Is Financial Advisory a Real Career?

Legacy of Financial Success

In the contemporary landscape, financial planning is often subjected to misconceptions, where it is sometimes perceived as a transitory career or a fallback for those who may not excel in other professions. To challenge and dispel these notions, we conducted an in-depth interview with three generations of successful financial advisers within the same family. The subjects include a grandfather, father, and daughter, each contributing to the field over different eras.

These are excerpts from the interview done on the 5th of March 2024.

Interview conducted by:

Muhammad Syafiq Nor Shaidi

Nur Amanina


This in-depth interview was transcribed with multiple revisions that captured the essence of what was said during the interview. It does not represent the exact speech by the 3 interviewees.

Unveiling Generational Perspectives:

What are the differences in the financial planning profession today as compared to when you were active?

Amin: Well, many things have changed but some things remain the same. Concerning regulations, yes we do see changes. But in my opinion, where personal relationships are concerned, it hasn’t changed. It is becoming more important now.

Salim: Certainly the demands of advisers today are a lot more compared to those of us in the past. The range of products is much wider today allowing us to serve our clients’ needs better. This is especially true if you are an independent financial adviser as you carry more products and offer more services.

In the past our clients’ needs were different, and we rarely needed to go through any complex model, analysis, or any sort of financial needs projection. The demands on advisers in terms of their knowledge, their expertise, is a lot less in the past.

How have you witnessed the public perception of financial planning evolve?

Amin: Back then there was no such thing as financial planning. It was purely just purchasing life insurance. During my time, people don’t like insurance agents. Some of my friends when they know that I am an insurance agent, they run away from me. I have had doors slammed on me when I was marketing myself to sell insurance.

It was tough. Perhaps this part doesn’t change but I strongly believe that perspectives have changed over time.

There was no such thing as licensing or regulations back then. Just a piece of paper to sign. Today is very much different. As society grows, people have realized that they need insurance.

Insurance was something that was not in people’s minds back then. But, one has to persevere. You have to be a person that has the perseverance in you. If not, this job is not yours.

Salim: I’ve been in the business for about 37 years, and the perception of the roles of advisers has changed significantly.  Today many people understand the need to plan well financially. The question is when they should start, what they look into and how should they do it.

Many factors have brought about changes in consumers, perceptions of financial planning like increasing cost of living, changing lifestyle, increasing mortality rates, reducing financial dependence on children, more active lifestyle in retirement, and a greater focus on achieving personal goals.

People are generally better informed about financial planning and our media has done a splendid job providing coverage in this area.

Financial planning has become an integral part of one’s life. People are more aware of their responsibilities and take the necessary action to do something about it.

In the past, people had to be cajoled, persuaded and encouraged to act upon financial plans. Today, many of us took on the initiative to realize that it is important and it has to be done right.

As a young adviser today, how do you perceive the financial planning profession?

Danielle: I think the advisers of today are well-educated and more specialized in their niche area. The mindset is different than the advisers of yesteryears. It is more of a respectable career now as people can see that good advisers go out of their way to assist and help their clients to achieve and attain more.

Who are those, in your opinion people that can remain in this challenging industry?

Amin: I went through many changes during my time. You’ll find that the people who can remain in this industry are the people who can accept the change. If you challenge the constant change, you’re better off being out of the industry. I’ve always believed this.

The most important thing is we provide the advice that the client should receive. We should not hold back from letting the client be informed on what they should know.

Salim: As an adviser, you need to be prepared to change with time.  If you intend to retain the same level of knowledge, I think you’re not going to cut it today. On top of that, we as advisers today, realize that we need to keep on learning a lot more, a lot faster than we used to, in the past.

New products were introduced maybe once in six months or once in a year. Today, you get new products being introduced every quarter. If you are working in a multi-represented organization whereby you have a wide range of services and products, you realize you get new ideas and new products coming in on stream probably every one or two months.

