The Hard Truth Why I Turned IFA Despite My Prestigious Banker Job
No one believed me when I told them I decided to quit my stable career, a relationship manager at an established bank to do full time financial planning for my clients. Indeed, I never dreamt that I would find extreme job satisfaction in my present role as an independent financial adviser.
Why Did I Decide To Leave The Bank?
The bank has a strong reputation for taking care of its clients, albeit with some conditions. Banks offer three things that are important to clients: Availability, good financial deals and convenience.
With a strong network of branch and personnels, clients are able to access banking services anytime and anywhere. The growing presence of digital banking has the potential to make such access even easier in the future. Along with the extensive network comes the unrivalled convenience that banks can offer to its clients. You have the convenience of fulfilling your financial needs all under one roof. Furthermore, since banks have the opportunity to cross sell different products to you, they are willing to offer discounted deals to you to strengthen your banking relationship with them. Honestly, who can resist good deals, isn’t it?
From a financial standpoint, the bank offered good remuneration. And it also offers the prestige that many yearn for. But there was something missing: A serious lack of job satisfaction. This was the driving factor for me to leave the bank.
Whose Interest Am I Looking After? The Bank Or My Clients?
As a former banker, I am familiar with the way banks’ relationship managers work. We represent the banks’ interest above all else. We are made to sell a multitude of products, ranging from insurance, investments, mortgage, credit cards, personal loans, etc. The branch managers breathed down our necks every single day to ensure that we hit our “sales” target for every product category. They were preoccupied with chasing figures. Do they care about you as a client? It leaves much to be wondered.
Do Banks’ Clients Really Understand What They Are Getting Into?
In a utopian world, I would have liked to sit down with my client to understand in-depth his/her needs. This allows me to recommend a product that is best suited for my client. But, in reality, relationship managers are busy ensuring our targets are met to keep our job safe. In such a pressured environment, few relationship managers have the time to ensure clients’ financial needs are adequately met. As a result, clients are sometimes sold products that they might not even fully understand. In my opinion, endowment plan is one of the product that is being touted to clients who eventually realize that it doesn’t even benefit them at all. Upon realization, clients are stuck in a dilemma. They can sell or surrender their endowment at a loss, or get tied down for more years, both of which are not ideal.
As a well established organisation, the bank has a lot of resources, from relationship managers to investment analysts to economists. Being a customer of the bank means that you get to enjoy those resources. The only caveat is that banks run its resources in a systematic way. This makes it difficult for them to offer personalized service, which is important in financial planning.
Best Thing About Being An IFA: Being Able To Put My Client’s Interest Ahead Of Mine
But now, things are different. As an IFA, my client’s interest is my interest, or even more important than mine. As an IFA, I have the luxury of taking time to explain concepts to my clients. The priority is ensuring that you understand what you are getting into, not to make as much sales as possible. In addition, as an IFA, I have the luxury of advising on a mix of life insurance, general insurance and investment products. I am not restricted by any bank or financial institution to sell only a single insurer’s product. This allows me to offer different choices and flexibility that benefits you, be it diversifying your investment portfolio or choosing the most value-for-money insurance.
Financial Planning Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Many people have the misconception that financial planning is about finding the “best insurer” or “best investment product”. No, it isn’t. Financial Planning is an ongoing and dynamic process to cater to your needs. As you enter different phases in your lives, your financial needs and goals change. Thus, it isn’t a one-off conversation about the best promotion or best investment, but rather a consultative process that takes time.
Clients Receiving The Short End Of The Stick From Non-Lasting Relationships
While I was with the bank, I saw many relationship managers leave due to the highly stressful working environment. This resulted in a group of orphaned customers who can only lament about the constant change in relationship manager. Not only does the new relationship manager need to take time to understand their financial needs, he/she might not be able to service you like your previous relationship manager. It is so sad to see such situations occurring.
But that’s not all. Banks often sign deals with other financial institutions like insurers to cross sell their products. When you buy an insurance from your bank, they all belong to the same insurer regardless of the type of product you buy. But these deals change with time. …why does this happen? If I were a customer, would I want this to happen to me?
Other insurers might offer more money to the bank to sign deals with them (commonly known as bancassurance deal). When new deals are signed, new relationship managers might not be able to find the relevant information of old insurance plans. New relationship managers will not be able to understand, explain or do servicing for an old partner insurers’ product. Is this really the best we can do for customers? Putting myself in the shoes of my customers, I often wondered if I could do better…
Best Thing About Being An IFA: Walking The Financial Journey With My Clients
Hence, having a lasting relationship with your financial advisor is important. As an IFA, it allows me to work closely with you over the long haul and ensure that you are well-protected at every stage of your life. Financial reviews are conducted regularly to renew my promise and commitment to you when you first bought an insurance or investment. As your life experience changes, your evolving needs will also be taken care of. I will continue to keep my commitment to you, help close your financial gaps and bring you closer to your financial goals.
An IFA job is no mean feat. To me, every customer’s situation is unique and each story is different. However, it is certainly rewarding when I am able to create a sound financial plan for you and give your loved ones a peace of mind.
Take your time to find a professional and trusty IFA that can work closely with you for a long time to come.
About the Contributor
Rachel Tan majored in Economics and Mathematics with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the National University of Singapore. She has 6 years of banking experiences with local and international financial institutions. As a relationship manager and personal banker for high net worth clients and consumers, Rachel specialised in investment, insurance, and products for Accredited investors. Prior to becoming an independent financial adviser, she led a team of specialists for mortgage products and services. For the past 4 years, Rachel has been a financial adviser with RAY ALLIANCE Financial advisers.