Finding Success in the Chinese-American Market
Some Chinese- Americans refrain from buying life insurance because of language barriers or they are uncomfortable. Start by understanding the culture and values of this demographic group.
Finding Success in the Chinese-American Market by Elaine Yunan Liu
Multicultural communities present opportunities for financial advisors, life insurance agents and carriers to meet their needs, but understanding each group’s unique traits, culture and values is crucial. This article shares key considerations for engaging with Chinese-Americans and describes how AIG is building on its service to this important community.
The Chinese community, four million strong, is the largest Asian population in the United States1 and has grown significantly faster than the U.S. average population in recent years. The number of businesses owned by Chinese-Americans has also grown significantly. This market, therefore, represents a substantial and expanding opportunity for financial professionals to educate about solutions.
Consider some of the cultural and demographic characteristics of Chinese-Americans:
• Their median annual income is 34.2 percent higher than the U.S. average.
• Fifty-three percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the U.S. average of 29.6 percent. • They place a high premium on hard work, saving and creating a legacy.
Additionally, many Chinese Americans own real estate. A recent Bloomberg Business article described an influx of new residents from China’s rising millionaire class and relayed a Shanghai magazine’s estimate that nearly two-thirds of China’s millionaires have already emigrated or are planning to do so. The well-heeled newcomers are scooping up property from Seattle to New York.
Some members of the Chinese community, however, are unaware of issues associated with becoming a landlord. Further, many firstgeneration Chinese-Americans own small businesses that are cash-based. They may not be familiar with U.S. tax, asset protection and tort laws. Advisors and life insurance agents who team up with CPAs, lawyers and tax advisors can penetrate the highnet-worth Chinese-American market and provide advanced planning for clients.
Chinese-Americans are focused not only on their properties and businesses, but also on their families. Respectful of their ancestors and proud of their heritage, they seek to pass along their culture, language and wealth to future generations. This gives rise to the potential for wellprepared advisors to initiate dialogue with Chinese-Americans about estate planning and wealth transfer.
Penetrating the market
Given the fact that ChineseAmericans are well educated, it’s not necessarily hard to help them understand the need to diversify financially and allocate resources for life insurance. As they strive to preserve their hard-earned assets and protect their loved ones, it should be easy to relay the value proposition of life insurance with living-benefit riders to help protect against the financial impacts of chronic illness and longevity.
AIG research indicates that Chinese consumers value permanent life insurance. The company’s “Quality of Life ... Insurance” product suite, centered on flexible solutions to address multiple, evolving needs, resonates strongly in the Chinese-American market. In Chinese, the name of the product means “universal coverage.” This life insurance is not as much about death (traditionally a taboo topic in the Chinese culture) as it is about facilitating a financially sound life and legacy.
To educate and serve the ChineseAmerican market better than ever, AIG Financial Network is recruiting hundreds of agents from the target market and exploring business opportunities with premier ChineseAmerican financial professionals. Further, this group is enhancing its in-language, case-management and underwriting capabilities, continuing to foster a culturally sensitive work environment, and creating a concierge-level customer support center for policy holders and clients, which is staffed with employees who are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese or both. The team also recently opened a prototype office specifically designed in consideration of the Chinese-American consumer. The office features a tea room with round tables for conversation, Asian photography and Chinese signage.
AIG believes providing such tangible support for financial professionals and the communities they serve is vital. The team understands that some ChineseAmericans refrain from buying life insurance simply because they encounter language barriers or do not feel comfortable interacting with a non-Asian advisor. Nearly half of Chinese-Americans have limited English-language proficiency;8 so; for financial professionals who aim to serve this community, having in-language educational materials and the support of bilingual carrier staff can be instrumental.
Ultimately, successful engagement with the Chinese-American community depends not only on how well financial professionals understand the culture and values of this market, but also on the dedication of their carrier partners.
Elaine Yunan Liu is Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Asian Markets, Life Insurance, AIG Consumer Insurance. With more than 10 years of experience in marketing and media relations in China and the U.S., she serves as Asian Markets liaison to both the field force and the corporate marketing team. She also oversees the development of in-language materials, cultural media production, and multicultural marketing research. Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in Advisor Today.