So is that good or is that bad? For somebody excited about wanting to look at new ideas, and new ways of helping clients achieve their financial needs, is fantastic. Your options are just a lot wider.

For those who want to take it a lot easier, and want to be more moderate in terms of looking out for the needs of clients, then of course, it is a lot more challenging.

Professional Journey Insights:

What were your key milestones?

Amin: Back then, Great Eastern had an agents’ association. They collectively made me the President of that association. Moving on, I then became the President of the Group Sales Managers Association. Then, my friend invited me to serve as the President of LUA (Life Underwriters Association). Perhaps it was because they saw that I had a lot of passion for this industry.

When SCI (Singapore College of Insurance) was formed, they made me the chief moderator for the classes. I had to check on the quality of the courses and frequently assessed the delivery. It was taxing but I enjoyed it.

When I was young, I was a fighter. Anyone who has worked with me knows that I fight for my right and their rights.

Salim: I was recently conferred the IBF Fellow from the Institute of Banking and Finance. I am in the AFA (Association of Financial Advisers) and a past president. I was the convenor for the ISO in Financial Planning about a decade ago. I am also on the Management Committee of the Singapore Swimming Club as the Swimming Chairman.

Danielle: It took a lot of challenges for me to tell myself that I can last long in this industry. I have qualified for MDRT several times but I believe I have a long way to go and the best is yet to come.

What is an experience that is still etched in your mind?

Amin: I had a client who was holding a high position in the army. He was supposed to buy a $200,000 sum assured life policy. He had a smaller policy with me before.

He was getting confirmation on his transfer the next week. He told me that once he gets the confirmation on his new role, he will purchase the policy. Before the next week even came, he was hospitalized. For 4 days he was there and he passed on.

I felt very sad. I asked myself, “Why didn’t I get him to sign up earlier?”. I think I tried very hard but he insisted that we act on the policy only on the following week – I had to agree with him then. Till today this event has stayed in my mind. I was truly sorry to his wife.

Salim: There was once I asked my daughter, Danielle, what she wants to be when she grows up. She said, “I want to be like you, a Financial Adviser”.

I was indeed very happy but surprised at the same time because she was still in primary school. So I asked why she said that. Guess what she said?

She said, “Because you have many friends as a financial adviser”.

That, coming from a young kid, innocent, is priceless. I can’t say more to that other than it is a great endorsement for the job that we do for our clients.

Truly speaking, our job allows us to develop friendships. I didn’t know that it had an indelible effect on her.

Addressing Stereotypes:

What was your routine back then when you started?

Amin: I wanted to throw in the towel so many times. I was rejected too many times. Nobody liked to see me or talk to me. Friends and family don’t like me doing this too.

There was this good friend of mine, who brought me into the industry. He told me that this is normal and to just persist. I had to overcome this myself. Nobody taught me how to do it.

If you ask Salim, he will tell you that I am a very positive person. I will never say anything is difficult. We always try first. Nothing is easy. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned adviser, it will always be tough.

Waves in business are normal. I didn’t have any waves. The minute I was Group Sales Manager, I was on it. I knew this was the profession for the rest of my life.

Today my role is to get people to get into this job. In my opinion, this is the best job in the world – bar none.

I expect myself to be making more than 3-4 appointments every single day.

See people, see people, see people. That is your job.

When you meet people, there is someone to talk to and something to talk about. If you don’t see people, you will go down.

People who are buying online are perhaps jealous that advisers are making commissions. When you buy online, how do you know whether the advice is good or bad? You won’t know. It will be too late if they realize that they bought the wrong one.

When people buy from a relationship with an adviser, a repeat purchase normally ensues. Online purchases do not necessarily bring about repeat purchases because the consequences of one’s life get bigger over time.

Online solutions will tell you to buy the maximum you can based on your circumstances. This may not be the right advice for you.

Family Dynamics and Values:

You have 3 generations now in Financial Planning. Did you plan for this?

