Women in finance series: A conversation with Elaine Liu
December 1, 2015 by Carly Meiners
As part of a new series, ProducersWEB will talk to different women in finance about what they do and how they’re changing the industry. Our first conversation is with Elaine Liu the vice president and chief marketing officer, asian markets at AIG Financial Network. Liu focus is on helping Asian-Americans meet their life insurance needs.
Below Liu discusses how the Chinese markets are important to her, the similarities with the Chinese and American markets and the life insurance needs of the Chinese-American community.
ProducersWEB: Why did you choose to work in the financial industry?
Elaine Liu: In my opinion, our industry is the only one where the products we “sell” are designed to actually help our clients maintain or increase their financial security. Our goal is to help facilitate financial protection and peace of mind.
PW: You work with the Chinese-American markets, how has the market grown since you began?
Liu: It gives me a tremendous feeling of pride to see how Asian Americans have progressed in America. I feel a sense of responsibility to represent and to serve as an advocate for the needs of Asian Americans. Also as part of my job, we’re also continuing to focus on fostering a culturally sensitive service environment as well as a culturally sensitive work environment.
PW: What are some of the biggest similarities between the American and Chinese markets?
Liu: At the end of the day, we are all human beings. Despite cultural differences, we all want our families to be safe and provided for, our kids to get a proper education, to provide for ourselves or our loved ones in times of serious illness and to retire with financial independence and dignity.
PW: Are there different products in the Chinese markets? Are they designed differently?
Liu: We believe that the accelerated benefit riders (ABRs) and the Quality of Life Insurance® products we offer are particularly well situated for the Chinese market. Educating this community about the availability of the living benefit riders gives us an opportunity to share with Chinese clients the way the products are designed to work: as “life insurance you don’t have to die to use.”
The word “death” is a taboo word in the Chinese culture. In addition, men may tend to be reluctant to buy life insurance, as they typically view themselves as the breadwinner for the family. But we find that sharing the role of our ABRs helps clients to understand our products.
PW: One of our editors spoke with someone involved in international markets a year ago and she explained that many times in the financial industry, Asian markets are flipped — with more women working in the market than men, where it is the opposite here. Have you seen this difference?
Liu: Yes, as I mentioned previously, the Asian culture is still mostly male-dominant. Male agents may have a tougher time trying to convince a male prospect to provide for his family through different insurance policies. The suggestion may even be perceived as an insult. In my experience, female agents typically have a much easier time as they tend to be able to appeal to the uncertainties some of the wives may feel. In addition, with the (former) one-child policy in China, many mothers are deeply protective of their children. Thus, we often find that it is easier to speak to these female clients about financial products.
PW: Why is meeting the life insurance needs of the Chinese-American community important to you?
Liu: I am a Chinese financial professional. Meeting the life insurance needs of my community is what I am dedicated to doing for a living. I understand the risks and the dangers if we do not have a proper financial plan. I want to make sure I can pass on my knowledge especially to people in my own community. In addition, I am extremely proud to be a Chinese American. I want to see my community attain the highest level of success and for our people to be happy, financially secure citizens of this amazing country.
PW: Does the Chinese-American market have a lower percentage of people with life insurance? What are the needs in this particular community?
Liu: The percentage may not be lower than for other cultures, but in light of some of the cultural beliefs and with death being a taboo topic, I believe we have the opportunity to educate people on the value proposition of our products. It’s a matter of enhancing the understanding of the product. This is our call to action so that we have the opportunity to appropriately meet needs. I believe that when financial professionals can thoroughly educate clients and prospects on the features of evolutionary new products, our industry has the potential to experience exponential growth. I see this as a new era in our industry. I truly feel that we have not seen product and service innovations like ours in the insurance industry in a long time.
PW: How do you think AIG is changing the Asian-American community?
Liu: At AIG Financial Network, we are growing our footprint in the Asian-American community with a goal of serving it better than ever before. I am confident we have the right people, leadership and business plan. Together, we enjoy a work environment that’s positive and conducive to continued learning, and at the same time, we’re supporting the delivery of crucial protection and retirement products that in my experience, many people otherwise might not think about or believe they could afford.