“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Chris: Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for watching this video. From time to time, when we hear of interesting and encouraging stories of real people, we would like to share with you. So that when you hear these stories, we hope that you too may be inspired. So in this episode, we have Providend’s very own Bryan Chan. So Bryan, maybe tell us a little bit about what you do at Providend.
Bryan: Okay. So I’m an Associate Adviser at Providend. What I do is assist Client Advisers in helping clients put in place comprehensive wealth plans that support them in achieving their purpose and life goals, no matter what happens along the way. And I do this by participating in para-planning work. What that means is that I assist in developing and implementing the plans, on the backend, as well as providing general administrative support, particularly in client-facing matters.
My job really is to help in providing, giving clients the best possible wealth advisory experience that we can. And also to soak up and learn from all the nearly 20 years of experience that our Client Advisers have had with working with highly affluent families. So that someday, hopefully someday soon, I will be able to lead in providing such an experience for my own clients as a full Client Adviser.
Chris: Right, so ultimately your goal is from an Associate Adviser, you want to move up the career path and be a full-fledged Client Adviser.
Bryan: Yeah, that’s right.
Chris: So I know that you know, Bryan, when you were in school, you first studied economics. Then after you graduated with a first degree, you did a 180 degrees turn and you went to study counselling.
Chris: I mean, what happened? What made you change your mind from economics, something like economics, into counselling?
Bryan: So the background to that is I have been interested in economics since I was in Junior College. Part of the reason is that it came easier to me. So it’s always easy to get to like something if it’s not too difficult for you. So that’s the first reason. And then I proceeded to continue to study economics at the university level. I was very interested in…
Chris: But you like economics, I suppose?
Bryan: Yes, that’s right. So I was very interested in the idea of rational decision making. So one of the weaknesses that people point out in classical economics is that we assume that everybody’s a rational actor when they make decisions. But actually, that was what interested me the most. So because I wanted to find out how all these individual decisions add up to make the market and also how the economy works on the basis of all these individual decisions.
So while at SMU, I also picked up a second major in psychology. I thought this would be complimentary to economics because other than studying the rational side of things, right. I also wanted to learn…
Chris: The irrational side?
Bryan: Not really the irrational side. So because psychology is also about rationality.
Bryan: But they have a bit of concern with regard to things such as emotions and cognitive biases, for example. So in that way, they don’t assume that everybody is always rational all the time.
Bryan: So I thought those 2 would go well together in terms of my general education. And then leading up to graduation, there was a lot to think about in terms of, you know, a career path, right, and what jobs we can get with the knowledge that we have and all that. And I started to lean more heavily towards the psychology side because, from my peers, there were maybe 2 or 3 groups of people.
Bryan: The first group really wanted to get into the big banks.
Chris: Okay, not surprising. Everybody wants to work for the bank.
Bryan: Yeah so, they wanted to either be analysts or wealth managers, or that kind of thing. And then the other group wanted to maybe get into a kind of like government-linked or stat board kind of positions. So maybe working in EDB or IE Singapore, for example. And then there was the third group which didn’t want either and they maybe didn’t know what to do. And so I was in the third group.
And the reason for that was because in thinking about the big banks, I kind of, even at that point, I kind of had the feeling that they, that the structure and the process that they go through is really, just lands easier to focus on product sales. And so I decided that wasn’t for me. And then towards the second group, I thought that research and policy development can actually have a very big impact, right. But I thought maybe that wasn’t personal enough for me.
So what I was thinking about was I was interested in psychology. I wanted to help people in a deep, personal way and so I landed on counselling. So I applied and I was accepted into a Masters Degree program. And to kind of defray the financial costs as well as to try and reduce the opportunity costs, so that’s my economics training speaking, I applied to a night study, part-time night study program. And then I worked full time in the day as an Operations Executive.
Chris: Oh, wow!
Bryan: To kind of pay my way through school.
Chris: Was it tough to study in the night and then the day you have a full-time job?