Amin: When I joined this industry, I planned for my children. I hoped that they would join me. When my granddaughter, Danielle, joined the industry, then I realized that we had gone 3 generations.

Salim, I hope, would experience his 3rd generation. This is a family belief. It is already embedded in the family.

What values and habits are common within the family when dealing with clients?

Amin: You see, if you treat a client as a friend, it is different than if you treat a client like a client. We have to move beyond business. It has to be personal. The client will feel more connected to you.

Make the client your friend. If he is your friend, and he knows someone who wants to buy a policy, who do you think your client will recommend?

How many advisers have the time to treat the client right? If you put money in front of you, you will not have time for the client. Your love for the client and the industry must be in front. The money will follow.

Salim: Working with my father, you don’t realize it until you work with him. Most of us do not work with our parents. You never knew the capabilities of your parents. You only hear about them talking about their career from time to time.

I was fortunate to be able to work with my father and realize what he was doing. I was in awe of the work that he did for his clients and advisers. That inspired me to follow in his footsteps.

Not all learning is taught by teaching. A lot of learning comes from observation. People don’t have to teach you for you to learn. If you observe and you are not learning, that is a huge misfortune and a great deal of learning is lost. Essentially, I did that with my dad.

He taught me a lot of things but there are a lot of things that I learned from him through looking at his decisions, his actions, and his wisdom.

That is where I learn the most.

One of the most important things he taught me was having tolerance for people. Wherever you go, because you are working with people, you need to have a high tolerance for people. You have to give them the leeway to allow them to come up to the level that you need them to be.

My father works very well with many people. I intend to do the same. I hope to inspire my colleagues, my advisers, and my children to do that as well.

Danielle: Of course when I first started, there was immense pressure to perform as most of my family members from my dad’s side are in Financial Services. This role in Financial Planning has been cultivated since I was young. It was ingrained in me how people perceive me as a Financial Adviser – how you should conduct yourself as a Financial Adviser.

I have a slightly different take on this career. Along the way, I told myself that I needed to set my path and how I was going to orchestrate this career well. Many things are common within us albeit some are different.

They respect how I work and the values remain the same.

I saw how my father’s clients plan for their future generations and how it aligns with the values that my family has as well. I believe it is not always just about passing on wealth but also passing on values to future generations.

The value system that the clients have are not always self-serving. Rather, it is more for their future generations and the people around them. I feel inspired when I get to listen to their stories and goals for their family.

I see how my parents instilled these good values in our own family. It is like a pattern occurring in the client’s family as well as my own.

Describe what it is like to be in a financial planning family.

Danielle: We do talk about our cases and clients at times because we may have the same clients where I am handling the 2nd or 3rd generation. Similarly, I am also aware of my client’s parents or grandparents in our relationship.

The flow of conversations within my family is very natural in terms of financial planning. I feel that we get and understand each other very well. We spent a lot of time working. We do have to find the balance. We take breaks and have family dinners to focus on our relationship and bond with each other. So we know when to go in and out of serious matters quite easily.

We try not to dwell too much on the cases and be cognizant about having a nice balance between professional and personal life.

Are there some unwritten rules within the family?

Danielle: When we are talking about certain cases within the family and if we sense that there is another party listening in, we do not continue the conversation, especially in a group setting. That comes naturally to us.

Impact on Clients and Community:

Are qualifications important?

Amin: I have always asked advisers directly – “Has anyone asked you whether you have a CFP, ChFC, or CLU certification?”. The answer is usually a no.

That tells us something – people don’t care what you have. People want to know whether you care for them.

Any instances where you pushed for things that impacted the client’s life?

Amin: I was a qualified underwriter through an Australian qualification. I had the highest mark in the exams. Let me tell you how this qualification impacted me in helping the client.

I had sold a policy to this person who can be considered overweight. He had a prior policy before me – an endowment policy. That endowment policy he bought was loaded (additional premium cost due to his weight).

