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Changing the Face of Insurance with Vicki Diep


On today's episode, Regional Marketing Director Vicki Diep of Team Resilience in California sat down for a great conversation about bringing life insurance to the Asian community and changing the face of insurance in the process. Vicki is dedicated to helping families for the sake of helping them and brings an inspiring energy to our talk about everything from the stigma around life insurance to the difficulty of selling financial products as opposed to tangible goods like houses and cars. Hear how she overcomes these obstacles and more in this enlightening episode of Lead. Empower. Grow.


Jeff Lehman  0:01  

This is the Lead. Empower. Grow. Podcast, featuring interviews with entrepreneurs who lead productive teams and empower their communities, all while growing businesses of their own in the process.

Today, I interviewed Regional Marketing Director Vicki Diep of Team Resilience in California. I had a great conversation with Vicki — I could tell she was really dedicated to helping families for the sake of helping them, which I found very inspiring in the moment.

We talked a bit about the stigma around insurance agents in the Asian community and how she overcomes that — particularly with her family — as well as the importance of financial literacy education, which is a common subject here on the podcast. And she made a great point about the difficulty of selling life insurance because it's a more abstract product, as opposed to more tangible goods like houses and cars that you can see with your own eyes, touch with your own hands. Which she and her team overcome by emphasizing the importance of the future, often using retirement as an example.

But you'll hear that for yourself. It's a great conversation, and I hope you enjoy. Let's dive right in.

Thank you for being on the podcast. Vicki. It's so good to have you on.

Vicki Diep  1:06  

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Jeff.

Jeff Lehman  1:08  

I'll start out by asking about your origin story. How did you start your business?

Vicki Diep  1:13  

You know what? I was actually fortunate enough that, after I graduated from college, I got hired by this really awesome company, and I worked at this corporate job for a little bit over ten years. I was just very blessed. I gained a lot of experience in product development, I had the opportunity to collaborate with regulatory affairs, treasury, and whatnot.

So, I held several positions in corporate for a little bit over ten years. And afterward, when I started my family, I just felt like something had to change. I needed to have work-life balance, it was kind of difficult for me to focus on my career. And then I had my family, so I decided to make a really hard decision to stop working and be a stay-at-home mom for my family.

Jeff Lehman  2:01  

What was your college major, if you don't mind me asking?

Vicki Diep  2:03  

Right, I majored in business administration, a minor in economics. And at that time, I was debating whether I should go back to school to get my masters.

I wanted to do something more, you know? As much as I love my family and my kids and focusing on them, I also wanted to still continue developing. I was at a crossroads where I was debating, "Should I go back to school? What should I do? Should I major in something else?" I wasn't sure.

Also, at the same time, my husband and I were looking for a life insurance plan. We spoke with several agents, and they were basically selling us the same typical life insurance — death benefits, beneficiary gets the money — and nothing else. And we weren't really satisfied with a lot of the plans that were presented to us. We were just frustrated at that time. 

But then, I just so happened have met a friend, and she told us about the IUL. We thought, "Wow, I'd never heard of this."

At first, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn't sure. I thought, "She's going to tell us the same thing." But, luckily, we gave her that opportunity, and that was definitely life-changing because once she explained what an IUL was, my husband and I were blown away. We thought, "Oh, wow, this is incredible. It literally met everything we were looking for: like if we died too soon, if we got sick... To us, it's like the perfect plan to have.

Nobody knew about that plan — at least, the people that we spoke with — until my friend came along. My husband and I really fell in love with it and were like, "You know what? This makes sense."

My husband actually was the one who turned to me and said, "You know, babe, you can totally do this." Not a lot of people in our communities know about this, and he was like, "You can help our families, our friends, the communities..."

I thought, "Wow. Yeah, that's right." And that's how we got started. I recruited myself, basically. [Laughs].

Jeff Lehman  4:01  

It speaks to the power of the product, for sure.

Vicki Diep  4:04  

Right! Right, for sure.

Jeff Lehman  4:05  

It's kind of the ideal, or what I would want to happen as a salesman, where the power of the product, the power of the selling does the recruitment for you.

Vicki Diep  4:13  

We were looking for something more. We didn't know the IUL existed at all. It really blew our mind when my friend talked to us about it.

At first, I thought it was a scam. It was just too good to be true. Then, when she showed me the brochure, and I thought, "Oh, yeah, this is something that our community — everyone — should know about."

People are very reluctant. Because, at some point in their life, they either got misinformed or it was because they didn't know what they bought so they were disappointed at the end result. For example: my father. When I told him that I'm in this industry, and I'd be able to help him, he wasn't happy. Because being a life insurance agent in the Asian community isn't the brightest job to have, supposedly now — but I think it's so valuable. But I think it has a lot to do with just educating him about the value of the IUL or life insurance with lots of benefits.

So, in the past, what he did was... an agent sold him a plan, which is a term plan, but he didn't know was a term plan. So, after 25 years, it was terminated, and he was very upset. He basically said it was a scam, like he got ripped off and he didn't get anything out of it.

So, when I looked at his policy, I told him, "Dad, did you know that you got term?"

He was like, "I don't know what term is. All I know is that I trusted the agent. I told the agent that I wanted to pay the cheapest amount, and I wanted a policy."

I said, "Okay, and the agent didn't explain to you what this plan was about?"

And he says, "No... all I knew is that I was paying the cheapest amount."

"Well, first of all, it was wrong for the agent to sell you a policy when you were unaware of the type of policy. Second is: probably the reason that agent sold you that policy is because you asked to pay the cheapest amount, right?" And he just didn't know that was a term policy.

