A young truant turned successful business owner, and a grateful Singapore Polytechnic graduate – Exclusive interview with Loy Yi Zhuo, Founder, ChamberWealth Financial
As a young Singapore polytechnic student, Loy Yi Zhuo thought nothing of walking home after school, just to save his wages from his part time job to pay his school fees.
With money running short and tempers running high at home, this was one of the few quiet moments he had to himself, where his thoughts wandered towards the future, and what he would do and how he could make ends meet.
But even in his wildest imaginings, Loy never guessed his life would turn around so dramatically, to become the successful founder of Chamberwealth Financial, with a $1.5 million sales turnover.
This is his story.
Colliding with a crisis
Loy was the eldest of two children to his homemaker mother and businessman father. The family lived comfortably, as his father’s plumbing subcontracting business boomed. “He was involved in several large-scale projects, like Parc Oasis condominium and even Singapore Polytechnic, my alma mater,” Loy said.
Then the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis hit. The business ran into cashflow problems and Loy’s father was forced to wind up his business. To alleviate the family’s financial situation, Loy started taking up part time waitering jobs and paid his way through school.
But when he was in his second year doing marine engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, things got progressively worse at home. Money dried up. Feeling dejected and discouraged, Loy started playing truant, and finally decided to skip out of his final exams and quit school to start working full time.
He managed to find work at a nightspot at Tanjong Pagar that paid him $1,800 a month. “I was 18 at the time and $1,800 was a lot of money to me, so I had no complaints,” Loy said, thinking back. “In fact, I was really happy about it.”
“If I continued working without any proper qualifications, I could end up working in the same place for the rest of my life.”
Loy spent nearly two years working there and would have continued doing so for much longer, until a fateful conversation he had with a co-worker. Loy realised his colleague was 38 years old and had been working in the same place for over 10 years. When asked why he did not work anywhere else, his co-worked admitted that he couldn’t work anywhere else, because he did not have any qualifications.
That conversation triggered something in Loy’s heart. “It made me rethink my life choices. If I continued working without any proper qualifications, I could end up working in the same place for the rest of my life.”
Loy decided he needed to make a change in his life, and requested to be reinstated at Singapore Polytechnic to complete his studies in Marine engineering. That request was denied. Loy was told he would have to complete a 3 year course at ITE like others had to do, before he could apply to return to SP.
Time was running out for young Loy. At 20 years of age, he was due to be called up for National Service. If he took the ITE route, he would only be able to return to Singapore Poly after he completed his NS, at the age of 26. By the time he could get his diploma, he would be 29.
Instead of accepting his fate, Loy decided to appeal the decision, by penning a heartfelt message to the SP principal. “I remembered exactly what I wrote. I told the principal that I deeply regretted my past actions and I was determined to start afresh. I even wrote that an institute of higher learning like SP, should not refuse someone who genuinely wants to go back to school to get an education. That was something I truly believed in.”
The appeal letter worked, and Loy was allowed to return to school, though not without a stern warning from the head of department at his Marine engineering course. “If you fail any of your exams, you will fail the entire course. There will be no more second chances for you,” Loy recalled him saying.
Loy made good on his promise and passed every single exam, receiving his diploma within 2 years.
“I was missing a sense of satisfaction, a sense of personal achievement, and I knew it was time to move”
After finishing school, Loy decided to sign on as a regular at the Singapore Police Force, for its stability and $3,000 a month salary. His life took a more stable turn as well, as he married his long term girlfriend of 6 years, Jasmine, in 2006, and had their first child – a baby girl – in 2007. They had a second child – a boy – in 2013.
Yet, while the money was stable, his family was growing and it was increasingly harder to make ends meet. “$3000 simply was not enough to support my family,” he recalled, adding that he felt something was missing.
“I enjoyed my work and helping people, but couldn’t see myself working as a police officer for the long term. I was missing a sense of satisfaction, a sense of personal achievement, and I knew it was time to move,” said Loy.
Stepping into a life changing journey.
Loy was drawn to the insurance industry, because of its promises of higher income. “Financial planning is commission based, so the sky’s the limit,” he said. “As long as I have the willingness and ability to succeed in the industry, my income will match it.”
“Financial planning is commission based, so the sky’s the limit. As long as I have the willingness and ability to succeed in the industry, my income will match it.”
He also learned that the company rewards agents who can achieve certain income tiers, so the better he is able to do his job, the more he would get. “It makes you want to push yourself harder,” Loy added.
So Loy quit the force after 4 years, and joined the insurance industry as a financial advisor in 2009. Within his first month on the job, he met 7 clients and closed all 7 cases. His first pay check at the end of that month was $15,000. “It was the first time I had ever seen a 5-figure salary, and rushed home to show it to my wife. We cried tears of joy,” he said.
