Real stories about money from real people. Money Confessions, a SingSaver series, will excite you, inspire you, and leave you wishing to get financially woke.
According to MDRT consultant Soh Jun Hao, it is difficult to hit that status, but definitely not impossible. And he knows from personal experience.
My name is Jun Hao and I’m 26 this year. I just hit my third-year mark as a financial consultant (FC) with finexis advisory, and I successfully became a Million Dollar Roundtable (MDRT) consultant twice, in 2019 and 2020.
Before going into the world of personal finance in 2018, I was making only about S$600 to S$700 a month as a part-time piano teacher.
Introduced to the personal financial industry by an old army friend
I may have graduated with a degree in accountancy, but I wasn’t sure if this was the path I wanted. I was more keen in exploring training opportunities, and sales was one such area.
When I raised my concerns to an old army friend, who was a financial consultant, he invited me for a career workshop with finexis to explore further.
After attending the workshop, I realised that being an FC was something I didn't mind trying. After all, it was better than not having a job or spamming my resume on job portals. After much encouragement from my friends and family, I decided to get the qualifications needed to be an official FC.
Failed the Financial Advisory Services Examination (CMFAS Exam) four times
Yes, I’ve taken and failed the CMFAS Exam four times and I’m not afraid to admit it.
If I were to describe the difficulty of these tests, I would say that they’re a lot similar to the Basic Theory Test and Final Theory Test you take when you’re getting your driver’s license. For those who’ve gone through it, you’d know that there is a tonne of reading and memorising involved.
Studying was never my strength and after failing one of the exams for the fourth time, I almost gave up. However, my mentor encouraged me — he said that every career has its own difficulties. You can choose to get it over and done with and move forward, or avoid it and continue to stay in one place.
His words struck a chord with me. Because of his advice, it changed my entire perspective of how I work, especially in the first year when I faced a lot of rejections (which I will touch on later).
The worst period of being an FC is right at the start
After painstakingly retaking and passing all the tests, I thought the worst was over. But boy, I was so wrong. The worst period was when the real work started, because everything was new and I had to adapt quickly.
I made tonnes of mistakes as the learning curve was really steep. One of the worst mistakes I made as a newbie FC was trying to handle everything by myself instead of asking for help.
As a newbie, you probably have no idea what you’re doing and you’re bound to make things worse by taking matters into your own hands. If you run into trouble, just ask your mentor for advice — they’re there to guide you, after all.
This bad habit of keeping problems to myself would have been very self-destructive if not for teammates who constantly encouraged me to open up and ask for help when needed.
It took me around one and a half months to get through the worst period, and it was a good learning experience — I’ve learnt that a tough start is always a good start.
Dealing with rejections — try not to take it personally
FCs deal with countless rejections (which also played a huge part in making my worst period the worst period), so you’ll need to know how to handle that.
My tip? Do not take it personally.
Rejections are usually the main thing that affects our state of mind at work, but if you’ve been in this industry for a certain period of time, you’ll eventually learn to take it in your stride. Even the best performing FC has faced and will continue to face rejection from clients, and there is no such thing as a 100% close rate.
How to accept rejection
One of the most important steps in learning how to accept rejection is talking about it with your teammates. When I was in training, my mentors told us that it isn't about the person — it’s about the timing.
Just because they reject you now doesn’t mean that they will reject you forever — they just might not be in the right financial state at the moment or are too overwhelmed with personal issues to deal with other things.
Rejection can only affect us personally if we take it, well, personally. That usually leads to overthinking and fear that the next person you approach will reject you and so on. Try thinking about it from another perspective, like the one I mentioned above, and then move on to the next potential client. For all you know, the next person you approach might just be at the right time and place to handle their finances!
Do financial consultants make a lot of money?
A lot of people think FCs make a lot of money, but it is all relative to each FC’s client pool and efforts. Some FCs can earn nothing at the end of the month, especially if they have no base pay and close no deals. At finexis, we consider ourselves as fully self-employed. Our efforts determine our income, and that allows us to decide how we want to run our business.
Pros and cons of being a financial consultant
One of the pros would definitely be the fact that I get to meet people from diverse backgrounds and reconnect with my old friends. As my company works purely through word-of-mouth, we get referred to friends of friends, which also becomes a testament of the quality of service we offer. In fact, my second client was a referral from my university friend, and we forged a close friendship along the way as well.
