O’Dell identifies Manulife’s unique advantage as coming from being the only player in Malaysia that offers unit trusts, private retirement schemes (PRS) and insurance under one management. To synergise this opportunity, the company requires team players who are able to offer holistic solutions that meet the client’s needs. O’Dell believes that a financial adviser should not just sell insurance but rather, help people get what they want, namely financial independence, protection for loved ones, a better life for their children through education and risk protection from major illness or disability. This has been the cornerstone of his business approach. Hence training and development of people is the key to achieving this success. The company introduced a development programme called ‘Leadership as a Profession’, to develop future leaders in leadership, collaboration, technical areas, coaching and managing performance.
MIB is committed to leading in its CSR efforts too. The company’s efforts have earned recognition as the Company of the Year 2018 (Financial Services Category) and for Pioneering Community Health and Children Welfare Initiatives from CSR Malaysia. The management encourages participation from their staff. Combined efforts have helped raise funds for various orphanages and critically ill patients, build libraries for Orang Asli villages and fulfilled hundreds of wishes of underprivileged children.
O’Dell owes his success to his humble beginnings. Despite performing well academically and athletically, he was unable to complete college education due to the lack of finances. “I felt a desire to prove I could succeed despite my lack of a university degree,” says O’Dell.
He started working as an insurance agent 38 years ago and is grateful for this experience because it developed his ability to relate to everyone at all levels of the organisation. Working with customers directly as an agent and field manager for 12 years also allowed him a deeper sense of appreciation for what customers need and expect. “Everything I learned in business was from experience,” reflects the top executive. Starting at the bottom also helped him develop a leadership style that is hands-on, engaging, approachable and supportive, with a dose of humility.