Career & Education

Leaving the comfort of the 9-5 to become a life insurance advisor

Anita Chong's story

Sunday, September 03, 2017

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There is a common myth which prevails that the standard 9-5 is the best path to achieve career success. For Anita Chong, however, making the leap from a desk job in the finance industry, then on to becoming her own boss as an insurance advisor has been much more rewarding.

Like many young girls, Chong did not initially see herself working in the insurance industry, as growing up she had dreams of becoming a flight attendant; however her hopes were dashed when she realised that at only five feet tall, her height would not allow her to meet the job's height requirements.

After graduating from StHugh's High School, Chong encountered another challenge, her mother and step-father, who had two younger children to take care of, was not in the financial position to send her to college. Not one to be deterred, she took a few short courses in marketing and psychology and would eventually land a job that would start a successful 16-year journey in Finance and Investments. She recalls, “I started out as an administrative assistant at Money Masters Limited and worked my way up. I have worked in almost every area — research, stocks and bond trading, assisted in marketing and compliance. “After gaining experience at a few other firms, Chong, who describes herself as driven and determined, would eventually work her way up to manager for Treasury and Investment Relations at FHC Investments Limited.

However, as time passed, Chong began to want more control over her career growth. “I was at a place in my life where I no longer wanted to fit into this specific mould that society set; I wanted more and I wanted more control over my earnings and my upward movement. I realised that sometimes, regardless of the time and effort spent working in a 9-5, it doesn't necessarily translate to upward movement or increased earnings, since many things are outside of your control,” she shares.

After being encouraged by her mentor and friend Evadney Ramdial to explore the insurance field, she decided to accept her offer to set up a meeting with Christopher Lawe, branch manager of the Holborn Branch at Sagicor Life, to get some insight on the industry. “I met with Chris and that day will forever be etched in my memory,” she remembers. During the meeting, Lawe highlighted the many perks that came with being an insurance advisor, including having better control of her earnings, as well as flexibility with her time. But the selling point for Chong, who is the mother of two sons, was when Lawe pointed out that if she took the leap and joined the industry, and excelled, she would be in a much better financial position to send her son to university. For Chong, the chance to provide her two sons with an opportunity she has yet to complete was invaluable. “After speaking with him I was totally sold, and positive this was something I wanted to do. Hence, I had no reservations leaving my 9-5 to start this new chapter of my life,” she says. She would start her journey as an insurance advisor on November 1, 2015 at Sagicor Life and work under the tutelage of her new mentor, Christopher Lawe.

Chong explains, however, that the transition to her new career path was not without a few hiccups, as after announcing her resignation and plans to move to the insurance field, a number of persons actively tried to discourage her, believing the insurance industry to be too risky a career change at that point in her life. “Persons were telling me I was making good money at my current job, so why would I leave and risk it,” she says. But Chong, who had gotten that far in her career due to sheer determination, was not to be dissuaded. All her concerns were offset by the opportunity to be her own boss, while granting the necessary flexibility to still pursue her other passions — blogging and travelling. The transition from 9-5 to being an insurance advisor would soon pay off for Chong, putting the initial doubts and concerns her friends and family had to rest. In her first year at Sagicor, Chong would qualify for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), an international independent prestigious association of the world's top life insurance and financial services professionals. “When I qualified for MDRT it was a very humbling and super exciting moment for me. I also made The Million Dollar Club, qualified for Century Club and was the runner-up Rookie of the Year for my branch,” she added.

For Chong, the benefits she derives from her career as an insurance advisor far outweigh the investment she has made into what she deems as her business. “You really are your own boss, which also means you have a business to run. So the question you have to ask yourself is, will your business grow and flourish or will it suffer from bad management?” She goes on to admit, “In the beginning it was strange and somewhat liberating not having any strict times set that you had to adhere to. However, as time went on it became clear that I needed to have a schedule that I worked with or my business would not flourish.”

Chong is now in love with her job and is happy to recommend the career to anyone driven enough to become their own boss. “The job is flexible and it allows you to work with a schedule that suits your lifestyle or the changes in your life as you grow. You must, however, manage it wisely or your business will fail,” she advised. The job has also allowed her to spend more time with her husband and be there for her children in ways she was not able to see before. She concludes, “What is different is that now I can be more involved in their activities, without worrying if the department will be short- staffed…I can support and be there for the children, and still put in the time I need to work…it's a win-win for me,” she says.

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