Arlyn Tiong Tan, MBA, FChFP, has taken on a lot of new roles in the past year. In addition to being a business leader and parent of two, she has assumed the responsibilities of financial educator, wealth and health advisor, community organizer and even life coach.
She recently functioned as health advisor to a client whose business interests are in real estate and retail — both of which have taken a financial hit since the pandemic began. “I reached out to him to ask how he was doing. I thought his major concern would be the business, but it was the health of his wife,” explained Tan, a 14-year MDRT member from Manila, Philippines.
Realizing the couple might be entitled to a medical claim, Tan worked as a liaison between the clients and their doctor. “I served as a health advisor more than a financial advisor at that time,” she said.
It’s no accident that Tan has close ties to the medical community. She proactively leverages her experience as a physical therapist — a field she worked in prior to becoming a financial advisor — to help differentiate her financial business.
“Clients know I used to work as a physical therapist, so whenever they have problems with their health, I am the one they call and ask for referrals,” Tan said, noting that this specialized knowledge is unique in the industry.
I like to tell fellow advisors that this is a time when we are most needed by our clients.
Tan also recognizes the types of relationships that can result when she first helps a client with health concerns and then moves on to working on their financial concerns. After addressing the health of her client’s wife, Tan talked with him about the possibility of investment redemption to address sudden liquidity requirements.
“We had rebalanced funds and allocations to risk and wealth management pre-pandemic, knowing he had other sources of liquidity which, in this situation, allowed redemption to be delayed until market prices are higher,” Tan said. “Our engagement has turned from a client-advisor relationship to a partnership because of our aligned goal to manage risk while growing the value of the assets.”
Tan also recently became a consultant with a discretionary wealth management company that will allow her to reimagine how she provides wealth advice. “To be an effective financial advisor in a volatile environment requires partners in the areas of research, execution and administration,” she said. “I’m excited about the new collaboration because it will solve the problems of research and agility. This enables me to focus on relationship building and financial planning.”
It was her collaborative ethos that led Tan to create a Facebook group known as Community Quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic, which initially aimed to encourage others to stay home and follow social distancing measures. Over time, the conversation on Community Quarantine took on a deeper purpose.
“Little did I know that it would become a platform for people asking for help; it was also a place for people to share their concerns,” she said, adding that the group now has 80,000 members but at first attracted mainly family members of frontline workers like doctors and nurses.
The community conversation gave birth to a town hall meeting on education, coordinated with several other educational organizations, to discuss Philippine education during the pandemic.
“With the discussion among regulators, administrators, teachers, parents, donors and principals, it became a forum of collaborations to support parents and teachers in their roles of maximizing student learning in the new normal,” Tan said.
A second education-focused town hall webinar followed, this time sponsored by her parent company, Sun Life. As part of a panel with a local regulator and professor, Tan spoke to the company’s clients about their children’s education. “I told them that the most important thing now is not to worry about their grades, but instead focus on their values and emotional well-being,” she said.
She shares that same advice with those around her. Tan said mental well-being is now more important than ever — not just for clients but also the financial advisors who serve them. “I like to tell fellow advisors that this is a time when we are most needed by our clients,” she said. “For us to do our work, we need to take care of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally.”
Adapting to changes
Navigating the ever-changing problems and concerns brought on by the pandemic is a challenge, said Tan, who had wanted to implement work-from-home and employee-wellness programs prior to the pandemic.
“I wanted them to have three days in the office and two days at home,” Tan said. Manila is known for its congested roadways and prolonged travel time. “My support team had been commuting at least two hours daily, resulting in fatigue, decreased concentration and lower happiness levels.”
Now with all of her staff working from home, Tan’s preparations to digitize, track bottlenecks and improve processes since 2018 have paid off. “All our files were already in the cloud, so when the pandemic began, there were still hardships, but I didn’t find myself flat on
“While interruptions in businesses was the trend, we continued our operations with minimal disruptions and continuous process improvements in mind. We are able to spend more time improving client engagement while staying safe,” Tan said. “Overall, the employee satisfaction and productivity rose.”