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Women’s Leadership Series: Wani Chen

This article is part of a series of posts from National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network. WIN is a concentration of bright and forward-thinking women (and men!) who collaborate on the leadership development, diversification, and empowerment of National Life’s female field affiliates and home office employees.

Wani was born and raised in Taiwan. Her immigrant background allows her to create a special bond with an expansive and diverse customer population that National Life serves. Her mission is to help others realize their American dream through financial literacy.

Wani graduated from The McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Business Management. During school, she interned at Target as an executive trainee and then joined Liberty Mutual’s Claims Rotational Program upon graduation. As her passion in insurance grew, Wani transitioned into an Agent role and became a top producer with New York Life. In 2014, she joined National Life’s Independent Distribution and prides herself to be a key relationship builder to National Life agencies and agents.

Wani currently lives and works in San Diego, CA with her husband James. 

It’s been almost a year of working remote within the COVID-19 Pandemic… How are you doing?

Can’t be better! Times like this remind us how lucky we are and how grateful we should be for what we have – good health and meaningful relationships. Getting back to simple pleasures has given my day and life a new perspective.

The pandemic has affected us all in unique ways, what would you say was the “Rose” and the “Thorn” of this past year?

Rose: In our business, challenges also come with new opportunities. The positive that came out of this pandemic was something I never imagined – not only the relationship between the home office and the field is closer than ever, the field leaders’ relationship with our agencies is tighter than ever as well, despite the fact that we can’t see each other in person like we used to. How we do business has changed forever, and the importance is that all of us have stayed close in figuring it out together.

I also started weight training and adopted a new self-love routine!

Thorn – Some of the close-contact human interaction is lost. And not being able to go visit my family who lives overseas saddens me.

What did you want to be when you “grew up”?

A stand-up comedian. Unlike most people who pick up a new language through watching the news or reading books/magazines, I did it through watching English stand-ups from the legends. The pure art form and the ability to master the language fascinate me. And who is it to say we can’t have some humor in life insurance!!? 😊

What was your education and career pathway that brought you to where you are now?

I received my bachelor’s in Business Management from UT Austin. It was all by luck that I stumbled into financial services, but overtime I realized sales is my true calling. Once that north star was identified, I did everything I could to reach my goal, whether that’s late-night meetings with a client, setting up a booth in front of a supermarket in the sketchiest neighborhood, or driving 5 hours just to sell a small term. All of that became nutrition for me in my current role. It means a lot to the agents I work with since I don’t only talk the talk, I have walked the walk.

What do you like most about what you do at National Life?

The kind of relationship I get to build with our agents and really making a difference in their lives. We’re relationship builders who turn opportunities into tangible outcomes. Outcomes that are not merely commissions paid, but financial security and financial freedom for the numerous families we serve. I had an agent tell me last year, upon receiving their first commission check from us, that he had not been paid from anyone, for a long time. Things like these keep me going.

Has the financial services / insurance industry landscape changed during your career? If so, what changes have you seen…

The first thing that comes to mind is speed of doing business with eApp, EZ Underwriting, eDelivery, and other optimized features. I still remember breaking the copy machine in my agency office because we printed too much at once.

You’re a member of National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network, can you tell us about what that community means to you?

This community empowers women leaders to unite and learn from others. We can speak up in a safe environment and create solutions together to make our workplace better and our careers rewarding.

In honor of women’s history month, is there a woman who has inspired you in your life?

Without a doubt it’s my mother. I’d use all the words to describe a strong woman leader, on this lady. She is not conventional, certainly very different than a lot of my friends’ mothers growing up. She started her first company at age 20 and during her peak years she ran two companies in very different industries, both she built from ground up. She has a sharp eye for profitable business opportunities and is the most pragmatic person I know. When people talk about a visionary, she is who I think of. The way she’s lived her life also shows me, first handedly, that good work and life balance is achievable. That it’s all about living the life you want to live.

At National Life, the woman who has inspired me most is my best friend and business partner, Lisa Ouzounian. She cares and that makes all the difference.

What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?

Give it your best in whatever you do and be patient – good things will come.

What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?

Listen with the intent to understand.

Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion?

Most certainly. I belong to a grassroots organization that advocates for international human rights, democracy, and freedom.

What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us?

If you’re looking for the best company culture in the industry, look nowhere else.

Any other words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

To all women leaders – Just because you don’t fit the classic mold doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. You just need to find your own style and someone with a similar style who you can learn from. When I first moved to the U.S., I thought I had to hide my uniqueness and do what others expected of me to fit in. From how I talk, behave, or even just doing the things I really like I second-guessed myself. I’m lucky to have encountered role models throughout adulthood, now I can proudly say “being myself is what got me to where I am.” May we all stay true to who we are.

Thank you, Wani!