I then sold him a whole life policy. In everyone’s mind, loading would be implemented into the policy. I requested the underwriter at that time to not use his letter to inform the reinsurer but instead use my letter. I proceeded to build a good case for the client, mentioning that he is someone who exercises regularly, has good discipline, has 3000 men under his charge, and is a Colonel in the army. He plays golf every other day. Does not smoke nor drink.

The underwriting result – no loading was imposed on the client. I knew I needed to convince the reinsurer because the decision to load the client usually lies on the reinsurer.

It caught everyone by surprise. I believe I did well for my client.

Danielle: This client of mine bought an insurance policy for her child where if she dies, the child need not pay for the policy anymore. 2 years later, she was diagnosed with a critical illness.

The family thanks me for arranging that for her. They also asked why didn’t she buy more.

That was when I told myself that buying insurance is important. I felt the impact financial planning had on her family’s financial security.

Salim: Back then I did not understand what it meant to inspire clients to achieve their financial goals. But what I knew was to do our job right. I approach it from a scientific standpoint. Clients with specific needs will be able to achieve their goals. That was the structure that I went with.

I realized that the job that I do truly helps my clients’ needs, it could be about a claim, a payout, or a relief that they have done the right thing. When the client feels that after working with you and you have given them great advice, good service and it brought them a piece of mind – giving the clients this perception is what inspires me.

Today, I am more convinced than any, that this is the best career. For anybody who is prepared to serve, develop long-term relationships with people, and learn continuously, this is the right career.

Educational Aspects:

What are some examples that you can share about the need to constantly be educated and informed as an adviser?

Salim: Today, if you look at a product, it can serve multiple needs but the terms and conditions are much more complex. However, it tends to serve a lot more requirements of the clients today.

For instance, if you look at just medical insurance, you will realize the complexity of medical insurance policies, especially those that cover critical illness as well as hospitalization.

In the past, products were quite straightforward. Today, you have early, intermediate, and advanced stages covered and all sorts of treatments that are permissible, and not permissible.

So the advisers today have to be a lot more knowledgeable than they are in the past.

How do you keep yourself updated and vibrant in this industry?

Danielle: It is very important to discuss policy changes with our colleagues and fellow advisers. Everyone has a different perspective and outlook as to the impact it has on our clients. We tend to spar our ideas with each other because we want to get the best solutions for our clients.

Career Permanence and Fulfilment:

How has this career made you feel fulfilled? What is the secret to longevity in the business?

Amin: First, I would like to say that if I am given another life in this world, I will still be an adviser. No doubt about it. I am always happy when I get to help my clients achieve what they want.

If you are honest, this is a very good profession. If the person is not honest, he won’t stay long in the industry – he will be caught out. Honesty, that is all that matters. You can have all the knowledge. It all boils down to being honest.

Danielle: It took a lot of breakthroughs. If you can keep picking yourself up after every setback and don’t give up, then this will be a viable career. After attaining my first MDRT, this job feels like a calling. I knew I needed to work harder, just like any other job, it requires a lot of effort to get somewhere.

Is the financial advisory industry static? Do people need advisers today?

Salim: I must say that in hindsight, I am glad that the financial services industry is not static, it is dynamic, and it moves with time. It moves even faster than what we expected.

That is a positive part of things as it allows us to continue to explore new ideas and push us to a level where we need to continue to learn, implement, review it again, modify it, and see if we can do even better the next time round.

It is great because it helps us to move from one point of the career to the next.

There are probably several inflection points in our careers. If you stay in the business for several years, you will see a huge change as compared to the past. It used to be a lot of persuading and convincing customers of their needs.

Today I sit beside clients to help them look into their needs. They are a lot more aware and they want the best solutions. They want the solutions that best meet their needs and they want somebody who represents their interests.

It is a very different situation from what it was in the past. If you still practice the same old way where your intention is just to sell someone a product or do a transaction, then you’re still back at the old ways of doing things.

