Tips on where to look for new advisors and how to hire the best

Chee Hong Gan changed his recruitment process and increased retention.

Tips on where to look for new advisors and how to hire the best

When Chee Hong Gan, ChFC, CLU, first began recruiting, he often hired someone as long as they were interested and excited. “There’s a bit of confirmation bias when you look at the person who’s enthusiastic and you think ‘He’s the guy,’” said Gan, an 11-year MDRT member from Singapore. “And then he comes on board and six months later you realize, ‘OK, well maybe he’s not so much the guy anymore.’”

Recruiting is a large part of what Gan does in his role as agency leader for about 70 people, which includes seven managers and six consultants who report directly to him. “It’s one of the activities we do on an ongoing basis,” he said. “We’re constantly attracting and selecting individuals to be part of the team.”

Gan is part of a tied agency, where each individual advisor (referred to as consultants in Gan’s agency) are 100% commission based. Managers and agency leaders have their own production, while also receiving commission based on their consultants’ success.

“Everybody is independent, in some sense, as if we are all super writers,” he explained. “Whatever business we write is paid by the principal insurance company. For agency leaders, the company does compensate us when we bring on board team members who do well.”

For managers and agency leaders, bringing on the right people is key to not only the company’s success, but to their own.

With 15 years of experience in recruiting advisors, Gan has learned a few strategies to find the right people and ensure a good fit.

Look in the right places

Gan has two specific areas where he looks for new advisors: at universities and through career seminars for midlife career changers.


Gan doesn’t look for students in a specific field of study. Rather, he asks these questions about the individual: Are they teachable? Do they have a hunger to learn? Are they motivated?

He runs summer internship programs so students can get firsthand experience with what a career in financial services is all about. It also gives Gan’s team a chance to appraise the intern. “While they are considering whether this is something they can do, it’s also for us to then decide whether they are the kind of candidates we’re looking for,” he said. “It’s a two-way selection process.”

In addition to the summer interns, Gan also offers term-time internships, where the student can work part-time while attending school.

Mid-career switchers

Prior to the pandemic, Gan’s team held career seminars that were run by the team’s current advisors who were mid-career switchers themselves. “I think it’s best to hear from somebody who has actually gone through the whole process and knows what the experience is like,” Gan said.

Since the pandemic, Gan’s team has switched to holding virtual career seminars. “We have a lot of people in specific industries like aviation, retail and food and beverage who are quite affected by the pandemic and are looking to move,” he said. “We reach out to them to see if they would be interested in coming on board with us. We’re always trying to reach out to anybody who’s looking for an opportunity to consider a different career.”

Hire the right person

When Gan first began hiring, he looked for enthusiasm while also relying on different types of profiling tests. He’d sometimes have years where he hired people who were in it for the long term, but he also had years where practically all the advisors were gone within a year.

What eventually changed and led to greater hiring success was asking the right questions and being direct with interviewees about the realities of a 100%-commission-based job in financial services. He notes that, especially with the younger advisors, the appeal for the job is the luxury lifestyle it appears to bring. Often they’re not thinking about the long-term commitment necessary for continued success.

He starts by asking what sounds like a simple question, but that actually reveals a lot about the person. “We ask them, ‘What do you envision yourself doing as a financial advisor?’” Gan said. “And when a person responds, ‘Oh, I see myself explaining to people about products and selling products’ we know we have to be more direct about what we’re looking for.”

Gan explains that just selling products may be the goal at other agencies, but for his agency, the goal is to provide the whole advisory process before any type of product recommendation. Those who think the business is only about sales often find themselves frustrated because they have to do so much servicing, which doesn’t translate into more sales, he said.

Having this kind of conversation during the interview helps narrow down who is there for sales transactions (and the quick money) and who is interested in developing the long-term relationships with clients that will bring success to the whole team.

“We’re trying to look for people who are genuinely interested in other people and not only on their own personal advancement,” Gan said.

And, as Gan retains team members for six, seven, 10 or 11 years, he knows he’s on the right track. “Overall, I think the fact that we are frank with them right from the beginning about this career builds trust, and that is a great first step.”

Contact: Vincent Gan