Mothers, Wives, MDRT members | A Celebration of Three Supermoms
Tan Kia Leng, Jasmine Tan Si Ru, & Sharon Kua have a number of things in common. They’re wives, mothers, accomplished financial planners from , and they were awarded the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table back in April 2018. ZUU online met with them to find out how they managed to balance their career and their families, and the blood, sweat, and tears in-between. These are their stories.
Finding career development beyond motherhood
Sharon and Janis
As a mother of 2, Sharon Kua understood the importance of setting aside time for her two daughters. For 3 years, during her girls’ formative years, the family had moved overseas. She stayed home with her children while her husband worked for the Singapore Air Force.
In those few years, Sharon saw the positive effect from being able to connect with her children and spend time together. That experience stayed with her even after she returned to Singapore and rejoined the workforce doing purchasing for a government agency.
So when her oldest daughter was about to transition into secondary school two years ago, Sharon started re-considering her career options. “I started to think about stopping work to fully take care of them, as they move on to their teenage years,” Sharon told ZUU online candidly. “I considered stopping work, or getting a part time or freelance job, just to have more flexibility in my working arrangement.”
“Some of my friends commented that my girls are not so young anymore, they don’t need so much time from me. But I feel differently. I feel that at this stage, they need even more attention from me.”
She didn’t have far to look for a suitable new career. Her husband gave up his career in the Airforce 3 years earlier, and had became a successful financial planner at Chamberwealth. She decided to join him.
As it turned out, her expectation of her work life turned out very differently from how she had envisaged it, and not because of her work.
“I thought I would be able to come home early every day and cook for them, or that I could have lunch with them after school,” she chuckled. “Actually, my children are busier than I am, and I don’t get to see them until they come home in the evening.”
On a positive note, she was able to free up more time to attend school events that her children really wanted her to attend, like competitions, and prize giving ceremonies. “Previously, if we thought it was not important, we wouldn’t take leave to attend the event, but now I make it a point to be present for them, even if it seems unimportant from our point of view.”
Achieving MDRT was icing on the cake for her. “When I first started working as a financial planner, I didn’t think too much into it, or set a target for myself to achieve,” said Sharon, admitting that she was not an ambitious person. Instead, she looked at the different learning trips offered by Manulife Financial Advisory, and aimed to qualify for each one. “If you just worked on the different qualifications for the different trips, it will lead you slowly to the MDRT if you are on target.”
On hindsight, Sharon realized that the job that was meant for her to take a step back, wound up nudging her two steps forward on her career instead. “You do have to sacrifice more of your time for this career, but because my kids are older and more independent now, I can be more at ease to do what I want and to step out of my comfort zone.”
“This was also important for me; for my personal career development.”
Even though Sharon continues to feel that she is not career minded, she is compelled to continue in this line of work. “I will keep doing this,” she said. “I’m not a very ambitious person, but I will keep doing it, and I hope to achieve my MDRT every year. Because once you start the first year, you will feel the pressure to want to do it again.”
Working hard, Mothering harder
Jasmine with Qian Xiu [left], & Yue Feng [centre]
Jasmine Tan decided to be financial planner over 9 years ago, when her daughter was just two years old, because she wanted to find a job that gave her more flexible hours than her administration job in a shipping company, and provide a better life for her child and her family. Back then, with the support of her family to care for her daughter, she was able to focus all her energy on serving her clients.
The benefits of the job’s flexibility only came to its own when Jasmine gave birth to her son four years later. “After having two children, I realized that I needed more time at home with them,” she told ZUU online, due to their age difference and their vastly different education and developmental needs. “My daughter may be older and able do her own things, but I needed to be around to watch her and the younger one.”
For that, Jasmine deliberately keeps her weekends free of work commitments to be with her children. She also sets aside one weekday per week to spend the day with them. “Weekends are occupied with enrichment classes, so I spend that weekday purely to do some work with them – outside of homework- and having bonding activities.”
And yet, like her colleagues, Kia Leng and Sharon, she was able to achieve her MDRT qualification in 2017, by working her time even harder. “I try to squeeze more appointments in a day, so I don’t need to spend another day, just to hit one more meeting or sale,” she said. “Once I had to meet 3 clients in 2 hours, in different locations.”