Building a business that built him up
Loy continued to build on what he started. He continued to meet clients and close cases, he invited his wife to join him in the industry. After one year, he was promoted to become a unit manager with 3 agents on his team.
As he worked with his agents to help them close cases, supported them through their various difficulties, and built up his team strength, Loy quickly discovered his passion that went beyond the income he was earning.
“At the start I was drawn to the job because of the income. But later on, I discovered that what really motivated me was my passion for developing others’ potential,” he said. “It gave me great satisfaction to be able to help people from all walks of life excel and succeed.
To further develop his skills, Loy enrolled in a psychology degree course with Murdoch University, to learn how he could adapt his training to different agents more effectively. He soon learned he was about to make connections between his lessons and his work with his agents.
“A lot of what I learned was very relatable to our job. Why do we feel more emotional over certain situations or at a certain point in time, and why people make certain decisions. I learned about how your upbringing can affect your psyche well into your adulthood and affect what makes you fearful and how you handle rejections and issues,” he said.
“In a traditional agency, you try your best to emulate everything your leaders had done successfully. But everyone is unique, and not everyone is able to do the same and get the same results.”
Even before he graduated in 2015, he had already started to apply sales psychology in his training for his team. “What I learned helped me to understand my agents better, helped me to be more patient with them and craft my training so it became more precise, more customised, and more effective for each of them.”
“In a traditional agency, you try your best to emulate everything your leaders had done successfully. But everyone is unique, and not everyone is able to do the same and get the same results,” he said. “I believe doing financial planning is both an art and a science. It requires soft skills, like communication skills, which may come easier to some. I provide the science.”
“While I may have the experience, and I am willing to pass on that experience to my agents, not everyone is Loy, and not everyone can translate that experience and make it their own. So, by understanding that each individual’s mental state is different, and their upbringing is different, I can customise my training and develop unique skills sets that would suit them best,” he continues.
“Most crucially, I can help to position their mindset to handle rejection, which we get a lot of at the start,” he adds. “But sales training is a 2-way street. No matter how much teacher is willing and able to teach, the student must also be open to new ideas and new knowledge.”
By 2016, he received the “MDRT Agency” award for developing 5 MDRT agents out of his team of 10, a real accomplishment on its own. The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) is an international award to agents in the top 3 percentile.
It was clear that Loy had set the bar higher for himself and his team, because they achieved one more MDRT than was required to receive the award.
ChamberWealth – A safe space to grow wealth
That year, Loy was promoted to become a director, and established ChamberWealth Financial. The word “Chamber” implies a safe space, while “Wealth” has connotations of money, knowledge and health.
“We want to be a stronghold for our client’s finances, and a place to share knowledge,” says Loy. “We even trademarked our name, because we wanted our clients to know that we are here to stay, and not some fly-by-night operation.”
Today, ChamberWealth does an average of $1.5 million of sales annually, and has 25 agents and 5 support staff on its team. That also includes telemarketers who help to make cold calls to potential clients, to help his agents find more leads.
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Some of Loy’s proudest moments was when he watched one of his earliest and youngest agents – Tan Kia Leng – walking down the red carpet to receive her MDRT award, her life completely transformed.
“When I see my guys transform from a nobody to a somebody, I know I made a difference in their lives,” he said. “Kia Leng was retail assistant, a low-income earner, a young girl who grew up with the agency over the past 10 years, and is today a mother of one. From her humble beginnings, she could hold her wedding at the Fullerton Hotel, own a convertible, and receive the MDRT award. It was my privilege to witness her growth.”
Paying it forward
To this day, Loy remains grateful for the second chance he received from Singapore Polytechnic, because his diploma had been the crucial key in helping him turning his life and career around. As he explains it, a diploma is the minimum educational qualification required to enter the insurance industry.
“I am really thankful to Singapore Polytechnic and the compassion they showed me. If they didn’t give me a second chance, I would not have gotten my diploma and I would not be where I am today.”
“Our door is always open to anyone who wants to achieve financial freedom.”
In the same manner, Loy is determined to give others a second chance in their life. “A second chance transformed my life and those around me, so I want others to get that second chance too.”
Even amid the pandemic and the economic crisis, Loy is committed to helping new and existing agents to achieve their financial goals.
“Our door is always open to anyone who wants to achieve financial freedom,” he says. “Some people choose not to come because they fear failure and they fear rejection, but my advice to them is this: Don’t fear embarrassment, your ego doesn’t pay your bills. That is a hurdle that everyone needs to overcome. If you prize your ego over anything else, you will not achieve anything.”