One of the hurdles towards getting people to buy insurance is the public’s less-than-stellar perception of the industry. While this has improved in recent times, especially in more developed markets such as Singapore, several misconceptions about the industry remain.
As such, it is up to insurance professionals to prove these myths wrong and foster the public’s trust in the industry despite the actions of some ‘bad apples’.
Insurance Business spoke with Leong Sow Hoe (pictured), president of the of Insurance and Financial Practitioners Association of Singapore (IFPAS) and senior financial services director at Prudential Assurance Company, about how the industry and insurance professionals can help remove the public’s doubts, as well as how professionals can benefit from continued training.
Leong began with the most popular misconception – that insurance agents and brokers (and other financial service professionals) are just trying to milk their clients of all their money.
“They believe that all insurance practitioners are trying to hard-sell you into buying policies you don’t need,” he said, “However, there are always good and responsible financial practitioners who are experienced and have quality skillsets out there who are more than credible to advise you.”
Another misconception that insurance professionals usually encounter is that all advisers are the same and it doesn’t matter where one buys insurance from.
“That is not true,” Leong said. “It is important to take into account the quality of the practitioner you are getting the financial advice from. Referrals are a good way to source for a good agent.”
Leong also addressed the “outrageous” misconception that insurance companies are determined to find legal loopholes to avoid paying on claims. He said that this is not the case, as insurance companies are accountable to policyholders.
According to Leong, in order to dispel these myths, financial service practitioners must become worthy of their clients’ trust.
“[The clients] need to feel like they can depend on their practitioners to advise them to the best of their ability and knowledge, as well as feel that their practitioners have their best interest in mind,” he said. “In order to do so, financial service professionals need to be clear and familiar with not only insurance policies, but also properly assess the needs of their clients; to ensure that they understand what they are paying for and that they are adequately covered.”
While all insurance professionals are given training before they can go out and sell, the insurance industry and the financial system in general is undergoing massive changes. Leong stressed the need for professionals to be up-to-date on the latest trends and changes within the insurance industry, and to be equipped with useful skills for their job, such as product training seminars and workshops for other relevant skills such as public speaking or prospecting.
“We believe that financial service professionals need to continue to evolve to remain relevant to their clients,” he said. “The IFPAS is the industry’s premier non-profit association, and we aim to shape the perception of financial professionals and represent their interests. We believe in enforcing a high standard of practice among our members, to protect the public’s interests.”
Leong shared that IFPAS provides a range of courses and professional accreditations for financial services professionals to equip themselves with the skills and knowledge to keep pace with the changing nature of the industry. Additionally, the IFPAS sets out the criteria for the professional accreditations it awards.
Aside from continuing its members’ training, IFPAS also reaches out to the community.
“We are also committed to providing active community service through our outreach programmes such are the PA Signature Programme with IFPAS, where our volunteers provide guidance over a cooking session with beneficiaries aged six to 12 years old,” Leong said. “Together, our volunteers delivered the food we prepared to elderly folks. This programme allowed us to mentor the children while teaching them how to be independent through cooking. For some of them, this was the first time they actually cooked!”
IFPAS and its members also share their knowledge by educating the public about MediShield Life, the Singapore government’s health insurance scheme.
“Another way we served the community was by launching the 1-to-1 pro bono MediShield Life consultation in community centres across the country,” Leong said. “We leveraged on our expertise and experience to offer impartial advice to those who want to know more about the specifics of MediShield Life. Since the launch in 2015, the reception has been very encouraging and we have 8,537 residents who have benefitted from this project with the help of more than 700 volunteers.”