Fintech disrupting financial sector

Mr Yeo says industry professionals had to deal with restrictive guidelines on recruitment and career progression, as they continue to contend with direct selling of insurance without advice from a financial practitioner.
Mr Yeo says industry professionals had to deal with restrictive guidelines on recruitment and career progression, as they continue to contend with direct selling of insurance without advice from a financial practitioner.PHOTO: IBF

MR ROLAND YEO

President of the Insurance and Financial Practitioners Association of Singapore (Ifpas)

Q What were the best and worst things (financially) that happened to you this year?

A Personally, this question is rather irrelevant as I have always taken a long-term view and defensive stance for my financial portfolio.

This is independent of the current economic situation.

I plan according to my life stages, ensuring that I'd be debt-free and staying invested in less volatile asset classes into my 50s.

(Mr Yeo, 56, heads an agency of advisers in an insurance firm.)

Because I have done the planning ahead of time, I can still take things comfortably. I do not really need to worry about how my financial position would be affected by external forces.

 
 
 
 

My best investment to date is my business. The time and effort invested in the people in my organisation have been well worth my while.

Beyond the financial gains, the intangible reward of seeing the lives of my associates improve and the lives of our clients impacted positively is priceless.

Q How has 2016 been for your industry?

A In all my 30 years in the industry, I would consider 2016 to be one of the most turbulent we have experienced. We have had to deal with restrictive guidelines on recruitment and career progression as a result of implementing initiatives introduced under the Financial Advisory Industry Review.

For example, the Balanced Scorecard - which stipulates both quantitative and qualitative standards to protect the interest of consumers and has a direct impact on the income of errant financial planners - was implemented.

And we continue to contend with the direct selling of insurance without advice from a financial practitioner. More recently, we were told that a whole suite of insurance products could be made available online in the future.

The Ifpas leadership spent many hours discussing the impact of these moves among ourselves as well as with the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

We strove for a win-win outcome for financial institutions, practitioners and consumers.

Despite this, we also thought we should continue to lend our expertise to the community by helping to raise the level of financial literacy.

Ifpas partnered the Health Ministry and People's Association to explain the workings of MediShield Life at the grassroots level.

It was an enriching experience.

Q How do you see 2017 panning out?

A With Brexit and an unexpected United States president in place, it is likely to result in a shift in political power and wealth, and consequently a change in world order.

I expect the rich-poor divide to widen. It would take a while for the tsunami to subside before a new landscape emerges.

For our industry, it will likely be a tumultuous year because we expect new entrants in the industry to add to the competition, as well as the increased use of fintech. There will be some disruption to traditional operations and we will have to be prepared to ride the new wave.

At the same time, we can expect insurers to come up with new, more complicated products which will require even more financial expertise on our part.

Ifpas has already begun preparing financial planners to ride the wave - through financial planning certification programmes and specialist training such as in estate planning and retirement planning - enabling us to provide a more comprehensive service to our clients. We also intend to continue our community service efforts and would be glad to help in explaining financial matters at the grassroots level, whether it be about changes to the use of the Central Provident Fund for investment, or ElderShield.

Q Going into 2017, please give some tips to retail investors.

A A tip for retail investors would be to think long-term for the next 10 years and beyond, rather than hope to make a quick buck.

The age-old strategies of compounding and dollar-cost averaging are still very much applicable.

What we need to think through is where the future growth areas that will maximise our funds will be. This means we need to stay abreast of major trends such as technology disruptions.

For example, the evolution of technology might mean a redefinition of asset ownership. Are cars and property going to become old-school assets? Will intellectual property and digital literacy become the new currency?

That being the case, our idea of asset allocation would need to be reviewed and realigned.

Instead of focusing on physical assets, we could be downsizing our property and outsourcing our means of transport. This would free up resources for investments in new, more productive areas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 25, 2016, with the headline 'Fintech disrupting financial sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe