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Featured New York Life Insurance Agent: Ken Quan.

Agent, Greater San Francisco office.

Ken Quan

“Life insurance is not just a number, but an extension of humanity,” says New York Life Insurance Company Agent Ken Quan, San Francisco office, who sees his 34-year tenure as an opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of his clients. “As agents, our job is so important,” he says. “We have the opportunity to help mold a client’s future.”

Opportunity is something in which Quan is well versed, having emigrated from his native Hong Kong alone at just 14 years old. “I came to San Francisco, joining my father and sister, to seek better opportunities. It was pretty challenging for me. I spoke very little English at the time,” recalls Quan. “I remember when I flew over, it was a long flight and I was asleep for much of the time. We made a stop in Seattle, and I got off the plane, thinking I was in San Francisco,” he laughs. “I couldn’t understand the pilot’s announcements. I wouldn’t have known otherwise had a fellow passenger not informed me of where I was—in Chinese!”

But despite the language barrier, Quan was determined to find his way in a new country—learning the language and educating himself. “I was raised in a positive environment. My mother always told me to be honest and good things would come to me,” he says. “Once I came here and enrolled in school, I got really lucky. The principal recognized that I was bright and sent me to an after-school tutor. There, I was able to work on my English, and became fluent in both languages. So much so that people would make bets on whether I was from China or the U.S.,” Quan says chuckling.

In the early days of his career, Quan worked at a stock brokerage firm: but, he witnessed too many people, in his opinion, engaging in risky behavior with their money. “I always wanted to be a broker or a banker, but I saw so many people lose their money in the stock market. Once people lose money, they cannot catch up easily. I wanted to help my clients accumulate cash value.” So, Quan began working for New York Life, and found the insurance business far more satisfying than he could have imagined. “I firmly believe that as long as a baby is born, there’s a need for life insurance,” he says. “My business allows me to be patient with my clients’ money, let the cash value accumulate, and see the assets transfer to future generations. With permanent life insurance, premiums have to be paid, but the death benefit is not vulnerable to being lost just because securities prices are volatile. That’s a way in which most types of permanent life policies differ from investments.”

For Quan, success is defined not only in financial terms and numbers, but as a human being. “My clients show me the way I should live by example. Because of them, I have learned to be a better person, a better friend, and a better husband and father,” he says. Occasionally I meet a person who chooses not to work with me, and, that’s fine. What’s important is that I have made a new friend and had an opportunity to expand my universe.”

After more than 30 years, Quan has created a large extended family, made up of clients as well as their future generations. “I have watched their children grow up and become successful and independent—it’s very gratifying.”

Nineteen years ago, one particular client made a lasting impression on Quan. “This man would come to my office, but all he wanted to talk about was stocks. He had a fairly small life insurance policy,” he recalls. “After three years of regular visits by him, he just stopped showing up. Finally, his wife called. Sadly, he had died of liver cancer, but upon his deathbed, he advised his wife, ’In the future, go see Ken. He’s honest and knowledgeable, and you can count on him with all your financial matters.’ So she did. As agents, we don’t always get a ’thank you,’ but this statement really moved me. It was then I realized how much we can affect our clients in a positive way.”