One of the cons of being an FC would be dealing with the stigma, and coming to terms with the fact that you cannot convince everyone that we truly care about their personal finances.
“Do good, fear no one” is a phrase that I stand by when it comes to my line of work. If we believe that what we do can potentially help someone, then there is nothing to fear. It takes a lot of courage to get started and even more to continue on, but keeping this quote close to my heart has really helped me from the start of my career.
Getting an MDRT award one year into my career
Despite all the difficulties, I persisted. My hard work was recognised when I achieved MDRT in 2019 and 2020.
For the uninitiated, MDRT is the name of an international association of financial professionals founded in America. In order to get this award, you have to sell a certain amount’s worth of life insurance.
The requirement to be an MDRT consultant varies from year to year. A rough figure would be around S$110,800 (pre-COVID-19). Currently, the figure is around S$79,000.
While members must meet a certain level of premium, commission or income during the year, they must also adhere to strict ethical standards in order to be eligible for the award. They must enjoy helping others with their financial needs, and ensure that they are prepared in the event of a catastrophe. MDRT members come together not for accolades and personal gain, but to share how they provide peace of mind, save lives, and protect their clients’ future.
Getting an award from this organisation would mean that your consultant is recognised internationally as the top 10% in the industry.
How I did it
Hard work, hard work and more hard work. I managed to hit the target because my clients trust me enough to refer me to their friends. Also, I didn’t give up easily — if someone rejected me, I would simply accept it and move on to the next person.
What’s difficult is handling the emotions when things do not turn out the way you want them to, especially when you’ve invested time in your potential client. Finding a good mentor and environment will help motivate you to get back up faster and continue to hustle.
I honestly don’t think MDRT is impossible to achieve — in fact, I would think it is quite often consultants achieve it at least once in their career.
Where I get my clients from
My clients come mainly from two sources: the people I know, and the people they know. Like I mentioned earlier, we gain our clients through word-of-mouth, because we believe that there has to be a basic level of trust in order for us to work together with someone.
Think of it this way: when your friend recommends you a nice steakhouse, you’ll think about it. You may or may not go for a steak right away, but when someone asks you to suggest a steakhouse, the first option you’d think of is the place your friend recommended to you. Because you trust your friend and their recommendation, you are willing to give it a shot.
I believe in the recommendation system as well, because it's harder to reach out to random people that you do not know, and even more so to convince them that you have their best interests at heart and that financial planning is important.
People think that you need many clients to achieve MDRT, but this is subjective. You can do it with a single client who buys a whole bunch of premiums, or many people who buy smaller ones. The idea is to not focus on taking on big cases for a breakthrough, but rather, impact lives by meeting as many people as you can.
Benefits of attaining MDRT — confidence in my clients and myself
Clients are more confident in me
The key benefit of attaining MDRT is giving assurance and comfort to my clients. This award is a gauge of a consultant’s work ethics and efforts, so they know that I am serious about my career and sincerely care for their financial health.
I am more confident in myself
As someone who is relatively new in the industry, achieving MDRT definitely has given me way more confidence in what I do. But that’s not to say everything is smooth now. Until today, some of the obstacles like the stigma of the industry and the rejections are still there, but I handle it a lot better now.
Don’t choose your consultant based on whether they have achieved MDRT or not
Sure, MDRT is a prestigious award, but it isn’t everything. There are some consultants out there who work very hard but did not manage to hit the requirements, while some just got very lucky because of a big case.
If you’re someone looking for a financial consultant, the most important thing is that you must be able to trust them.
Tips for aspiring MDRT consultants
Don't look at it as one big goal! Spread them evenly across 12 months or four quarters. It will appear more manageable and less scary that way, and will allow you to reflect on what you can improve at the end of each cycle.
Part of the job will include several stretches of lull periods and rejections, but look at it from another angle: if there's no such thing as a 100% hit rate, then there is also no such thing as a 100% miss rate. The only way you can miss 100% is when you don’t try.
If you’ve already decided to run for the accreditation, then put in the effort. At best, you can achieve it in a year. At worst, you will come close enough to know that it's doable, and reflect on what can be done and try again next year.
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