Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan On The Art of Sales, Growing Retail Insurance, And Life’s Lessons

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan On The Art of Sales, Growing Retail Insurance, And Life’s Lessons

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan is the Managing Director and CEO of Green Delta Securities Limited and DMD and Head of Retail, SME and Micro Insurance of Green Delta Insurance Company Limited.

In this intellectually empowering interview, Mr. Khan reflects on the influence of his early childhood experience on his work, how he navigated challenges in his career, talks about what does it take to sell, honesty and transparency as a sales strategy, how Green Delta is pushing its retail insurance business with innovative products and distribution strategy, what he has learned from his journey so far and why patience is the most effective antidote to life’s challenges and difficulties.

This was a much longer interview, so we had to break it up into two parts. This is the second and final part, you can find the part one here or subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get our stories directly in your inbox.

Future Startup

We have more questions related to your work, before that, I would like you to go back to your childhood, you said you have been to different parts of the country and attended 10 different schools. How has your early childhood experience influenced the way you look at life and work?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

There are many connections that I can see today. But I would mention one apparent connection between my past and present. I think that constantly being transferred from one school to another has helped me to build my ability to befriend new people which, in turn, sharpened my sales skills.

Sales, you see, is all about relationship. Every new relationship you make with a potential customer opens the door for a new business opportunity. I received a long training on making friends when growing up which I believe helps me even these days.

Future Startup

As you mentioned earlier, (see part one of the interview), you have extensive experience in sales and you love it, how to do well in sales? What does it take to be an effective salesperson?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

First of all, you need to be confident. You need to know your product and you need to believe that whatever you’re selling is the best product in the town. In fact, your confidence comes from your belief. When you believe that you are selling the best product in the market, you naturally become confident.

Treat your customers with complete transparency. Even if you sell a second-grade product, don’t sugarcoat all its disadvantages to them. Explain clearly how it will break down if misapplied or misused. That’s how you build a relationship and trust with your customers and hope to make repeat sales.

I have always believed in maintaining a long-term relationship with my customers. You would be surprised to know that I still have contact with my first customer from my days in retail banking. He doesn’t deal in the stock market, but we are still in touch with each other.

Sales, you see, is all about relationship. Every new relationship you make with a potential customer opens the door for a new business opportunity. I received a long training on making friends when growing up which I believe helps me even these days.

Green Delta Retail Insurance policies

Green Delta Retail Insurance policies

Future Startup

In your professional journey so far, could you recall any particular period(s) that was tough and you had to endure a lot of challenges?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Well, struggle is everywhere. If you don’t struggle, you won’t succeed. It’s as simple as that. As I was saying earlier, I started my career in sales. Later on, when I was at BRAC Bank, I was once asked to work as a branch manager. Now, I was a free man while I was in sales. I used to go to different companies, have frequent meetings, and work in the field. So, when I was confined to a branch office from there, it was tough for me to adjust. My main responsibility was to build the new branch. It was at Rampura in the capital. There I had to manage clients, act as an administrative officer, and ensure the security of the bank. I was good with the business part of it, but not that excited about the management part of it. That branch was inaugurated by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed himself. He personally set the deposit and loan target for the new branch. The targets were set for a six-month period. But I was able to achieve them just within two months.

We opened the branch in July 2005. After fulfilling my targets in September and as a result of my request to the management to reinstate me in my previous position, I was once again transferred to the retail section at the end of the year.

Prior to that, I was always into liability and deposit marketing. But this time I was given the challenge to sell the loan products. The liability product team I previously worked with consisted of 1200+ people. And when I joined the loan product team, there were more than 600 executives and 17 managers. After assuming that responsibility, I introduced a number of new products and promoted them.

Later on, in 2008, I was given another responsibility to look after the entire loan portfolio that BRAC Bank had. The portfolio included all of the retail products. I had to work with both branch managers and the direct sales team. It was a challenging job as well. But I managed to thrive. During this period, I made a lot of difficult decisions including letting people go who were not performing. But eventually, I did very well in that position as well.

As for Green Delta Securities, it was an entirely new area for me. I worked in Bank but banking and securities business are two different things. I was initially a little intimidated by the terminology used by people in this industry. Since I had no previous experience of working in the capital market, I didn’t know what hawla tax, laga tax, or item means. But I did not give up. I reached out to people. I remembered the advice of my former boss and the former Managing Director of BRAC Bank, the late Imran Rahman. He once advised me that to serve better as a CEO, you don’t need to know everything in theory, but you must understand everything in practice.