“The beauty of working as a financial planner is that I can plan my time, so that I can send my daughter and son to school and schedule my appointments around that,” explains Jasmine. For the most part, she chooses to meet with her clients on weekdays after they have knocked off work. Weekend appointments are kept to a minimum unless it is absolutely necessary.
In many ways, Jasmine thinks this career path has been beneficial to her as a mother, because she can cater for unexpected situations with her children, without having to take leave or disrupt her work. And she believes she is not alone. “I am seeing more mothers -with two or more children – joining this industry, both in our company and in other companies, because of the flexibility.”
Her daughter bears witness to the changes in Jasmine’s working arrangement. “She sees me more now, I have more time to check on her school progress and we have more time to communicate with each other.”
“Everyone who knocks off from a 9 to 5 job will have time for their children after work, but how much quality time would they truly have with them?”
“Do I spend more time with my work? Yes. But I also have more quality time with my family, and I can provide better for them.” She added that her old job had required a rigid 5 day workweek, overtime on some days and work on alternate Saturdays. Plus, she was getting less than $2,000 for her take home salary.
Right now, Jasmine has started her daughter on preparatory enrichment classes in an effort to ease the stress over the Primary School Leaving Examination next year, and has done the same for her kindergartener who will go to Primary School the year after. Both of which, she said, would not have been possible if she was in her previous job.
Jasmine still vividly remembers the morning mad rush when she had to clock her work hours. She might still be waking up at 5.30am every morning for her primary schooler, but that rush is a thing of the past.
“I love my working arrangement now,” she said. “If you ask me to go back to a regular employment, I may not be used to it. Even though I still wake up very early for my daughter I don’t have to rush to clock hours, I can slow down my pace, and be well prepared before I head out to work.”
Building a business, not just a career
Kia Leng with Yi Xuan
When Tan Kia Leng joined the financial planning industry in 2010 – shortly after graduating with her diploma – there were no grand illusions for it.
“I needed the money, to solve my family’s financial troubles,” Kia Leng told ZUU online. For years, her family had struggled to pay their bills and mortgage, after her mother lost her main source of income as a school stationery shop vendor. Kia Leng is the eldest of 3 children and her younger brother was still in primary school.
The job was her frantic bid to help her mother out. “My mother was my motivation. She didn’t have a good life, and I really wanted to make up for that, provide her a better life.”
Over time, Kia Leng saw a bigger purpose for her work as a financial planner. “I realized that I got a lot of satisfaction from this career, because I got to build my own business and I got to meet different types of people. So this industry actually moulded me into a more matured person, to see things from different perspectives and things like that.”
Her career saw her through many milestones, from being single to being married, from her pregnancy to the birth of her daughter, from having nothing to owning a car and a home of her own. “It’s a rosy picture for me,” she said, adding that she had met her husband from her work as well.
Indeed, the self-professed workaholic found the flexible work arrangement particularly helpful when pregnancy complications nearly scuppered her personal target of qualifying for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). “I had really bad morning sickness. For the first 3 months, I couldn’t work. I could only come into work for 2 days a week, and the rest of the time, I stayed at home throwing up. I would hold a plastic bag everywhere I went.”
Then again in the later stage of her pregnancy, she was ordered bed rest for a month, because her baby ran the risk of being born too early. Shortly after she returned to work, she went into labour and gave birth to her little girl in October.
“It was so fast. At the back of my mind, when I was giving birth, I was thinking that I need to achieve my MDRT. I must do my MDRT, no matter what,” she said. To fulfill that commitment, Kia Leng returned to work less than 2 months after the delivery, and the rest was history. “That was my commitment to myself, and I did it. I am so proud that I did it.”
Becoming a mother also changed Kia Leng on an emotional level. She found herself leaving a few hours in her day to see her daughter between appointments, something that was unheard of in the past. She also discovered a stronger connection with her clients who were parents themselves.
