There are a handful of successful women in the Insurance Industry. So when one comes across a success story it is remarkable because making a mark in this field, especially as a financial advisor, is not a piece of cake. In the year 2006, Rajeshwari Jandhyala stepped into insurance selling at the age of 42, broke the glass ceiling, found a sound financial footing and is now inspiring others to take this journey.
“It started with a strong desire to financially support my family and an advertisement by SBI Life Insurance, inviting to be financial advisors with them. I was 42 then, so stepping out after being a homemaker for many years, was a little unnerving but once I applied there was no looking back. It was only upwards and onwards,” recounts Rajeshwari as she stepped into an extremely challenging realm of insurance sales in India without any background in the industry.
“It is relatively difficult for a woman to make a mark in the industry. Even today there are just a handful of women though the numbers are growing gradually. They can be a great tool to improve insurance penetration as families are more comfortable talking to women agents and it encourages participation of women in families in discussion surrounding financial decisions,” she says.
It took time for her to convince people to make space for insurance in their financial portfolio back then. “Initially things moved slowly but then I started visiting government offices, meeting employees and seeking permission to make group presentations and things moved forward slightly.”
She gives credit to the support provided by her insurance company. “It is an agreed fact that being an insurance agent is no cakewalk, but with continuous and diligent efforts one definitely sees success and once you cross the challenging threshold, it is a red carpet.”
Till date she never misses an opportunity to interact with people and speak to them about insurance.
Today Rajeshwari is one of the top insurance advisors for SBI Life Insurance and is a part of the prestigious Million Dollar round table (MDRT) — an exclusive forum for the world’s most successful life insurance and financial services professionals. Membership to MDRT (USA) is based on agent productivity and includes criteria for commissions and premium. For 3 years she served as a chair for the Membership Communications Committee which, at the local level, monitors industry activities and involvement worldwide.
“It’s the global exposure from the meetings and the interaction with a cream of top professionals. It is a common platform where one can network with beginners to top-end insurance/finance professionals. They come together and discuss their journeys and share ideas to increase productivity.”
Today people have started understanding the importance of life insurance and are ready to listen so is it easier to bring up conversations about such topics now. Interest around term life insurance has peeked and individuals are looking at taking a term insurance with adequate coverage. Even people from the medium income bracket have joined these conversations and are open to the idea of an adequate term insurance in their financial portfolio.
“The pandemic stood as a curveball as it impacted the savings for middle and lower middle class. Initially, sales generation became difficult and there was a drop in persistency levels since insurance is very much driven by personal interactions. However, over the course of few months, a positive trend emerged. There was a rise in demand for health and life insurance and evolving digital interfaces helped us service our customers seamlessly,” recounts Rajeshwari.
Digitalisation in the insurance sector has been a boon for financial advisors especially during the pandemic. “It makes customer service easier, leaving us with more time to focus on business development. It provides the agents with accurate actionable data on their fingertips that helps retain customers,” she says.
“Moreover, mobile apps enable us to track the customers data instantly, update policies and address their requirements. Besides, digital transactions like payment of premium and online policy issuance has reduced the TAT for policy issuance drastically from around 10 days to 1 hour. It has also been instrumental in eliminating mis-selling and has allowed transparent communication with customers,” Rajeshwari adds.
Digitalisation has transformed claim settlement process completely and made it paperless and self-serviceable. Customers can upload documents online without stepping out of their homes.
For someone who is looking at starting out as a financial advisor she says, “It is easy to get started as there’s no need for technical or industry knowledge. Any graduate or undergraduate can pursue this and they can start their journey as an entrepreneur. It provides a vast scope and unlimited income.”
Advice that she would offer to an individual wanting a career in this field is this: “Since life insurance is an intangible service, success depends on communication & analytical skills to understand customer’s needs & their risk appetite along with perseverance to stomach rejection at times.”
Rajeshwari emphasises on sound product knowledge, skills like empathy, interpersonal/listening skills and ensuring high levels of customer service as important ingredients to success in this field.
“The income in the field can range from Rs. 50,000 to Rs.50 lakh depending on your sales portfolio. Besides, regular contest and incentives by the insurance company also supplement the income. Today insurers also extend benefits like health insurance to its advisors.”
She further adds, “Being a life insurance agent is worth the effort. One should be dedicated and passionate about serving people. This is one of the few fields that ensures continuous learning and growth while allowing you to give back to society.”