Remembering his suggestion, I called on employees from every department at GD Securities and asked them to share how they do things around here. And I realized that this is not rocket science. You just need to apply your analytical abilities and make decisions about, say, which stocks to buy and which to avoid. Over the time, we have done tremendously well at Green Delta Securities. It is all about working hard, loving your work, giving your 100% and owning your responsibilities.

First of all, you need to be confident. You need to know your product and you need to believe that whatever you’re selling is the best product in the town. In fact, your confidence comes from your belief. When you believe that you are selling the best product in the market, you naturally become confident.

Future Startup

Do you think the insurance industry faces challenges when it comes to attracting young and talented people as a challenge?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Well, interestingly, I was lucky once to teach a master’s class at the Institute of Business Administration at the University of Dhaka. The class was supposed to continue for two hours. But I stayed there for an additional two hours.

Because the students were so interested in the field that they had tons of queries and I had to stay extra hours and answer. So I believe there is an interest on the side of young people.

The problem is that the industry doesn’t have the appetite for young talents right now.

I asked around a few fresh graduates as to why they don’t come into insurance companies. They point out two reasons: first, most insurance companies don’t offer them an MTO position like other local and international corporations.

Secondly, the benefits package is not really attractive compared to other opportunities available in the market.

I would say the problem lies with the industry. We are thinking about the future and are not willing to invest in the future. We need to recruit young blood in order to grow and go to the next stage. I think things ought to change soon.

There is a lack of overall education and awareness in the market which hurts our growth. We are trying to improve the awareness. We have a new type of insurance called weather-index based agro-insurance. Farmers often face a lot of natural calamities during the harvesting season. Like there has been a lot of raining in this year which damages the crops. We started this entire concept based on a digital platform. Our pilot has begun in the Satkhira area where we are currently covering 1,000 farmers. If these farmers suffer any loss due to natural reasons, we will compensate them. Now, many farmers may not understand the benefits of taking an insurance, but if we can create an awareness in the market regarding the benefits of the insurance, it should change the entire outlook of the industry.

Green Delta Launches Digital Insurance

Green Delta Launches Digital Insurance

Future Startup

You mentioned that you’ve already taken some initiatives to facilitate innovation and build a better distribution channel which would eventually accelerate growth. Apart from these two things, what are the other things you are doing to achieve growth?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Yes, apart from revamping our distribution channel, there are a few things that we have been working on. For example, we are trying to increase our presence in the media and improve public perception. Insurance, as a business, has not been discussed enough in the mainstream media channels. That’s why people still aren’t concerned enough about it. There is a lack of overall education and awareness in the market which hurts our growth. We are trying to improve the awareness.

We have a new type of insurance called weather-index based agro-insurance. Farmers often face a lot of natural calamities during the harvesting season. Like there has been a lot of raining in this year which damages the crops. We started this entire concept based on a digital platform. Our pilot has begun in the Satkhira area where we are currently covering 1,000 farmers. If these farmers suffer any loss due to natural reasons, we will compensate them.

Now, many farmers may not understand the benefits of taking an insurance, but if we can create an awareness in the market regarding the benefits of the insurance, it should change the entire outlook of the industry.

In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of farmers throughout the country. Is it possible for GD to reach out to all of them? No. The entire insurance industry needs to come forward to make that happen. I think that’s one area where solid work needs to be done.

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Wafi Shafique Menhaz Khan

Well, to survive in the market, you have to be focused, creative and consistently innovate. Nurture a competitive mindset and always try to think ahead of your competitors.

On a personal level, be honest and humble. Don’t be swept away by pride. Let others talk about and appreciate your efforts.

Be patient. If you want to leave your mark there is no way other than being patient. Anything worthwhile takes time to achieve. There will be challenges. The only way you can overcome challenges and get to your destination is through hard work and patience. Take, our retail and SME department, for example. The year we began, we could not even achieve 10% of our objective. The next year, we could achieve only 25%. But we were able to hit the 95th percentile by the third year. This is why I believe you need to be patient to be successful in life. Keep at it. Diligently put your hard work into it.

Be honest and humble. Don’t be swept away by pride. Let others talk about and appreciate your efforts.

Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Rahatil Ashekan

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