Balancing youth and experience

| 28 Mar 2022

Video edited by Azri Bahari

In any organisation, there is always the challenge of finding the right balance of having youthful exuberance and tried-and-tested experience within its leadership teams.

We spoke to Manulife Financial Advisers (Manulife FA) branch leaders and Executive Vice Presidents Nethan Chew and Yuen Kah Fai to find out how the firm maintains this delicate balancing act and the benefits it can bring.

Setting itself apart

The first thing that Nethan brought up is that Manulife FA consists of young professionals who are hungry for success and are all on the same wavelength.

“We are made up of a very young group of individuals who wish to be at the forefront of the industry,” he said. “When we were first established, we boldly stated that we dare to take the lead and we dare to take on the challenge. And because of that, everybody works together for a common vision.”

Kah Fai recalled how when he was first interviewed, Manulife FA’s CEO gave him the impression that the team around him is very young and energetic. At the same time, he stressed the importance of having a right blend of youth and experience.

“In all organisations, there needs to be a balance between youth and experience – you need to possess a prudent combination of flexibility and having certain rules. What struck me is that Manulife FA is able to achieve this balance,” he said.

Young, but not just in terms of age

We have all heard the saying that it is more important to be young at heart, and this is something Nethan felt applies to Manulife FA, noting that everyone at the firm, regardless of their physical age, was “young in passion”. He said even the older stalwarts in the firm are able to comfortably socialise and interact with their younger peers.

“Having a young mindset is really what drives everything forward … Whether you are 60, 50 or 30 years old, you should never stop having that “I want to grow, I want to learn more, I want to do better” outlook. And I think that really sets us apart,” he said.

That constant willingness to learn and grow is also crucial to the sharing of knowledge and expertise between the older and younger colleagues who naturally excel at different things.

Kah Fai added, “Young people tend to be savvier in terms of using digital platforms and tools such as Instagram and Facebook. However, there are certain guidelines that need to be adhered to which more senior and experienced colleagues are able to guide them through. At the same time, the experienced ones are able to pick up new skills from the younger generation about how to leverage these digital channels for prospecting.”

Embracing a youth culture

It is important for leaders to have such a mindset as it naturally permeates through the organisation. Nethan said that when people see their leaders still willing to learn, do more and grow even while managing their leadership responsibilities, it will motivate them to strive harder.

Kah Fai also highlighted the importance of hiring the right people to ensure the continued success of newer generations, which will in turn help to attract more individuals to the organisation.

The right motivation and guidance

Not everyone is built the same however, and each person has their own strengths and weaknesses. This is something that Manulife FA recognises and incorporates into its trainings.

“We don’t use one single rubric for our financial services consultants (FSCs). We teach them and we identify what their strengths and weaknesses are and then we try to build upon their strengths while helping them to work on their weaknesses. Each of them is a unique individual, and this is a culture we like to practice,” Nethan said.

Similarly, each person is also motivated by different things, said Kah Fai, and the firm makes sure to tailor solutions to each of them.

He also emphasised that this is a two-way street. “We also learn from them, in a different sense. We are all learning from each other – it’s not so much about how I motivate them, sometimes they are the ones who motivate me and most of them are younger than me,” he said.

Helping them find their motivation

Success is not purely a personal thing. Each person’s success will undoubtedly have a beneficial ripple effect on those around them, whether it is their family, teammates or clients, and it is imperative for younger agents to understand this as it can be a valuable source of motivation, Nethan said.

“Giving them the “why” allows them to do much better because they realise it’s not just about them anymore,” he said. “Because they are young, they have plenty of ideas, and when they truly understand the impact that [success] can have on the people around them, they will find a way [to achieve it]. And the beauty of this industry is the immense possibilities – that anything and everything can work.”

In addition, it is also important for younger FSCs to be given the right guidance and motivation as they learn to manage the peaks and troughs of the business and oftentimes, this is best achieved through leading by example as it shows the younger FSCs their leaders still have their ear to the ground.

Kah Fai brought up how one of his financial planners had been feeling unmotivated and demoralised due to the COVID-19 situation affecting her sales and forcing her to be stuck at home rather than in the office. Eventually, he said, this led her to start questioning her decision to enter the industry.

To overcome this challenge, he offered to accompany her to one of her appointments where he showed her some of his own methods for dealing with a client. “At the end of the day, what we want to show them is that we still have the ability to go outfield and interview clients, uncover their needs and demonstrate the steps to do a proper closure,” he said.

He added that this gesture helped her to feel much more reassured and motivated and she now constantly tries to apply some of his methods in her daily interactions with clients.