Most importantly, she had an even greater understanding of her own mother, who now spends her days caring for Kia Leng’s 8 month old daughter. To celebrate the MDRT achievement and fulfill her mother’s lifelong dream, Kia Leng brought her parents, her two brothers and her family for a holiday to Taiwan, so her mother could finally try all the snacks that she’d seen so much about on television shows.
School of hard knocks
All three ladies agreed that this is not an easy job.
Jasmine and Kia Leng recalled their earlier years of making cold calls, canvassing from door to door, working long hours at roadshows, and getting rejected time and time again.
“We had hundreds of rejections,” Jasmine recalled. “ But we also learned that if a client doesn’t like you, they also won’t buy from you, they also won’t want you to service them, So when we take this in our stride, it’s not too bad.”
“There were times when I wanted to give up, thinking I’d had enough and that I was just going to quit this,” Kia Leng admitted. Yet each time, she chose to continue. “After venting my anger, I’d come back and tell myself to prove that I can overcome this, that I can do this.”
“In this industry, positivity is very important,” continues Kia Leng. “You don’t have to be positive all the time, we are all human. You can grumble and whine, and be negative for a time, but after that, you come back recharged and start all over again.”
“That’s how we continue to survive in this industry, to not let the negativity engulf you.”
Support of the company
The ladies told ZUU online that a large part of their success stemmed from the help, advice and support they had received from ChamberWealth, helmed by Loy Yi Zhuo.
Loy, who holds a bachelor of psychology from Murdoch University, personally conducts sale psychology training sessions for the advisors, to help them understand their role and how to manage rejection. On top of that, the company provides regular product training so the advisors are kept up to date on the latest product updates and offerings.
At the same time, the company organizes numerous activities like parenting workshops and wine events, to provide avenues for the financial planners to invite their clients and prospects. As a team, they also organize canvassing activities to get to know new clients. In a bid to reduce the learning curve for new advisors, ChamberWealth also established an in-house telemarketing team ChamberConnect to do cold calling on their advisors’ behalf, and get new leads.
The most crucial aspect of the company, is its emphasis on client relationship building, that goes beyond selling. “In this day and age, I believe we don’t need to do hard selling. In fact, I don’t think hard selling actually works,” said Kia Leng. “Nowadays, everybody is as educated as you are, so what makes you think they will buy into it?”
“Instead, we understand and educate our prospects. Maybe they wanted plan A, or product A, but you might realise after talking to them that they don’t need product A, because it doesn’t suit them. Instead, what they need is product C or planning C.”
Advice to other mothers
So what advice do these ladies give to other mothers?
“If they are starting a family or have young kids, and if they are able to afford financially on a single income, I think it will be good if they are able to spend more time with their kids, bond with their kids, especially when they are younger,” said Sharon. “Based on my experience, I can tell you it is very important and I was glad that I had the opportunity to do it.”
That being said, Sharon has been actively inviting her friends to join her. “This industry is very good if you are looking for a flexible work arrangement, and the income helps, because it’s difficult to depend on just one income.”
Still, Sharon concedes that the career switch requires a leap of faith. “You can’t overthink it, you need to be a bit impulsive because you will need to move out of your comfort zone. If you think too much you may not even want to step out and do it.
Savouring the fruits of their labour
Source: Manulife FA Facebook
On the Friday evening of April 20, Kia Leng, Jasmine & Sharon gathered at Shangri-la Hotel to receive their MDRT awards, witnessed by their spouses, colleagues. The ladies recalled every single moment of it. From their personalized blazers, the long walk down the scarlet red carpet, and the moment of pride as they accepted the award and saw the MDRT sash placed on their shoulders.
It was at that moment when they finally felt that they had arrived.
“I was very touched,” said Jasmine. “We knew that it was through our struggles, our tears, and sweat, that made us grow in this job and strive to achieve something of ourselves. The moment we walked the red carpet and walked up the stage facing everyone, you feel you cannot stop, and you have to do this again, because it took so much for you to get there.”
This article first appeared on ZUUOnline.sg – https://zuuonline.sg/money/insurance/mothers-wives-mdrt-members-a-celebration-of-three-supermoms/
It also subsequently appeared on Yahoo Finance – https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/mothers-wives-mdrt-members-celebration-090000418.html.