Bryan: Yes, it was. It was difficult and it’s very tiring at times. Like you work the whole day and then you got to go and study. I think to that end I was kind of inspired by my dad who kind of did the same. So he was an air force engineer originally, and then he studied at night to get, to eventually get a Masters in finance and advanced from there.
Chris: I know I didn’t prep you for this question, but I just wanted to ask like between studying full-time for your first degree as compared to a part-time student, having to work and study, which one do you find the most satisfaction? Which one do you enjoy doing? Or which one do you enjoy more?
Bryan: I think they both have their good points. So the first thing is that if you’re studying full-time, you are very carefree in a way. It’s like, you just need to focus on getting good grades and then, you know, having fun with your friends and all that.
And then if you’re studying, if you’re doing a part-time program and you’re working in the day, then you really have to make sure that you are taking care of your work responsibilities. And then at night, you got to run off and study. And then you also have to spend long nights like trying to complete your papers and all which you cannot do during the day. So it burns your weekends as well. So that’s more difficult. But I think there’s a sense of satisfaction doing the latter because it’s really about working towards what you want. And then at the end of the day, you have a very strong sense of achievement because you managed to make it happen. I think the last point is that when you are supporting yourself through school, you kind of feel better about it than if you’re just studying off your parents’ money. Yeah.
Chris: Well so, you know, subsequent to that, after you graduated from counselling, you did another U-turn, right. Because you didn’t apply for a job in counselling. Instead, you decided to apply for financial services. So it’s like from economics to counselling and then from counselling, you jump back to financial services.
Chris: So maybe tell us a little bit about that, you know, what made you do that U-turn twice, yeah?
Bryan: Okay. So I, During my Master’s program, I had an opportunity to work with real clients during my practicum. And I think it was a very good experience. It helped me to learn how to relate to people. How to empathise. How to help them manage their emotions. And also when the opportunity arises, to kind of nudge them into making positive changes. But all the time through this experience, I kind of realized that a lot of the cases had to do with some sort of financial trouble. So I think it’s not true of all cases. But in many cases, as big a role as money plays in our lives, it can be a very big source of stress, anxiety, you know, even conflict.
So there are some cases where people fell ill and they didn’t have the right insurance in place. They didn’t have their savings. They couldn’t pay for their treatment. So they were under a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety. And there were also cases where people, where siblings would fight over the estate of a deceased mom and all that.
So it made me begin to wonder right. How much better these situations could have been if they had a sound financial footing, a better financial plan, and if their wealth or the wealth of their parents was managed better.
Chris: Yeah. So, you know, I just want to know whether it’s a difficult position for you. Of course, it was not easy right? I mean your parents obviously paid for your studies. So they paid first for your first degree. And after that, you went to them and said, “No, I’m going to do something different. I want to do counselling”. And then after that, thinking that now you’re going into a different field, now you come back again, you know. So, and you join an industry whereby for some people, there is a lot of stigmas. Was it a difficult decision? What did your friends and your parents say?
Bryan: Yes, it was a difficult decision. I think initially, you know, being economical– I mean trained in economics, it was a little bit easier for me than most people, I think, to go from economics to counselling and say, “Okay, I already spent all this money and this time studying economics but I’m going to shift to counselling”. It’s a sum cost, right. And I really need to consider– The more important thing is the way forward, right. But when this happened the second time, then you know it’s a lot more difficult in that way and I kind of start to question myself, you know, is this really what I want, and is this the right decision and all that.
My friends, my parents were a little surprised. I think also–
Chris: Were they angry with you?
Bryan: No, I don’t think at any point they were angry. They were very surprised and they were like, “Oh, what are you doing?” you know. They will try and help me figure out what’s going on. My friends thought I was a bit—
Bryan: Fickle-minded. They were like, “Oh, you already studied economics, why didn’t you just do financial services at a start? Now you wasted all this money and all that”. So that was quite difficult.