Look at it differently, you’re not just helping your customer to look for solutions. You’re helping your customer to make the right decision.

What can you say are the factors that contribute to your fulfillment in this career?

Danielle: As a mom myself, it provides me with enough flexibility to run my life. The hard work remains the same. I love my job and love connecting with new people and maintaining relationships with my clients. These things motivate me to do better and be better for my clients.

I go on playdates with my clients. We have outings together as well. There is a mix of both business and personal relationships. This is a long-term career and so I felt connecting to clients differently does help to build trust in the long-term.

Inspiring the Next Generation:

Is there a future with this career?

Salim: Today we can uncover various needs of the customers, and we have those products to meet those needs. It’s not like in the past where we could uncover the needs, but we couldn’t find the product.

Advisers today who are worth their salt, who are prepared for multi-representation, focus on the independent mindset, can open up a huge opportunity for clients to look into the kind of products and services that can meet their needs.

On the other hand, if you are still fixated, on focusing on just one line of product, of course, your client might be disadvantaged.

When you decided to go into this career as an insurance agent, you grew over there, and you said, “Hey, I think my client’s needs are growing. I think I should go independent”.

That is where the future lies.

Would you encourage your children to make financial planning their career?

Danielle: Of course, I would let them know what is expected of them. I would not force them. However, if they do feel that this career is the right one for them from what they have seen within the family and myself, then I will give them my fullest support.

Since I have built something here, why not leave it for the next generation and continue my legacy?

Is this the career for the dishonest?

Amin: There are corrupted and dishonest doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants too. We can’t say that financial advisory is free from this. But we try our very best to tell our advisers to take the right road. That makes you a happy person.

If you take the wrong road, you cannot sleep at night. Your conscience is not clear and you will be unfulfilled.

Is the financial planning profession a career that people can look forward to? Or is it something that is not needed in the future?

Amin: Over the years, business has been increasing. Insurance and investment sales have increased significantly. People are flocking, new migrants, and people need coverage and a place to invest. The future is so bright!

People will always need you if you are good at your job.

If you think in the first year, you want to be a millionaire, then you’re better off joining the gangsters.

If you accept that when you start, you earn a little lower with the potential to grow, then it is okay and this career is for you.

Many people look for short-term gains and don’t look at the long-term.

I would advise financial advisers to give back to the industry. When you give back, you will find an attachment and love to the industry.

Salim: I must thank my predecessors for moulding the industry into what it is today. Today, the regulators have realized that they need industry expertise to improve the industry.

Singapore is probably one of the best places to do financial planning work. Financial planning is no longer just about sales. Over the years, we have transcended into a more professional career.

What are the things that advisers should be mindful of?

Salim: Firstly, I think the most important part of the business is understanding our mission – to help our clients achieve their financial goals. It sounds simple but it means a lot. For you to be able to do this, you’ll need to have the skills, the knowledge, the perception, and the right attitude to serve the clients well.

Secondly, it is about our philosophy. Philosophy helps us to bind our principles with each other. We are sticking to the right principles of doing business with our clients and learning to work as a team, sharing, and not imposing views on others. These are things that help us to work well with each other.

When we adopt these values as a philosophy, they will shine through our personality when we conduct our business with clients. The people you deal with will know you mean business and the trust levels become much stronger.

Finally, it is about our objectives. Asking ourselves how well we want to achieve within this career. Who do you want to be serving? What role in FA do you want to perform?

If our mission and philosophy are right, there will be no doubt that we will achieve our objectives.

Recruitment of Advisers

Amin: Back then, I was always very busy doing recruitment. I did a lot of seminars to recruit people. There was an instance when 2 people came to me after my passionate talk, they told me that they had made up their minds to resign from being agents but having heard my talk, they decided to remain in the industry. They didn’t join me, but I am glad that I have impacted them this way.

