Season's greetings to one and all, this issue brings the heart back home with the Classics. Doyenne of Insurance Winnie Tay shares her life lessons and try some gift wrapping tips in our Dark & Decadent section. Joyeux Noelle~!
WINNIE TAY It took some amount of cajoling to get Winnie Tay to agree to be featured on the cover of this issue. “I don’t have an interesting story,” exclaims this lovely 70-year-old goodnaturedly. “I don’t have any fancy titles either!” After some reassurances, she agreed and lo and behold! Hers is a story worth telling. “My soul mate and husband, George, encouraged me to say yes,” she said gleefully. And like clockwork, in walks George, whose eyes light up upon seeing Winnie all groomed and dressed to the hilt for this photography session. “You look lovely,” he remarks. “I would date you all over again.” He saunters off and before long the whole home is filled with music from the 60s and 70s. The courtyard home they live in at Tropicana Golf and Country Resort would not have come into being if it wasn’t for George’s love for satay and the chance to go on a helicopter ride! “When Tropicana first launched this place, they advertised free helicopter rides and satay. George was adventurous and wanted to ride a helicopter and try out the satay. It was a crowded weekend, especially at the satay stalls. We were waiting to be taken around the property when the project contractor kindly decided to show us around.” The couple got into the contractor’s jeep and he took them around to view the general layout of the site. “He stopped at his site office and explained that this was the highest ground in the area and he had paid a FengShui master RM2000 to identify this particular plot as the most auspicious.” “That was a lot of money 25 years back. We forgot about the helicopter ride and satay. We bought this plot and built our home. There are no regrets; just counting our blessings to be living in such a peaceful surrounding.” THROWN IN THE DEEP END Regarded with much respect as the doyenne of the insurance industry, her foray into it was nonetheless accidental and not by choice. “My father, Chong Fook Shin, started an insurance agency,” Winnie explains. “His agency was the first agency appointed as a chief “Getting cold feet but still determined, I started by introducing myself,” she recalls of the meeting that turned her business around. “He said ‘It’s alright. I have heard about you and your father. Your name and reputation precede you.” agent and with power of attorney by a foreign insurance company.” To be appointed as such, was deemed an honour as one has the authority to issue policies and settle claims. It was the late 60s. Winnie had just completed her LCC Secretarial course. “My father had asked me to join him in the agency promising to teach me all I needed to know,” she recalls. “He was 73 years old and in poor health.” Unfortunately for Winnie and her family, her father passed away seven months later. “I was literally thrown into the lion’s den,” says Winnie. “I had to start from scratch and without much experience. I desperately tried to maintain the existing business and procure new ones.” It was very daunting for a young, inexperienced Winnie, who suddenly was pushed into an industry dominated by men. She persevered with determination and hope. “I concentrated on motor insurance,” she recalls of her early days in the business. “Every morning I would be armed with proposal forms and cover notes and make my way to visit motor franchises, car dealers and car salesmen.” “The business grew slowly but not without having to work tirelessly at gaining their trust and confidence. Eventually, I made inroads and fast gained popularity with the motor franchise companies and major used car dealers in the Klang Valley.” “In the mid-80s, the insurance industry suffered a major setback. Many motor insurance companies suffered heavy losses on motor claims and many were forced into insolvency. This caused my agency to also come to a halt.” Winnie’s insurance portfolio was mainly motor insurance; hence, she was badly affected. “I had 15 staff‘s welfare to look after and I was asked to stop accepting motor insurance overnight. The thought of my staff’s livelihood being at stake was really stressful.” “It was George who encouraged me to look for a big corporate insurance company that could take over my portfolio.” With his support, she summoned up the courage to make an appointment to meet the Group CEO of a large reputable corporation. TM | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 20
WINNIE TAY On George Tay, Blazer, printed shirt, pants, watch, eyeglasses and belt, all George's own On Winnie, Lace short-sleeved dress and earrings, both from Kate Spade New York Watch and eyeglasses, Winnie's own See through dress, KATE SPADE NEW YORK. Watch, Michelle’s own 21 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | TM