Susan Dunn, a firm believer in the value of insurance as a risk management tool, gives insurance agents a good name.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSAN DUNN
Mention “insurance agent” and what pops to mind is a whole list of unsavory adjectives—pushy, money-minded, and the list goes on. And yet, none of Susan Dunn’s clients will tack any of these words on her—and she has many clients. Having recently scooped up a string of prestigious awards, namely the industry-wide Court of the Table award, the Third Runner Up award as well as the First Runner Up award for High Net Worth Products, the wealth planner with AIA Singapore is one in a handful of insurance professionals who give the industry a good name.
Formerly working in the operations and supply chain management department of a multi-national corporation, Dunn embarked on her insurance career on a part-time basis in 1993, when she was at a juncture in her career. “I wanted a job where I could determine my own success path and have more flexibility in terms of time in order to serve God.”
The Business Administration graduate from the National University of Singapore picked the insurance sector because of a firm belief in its value as a risk management tool, despite the fact that some Christians are of the opinion that buying insurance detracts one from depending on God for His provision.
“Buying insurance is not a demonstration of a lack of faith but rather a demonstration of responsibility,” says Dunn. Her approach, in turn, is not to focus on fear while promoting her products, but on love and responsibility toward those who depend on us for their livelihood. “In fact, we are to provide for our loved ones—our God is a practical God who understands that even if anything were to happen to us, we still have family and financial commitments to meet.”
What about instances where over-insuring oneself becomes a liability instead? “The rule of thumb for an average family is to commit no more than 15 per cent of the household’s gross income on risk management products (this excludes endowment or investment products). That aside, a person should insure himself by seven to 10 times of his gross yearly income,” says Dunn.
To illustrate the importance of insuring oneself as well as the value of an adept insurance planner, Dunn tells of a 31-year-old client who had to claim for her life insurance under the critical illness coverage several years ago. Incidentally, this was a referral, and as Dunn reviewed her portfolio, she felt that it was not meeting the client’s needs. “There was not much critical illness coverage and the hospital benefits were not upgraded to reflect her earning power. Furthermore, her investments were not doing well despite the vibrant economy as it was all tied up in bonds.” Thus, she helped the client increase her critical illness coverage, upgraded her hospital plan and switched her investments from bonds to equity shares. In half a year, the client’s CPF investments, which had previously dipped by S$10,000, not only recovered that loss, but made another S$10,000.
At that time, the client called her up with the news that she had been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Fortunately, the six-month waiting period (a length of time stated in a policy which must pass before the insured coverage begins) had just passed, and she was able to claim S$180,000 in payouts. As a result, her medical bills were taken care of, which provided her with the peace of mind to recover from the illness. Through the incident also, she came to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior at City Harvest Church, and is presently working in Hong Kong and attending church there.
“Cases like this show how we should not take things for granted. Therefore, I always try my best to get people to see the importance of being insured, to facilitate and make it easy for people to obtain insurance. We’ve seen cases whereby clients were a little bit too slow in buying their insurance, and because they were diagnosed with illnesses while their policies were still being processed, there was really nothing we could do.”
Dunn attributes a genuine concern for people as well as the ability to connect and identify with their needs as important qualities for one to succeed in this line of work, adding that the reputation of a person carries him further than anything else: “If you want to survive and succeed in this career, you need to have people talking about you rather than you talking about yourself.”
As such, most of her clients are referrals, which allow her to work less hours yet be more productive. With a laugh, the mother of three children aged 3 to 6 admits, “This is not the norm and most agency managers won’t like to hear this, but I don’t work too many days of the week—only from Tuesday to Friday. I normally start work at 1 p.m. after spending the morning with my two girls at home, and end at 6 p.m., after which I will go and pick them up from childcare and head home.” What’s the trick to her high sales performances despite the enviably short working hours? “For one, I try to accomplish as much as I can in one location. By building my business on trust and reputation, I get more done by establishing rapport with a group of individuals from one organization instead of traveling all over the island to meet with clients individually.”
In short, working smart is her key to success. But more than that, it is a demonstrated obedience to God which has brought her to where she is today. “When I first came into this business, I told my boss that I wanted to have the flexibility to serve in church, and God honored that desire.”
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan
Having attended the School of Theology in 1998 and subsequently raised up as a cell group leader, the wife of CHC’s executive pastor Derek Dunn found herself leading three cell groups at one stage, which effectively left her with no free evenings to meet clients. “When I knew that God had called me to cell group leadership, I told God that He would have to provide for me, because I didn’t want to have to work at night and not be able to lead my cell groups. That was when He really opened up the doors for me to work more effectively—to meet high level management clients who are not only free to talk to me in the afternoons, but who could afford to pay higher premiums.”
Thus, even as she committed to spend more time doing church work, her income has never dipped but instead increased over the years. In fact, during the global economic downturn last year, she was blessed with the biggest promotion of her career thus far.
“It was an amazing encouragement for me, a reminder that as we look after God’s house, He will look after ours. This is what I want to live for—to tell the world that there’s a God out there who can and will provide for you, and that it’s possible to serve the church and be productive in your own career at the same time. God never shortchanges us.”