You must conduct yourself with passion. If you don’t have passion for the job, you can’t go far. If you are only going for money, you won’t go far too. You do the work sincerely, to the best of your ability and the money will follow you.

Today, the faults I see are managers being in a hurry to recruit and blindly take people in. There is almost no proper selection system. When I did it, I followed my process strictly. I gave my agents enough time to get out. You can make money, but the job is tough. You must persevere and sacrifice or else this job may not be yours.

I’ve asked my managers back then whether they were prepared to bring their agents home for dinner. Some of them asked, “Why should I?”.

Then I tell those managers that they have agents who are not good. Because there is a deeper underlying meaning behind it. Having dinner or coffee with your agents goes very far. It shows that you care. If your advisers know that you care for them, they will respond to you differently. Integrity is important.

If you lose money, you lose nothing. If you lose your health, you’ve lost something. If you lose your integrity, you have lost everything. I expect my agents to be honest and truthful to their clients.

Back then my retention rate was more than 90%. I have let go of some bad hats in the past – even if they are good producers.

How was your training back then?

Amin: I conduct training every month for advisers. Advisers need frequent training. In my training, I take a lot of time to prepare. As a leader, if you want to conduct training for your advisers, you must be prepared.

If you say the same thing every month, they will get bored easily. So, what I have done before was I designed a scheme – divide the class into 2.

One was a group of buyers, and one was a group of sellers. Each with their script. Both groups don’t share the information I gave them. This creates a healthy activity. It was vibrant and the role-playing created many mistakes between them. I’ve always told them that this was the place to make mistakes and it should be celebrated. Only then will the advisers improve.

What usually happens is that they laugh a lot during these sessions. Sometimes when the buyers and sellers are in conversation, I’ll throw in another person to act as the parent and disturb the whole sales process. Making nasty comments to throw off the seller. Because this comes as a surprise, you’ll see that the seller side gets anxious quickly. This creates a little drama for the advisers to appreciate – that they should upskill themselves always and be ready for challenges.

I believe this rejuvenates my monthly meetings. The agents feel happy to come to these trainings. We made it enjoyable, and we all had fun.

I believe if advisers can be trained, you have no problem. If he is not trainable, you are in trouble.

How do you know if an agent is trainable?

Amin: You must test. During your selection, give him a book or something lengthy to read. Give them some time to do research and get back to you. Look at the result when he gets back to you. It will show you whether this agent is trainable or not. Don’t waste your time with un-trainable agents.

What should leaders look out for?

Be careful about relationships with your advisers. Some advisers may abuse the relationship and trust you placed in them. I had an adviser who frequented my place and always spoke dramatically about his service and endearment to his wife. I felt that it was not appropriate and reminded the adviser not to come again.

I mean as leaders; we need to set boundaries too.

What can you say about Avallis?

Danielle: Almost anyone can join this industry. It is about whether you can last, that is a different thing. Whether you can do the work, and its challenges, overcome them, and still work towards your goal, will define you.

This is not a short-term career, not for you, not for your clients.

Avallis is very special. The culture here is generous and kind yet we all push each other to work hard to serve our clients well.

Advisers here are always willing to share with anybody in the company. I feel that is valuable and most importantly we do not tolerate integrity issues.

No one here is too exclusive to talk to and that is the most beautiful thing about working here.


This in-depth interview was transcribed with multiple revisions that captured the essence of what was said during the interview. It does not represent the exact speech by the 3 interviewees.

According to Kvale and Brinkmann (2009), in-depth interviews are considered to be research conversations. As a genre of conversation, an in-depth interview has its conventions and rules, distinct from a chat with a friend, a legal interrogation, a therapeutic session, or a professional discussion. What makes them distinct is the purpose of the conversation. In qualitative research the purpose is to ‘produce’ knowledge, “is an interview where knowledge is constructed in the interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee”. However, there is much overlap and no hard and fast distinction between different forms of conversation.