But I mean I don’t blame them because, on some days, I also thought I was crazy. And as I said, I kind of felt like a flip-flopping millennial, you know. Like not being able to decide what I want and all that. So it was quite difficult. But I think in the end when I did make the decision, I’m thankful that my parents are very supportive. And once they realised that I was quite happy to have received the offer then they celebrated for me and they were happy for me. So that’s great.
Chris: Yeah. So I mean, do you agree with your friends that it was a complete waste of time studying counselling and then after that, in a way, you flip-flopped, right, and then you went to financial services. Do you think you wasted those years studying counselling?
Bryan: I think no on 2 counts. The first count is I think you really need to try something to figure out if it’s something that you want to do for a long period as your career in your life. So I think gaining that experience to kind of see the differences between what it would like to be counselling or versus working in an economics field would have been helpful to me.
The other thing that I realised is that actually wealth advisory work kind of sits in a little crossroad between helping people to, you know, manage their emotions and also to…
Chris: Plan for themselves.
Bryan: Yeah and financial, good financial knowledge and competence. And I think maybe you’ve also realised that a bit yourself as this synergy also exist between financial competence and coaching which I understand you do quite a bit of.
Chris: Yeah. But you know, for most people, when they change their mind and they join, for example, the banks, it sounds a lot more glamorous. But you know, coming to a boutique firm like Providend and coming into this industry, I’m sure a lot of people would have told you like you know, “Why Bryan? Why do you want to go into this industry?” Because this stigma, Wealth Advisory, Financial Planning, Financial Advisory, always has got to do with selling of products, you know. And some people look at you like you’re an insurance adviser. Did you ever, you know, thought about that before you decided to sign up?
Bryan: Yes. So actually that was quite a big thing. So when I say my friends were asking me, you know, when they were asking me what I was doing and all that. When you mentioned, oh you’re going to do financial services then they were like, “Oh so you 卖保险 one. Or like you sell insurance and yeah. So that kind of stigma kind of stuck.
But for me, I think it was more important that I know what I was doing. So I discovered Providend because midway through my Master’s program, we lost a dear grandaunt of mine. And she had done quite well for herself so she had left us, including me, a small gift sum. And I was already interested in financial planning but I spent some time doing research, trying to find out what the best thing to do with my money was and how I can do her gift justice.
So that’s when I came across Providend, I think, and fee-only advice. I think fee-only advice is more common in the U.S. maybe? But it also exists here in the form of Providend. And that’s really what led me to kind of look Providend up and apply in the end.
Chris: So is that the reason why in the end you chose Providend? Were there other reasons why ultimately you settled with us?
Bryan: So, of course, the main draw to Providend originally was that there was this insistence on conflict-free, fee-only advice which I think is important of any wealth advisory process. So that’s what drew me to apply. But I think what actually knocked it in for me was really attending the interview, right, and speaking to some of the people, Evelyn included. And learning that Providend’s planning philosophy is quite in line with my values in the sense that it’s more about helping clients to use their resources to achieve their life goals in a very robust way rather than to focus on product sales or to maximise returns and those kind of objectives which should be secondary to achieving your purpose.
Chris: So you’ve been with us for more than a year?
Bryan: Yes, just over a year.
Chris: So how has the journey been for you?
Bryan: I would say that I have–
Chris: No pressure. You can say the real stuff.
Bryan: Not been disappointed one bit. I think I’m quite happy to be experiencing the Providend culture every day now. Being part of a team and a family of like-minded people who really stop at nothing to keep improving. Primarily because we want to give clients the best possible wealth advisory experience.
Chris: Thanks Bryan for sharing a very personal part of your life which I personally found it very inspiring. I’ve got a soft spot for people who have the courage to pursue their passion. And you know, at Providend, when we recruit people, we don’t just look at their qualifications. Of course, that is important. But what is most important for us is that relentless pursuit of doing what is right. And we are so glad to have found you.
Bryan: Thank you, Chris.
Chris: Well, thank you very much for watching. I hope you found this video interesting and inspiring. Thank you.
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