marketing and distribution activities.

“We recognize that this is an ongoing effort to maintain and elevate the standards of professionalism of our representatives, and we will continue to conduct regular reviews and updates of our internal processes accordingly.”

Prudential, another major insurer, said its financial advisers are aware of the standards of conduct to be followed, and these are communicated through induction programs and training.

Consultants must also pass assessments on sales consulting standards before they can participate in roadshows.

“We also do checks to make sure (consultants) are complying with roadshow guidelines and follow up if there are any comments on non-compliance.”

Consultants can also face disciplinary action, such as being banned from engaging in marketing activities for a period of time, he said.

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