Success Lies In Knowing The Differences
By Marcella De Simone
People who have immigrated to mainland United States from Asian countries have settled for the most part in three locations: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the New York/New Jersey area. The diversity of the regions largely accounts for the differences in Asian-American communities, says Gary Schulte.
Chinese people in New York are much different from Chinese people in San Francisco, the senior vice president of MetLife Financial Services Western Zone, Danville, Calif., says.
“And even they are different from the Chinese in southern California, just as the Caucasian markets are different in those regions,” he says. “The Chinese in northern California are the most sophisticated in the country.”
This is largely due to the concentration of high-tech positions in northern California, Schulte says. Many Chinese-Americans “who have a propensity to do well in the high-tech arena” have migrated to northern California, he says.
And regional differences are not all that set Asian-Americans apart from one another. Their native cultures are diverse as well, says Sally Mak, corporate vice president, New York Life, New York. She says agents should keep in mind that Asian-Americans have different languages, different holidays and a history marked by conflict between the nations.
“They may look quite similar, so agents shouldnt assume they are Korean or Chinese; they could be offended,” Mak says. “The best way is to ask what their ethnicity is and not to make an assumption.”
Ray Ting, managing director of Ray Ting and Associates, an office of MetLife Financial Services in City of Industry, Calif., says that although it is important to be aware of differences, it also behooves insurance agents and financial planners to know which values Asian-Americans share.
For instance, Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans have the same entrepreneurial spirit, he says.
“The Chinese especially make up a large number of small business owners,” Ting says. “Its not unusual for a family of three generations to man a business, a liquor store, a doughnut shop, a mini-market or a fast-food shop.
“Koreans are the same; its a very large network of small-business people.”
Most Asian immigrants tend to work for themselves and therefore dont have sophisticated financial plans with company-provided benefits, Ting says.
“Many times they dont have retirement plans, so pockets of opportunity exist for us to penetrate,” he says.
“We go in with investment products for retirement and pensions and we go into family security programs. We talk about how we can tie in family security with their investment plan so they dont have to deal with too many brokers and agents, but rather one agent for all products.”
Other values common to many Asian-Americans are that, for the most part, they have close family ties, a higher-than-average savings rate and respect for elder members of the family, Mak says. They also esteem a college education above most other things as well as the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, she adds.
Knowing this, it is hardly surprising that the cash accumulation feature of permanent life products makes them particularly appealing to the Asian sentiment, Mak says. Term life products are generally not perceived as valuable. “It has to do with [Asian-Americans] higher-than-average savings rate,” she says.