So I explained it to him, and he was like, "Well, I didn't know. I didn't want to pay more than that."

I said, "Maybe that's why — but it's definitely not a scam at all, you know. It's just the fact that you got the wrong product."

Jeff Lehman  4:17  

Yeah, all of this is kind of circling around that selling is about the full picture. It's a direct connection with a client, and that's why we forefront the caring for people, instead of just running the numbers — like those term agents — and then not explaining what it really is. That's why we run a financial needs analysis, that's why you'll get a full picture of their financial story.

And then it's not just about the budgeting and what they can afford — although that's very important. It's, "Here's why you would want this one, and here's why you would want this one," or "Here's what this one means. Now, be sure to be careful, because this is what this means, but you'll get this over here."

It's not just a plug-and-chug job, it's about being honest with the person in front of you.

Vicki Diep  7:04  

Right, right. I think there's just more of an old school of doing things, like an old school of selling life insurance, but now there's so much more. The product itself has definitely evolved, and modern-day, comprehensive life insurance can really meet the majority of our concerns.

I also think, because the older generations have such a stigma and misunderstanding of life insurance, it kind of spread and carry on to the kids as well, too.

Jeff Lehman  7:33  


Vicki Diep  7:33  


Jeff Lehman  7:34  


Vicki Diep  7:34  

And because of that, they now think the same.

Also, I feel like in the Asian community, the concept of life insurance is a taboo. You're talking about death, and you're still alive. It's kind of like wishing upon someone bad luck. And it's like, "No, it's not!"

Jeff Lehman  7:49  


Vicki Diep  7:50  

It's inevitable. It's going to happen eventually, but it's good for you to plan ahead of time.

Jeff Lehman  7:57  

Yeah. It's a great point — because I often forget that that's the initial hump you do have to get over. Just to sell the product, it takes an acceptance of death, which is hard to do, and maybe not everyone has. And you don't have to go through a full spiritual or psychological awakening in the appointment, but we can talk about it and not be scared of it for just a little bit, and it's okay, and then this will help everyone afterward.

I certainly didn't know about final expenses when I was younger, or funeral expenses. Maybe some people just don't even know the cost of a funeral or something, yeah. Especially younger ones.

Vicki Diep  8:26  

Yes, yes. Because that's just a mentality of "I'm still young."

Jeff Lehman  8:30  


Vicki Diep  8:31  

"I'll talk about it when that time comes," but that's too late. It's like, "Oh, oops, I didn't know." I get that a lot. I get that so much. "Oops, I didn't know."

Jeff Lehman  8:40  

Yeah, but it is the one guaranteed thing in life. It's interesting that the one guaranteed thing in life, we don't necessarily plan for... it's because it's scary!

Vicki Diep  8:49  

It's scary, it's definitely a tough conversation. You know, a lot of family don't even talk about their finances, let alone talk about life insurance and debt, like, wow.

But it's so much more than that. I have this mission — like, I love the model of FFS saying "Changing the face of insurance." That, to me, is profound, and it is so true, and I really live by that mission. Because I feel like we need that.

I want to educate people. Don't be fearful just because we say the words "life insurance." Sometimes I kind of have to go around it and not a life insurance. It's a retirement planning — and it is a retirement plan, but it's more than that. You get sick, and, you know, you can also tap into it. It's incredible. But people just can't see beyond that when they see the word "life."

Jeff Lehman  9:35  

Right. Right. It can be a word that shuts people down because of stigma.

Yeah, the "Changing the face of insurance" is important and having a diverse workforce.

Vicki Diep  9:44  

So important.

Jeff Lehman  9:45  

It's representation, and it's all things wrapped into one. Plus, everyone should have the opportunity — 

Vicki Diep  9:49  

Right, right.

Jeff Lehman  9:50  

To build their own business.

Vicki Diep  9:51  

Yeah, there's definitely a lot of walls that we have to break through in order for people to trust us. And it all depends on their past experience. And it's about exposure, as well. I'm sure, if we were on TV, right? They would be like, "Okay!" You know? Now it's legit, because it's on TV.

Jeff Lehman  10:07  

Right, but it is the importance of marketing, that — it imbues authority, where you see things.

Vicki Diep  10:11  

Yes! Yes. And giving that credibilitya just because you're on TV, right? It's like, "I've seen that commercial, okay."

Jeff Lehman  10:16  

It's a real thing.a It's also the importance of a website. If they don't have a website, it's like, "Is this real?" But if it's a good-looking, nice website, then it's like, "Well, yeah, that's a business."

Vicki Diep  10:25  


Jeff Lehman  10:26  

Have you had a way to overcome the wall? Have you had any success stories? Does it just take time? Do they come back to you eventually? Or is it that the wall is there, and you have to move on?

Vicki Diep  10:36  

Just a conversation, just have an open conversation. Ask if they have any concerns, and just kind of steer away from talking about life insurance itself, and then talking about taxes, the ramifications of them, if you were to defer them, or, "Are you paying now?"

Whatever it may be — just not talking about life insurance in general. Financial literacy, educating them or inform them, sharing with them, whatever it is. Talk about life in general, what struggles or difficulties that they're facing right now. I go about it like that, particularly about taxes.

Jeff Lehman  11:09  

Something that affects everyone.

Vicki Diep  11:10  

We refocus, yeah, yeah. "We love our 401(k)."

"Oh, great, great. Why do you like your 401(k)?"

"Oh, because we don't have to pay taxes now."

And I say, "Oh, great, but do you know you have to pay taxes later?"

"Oh, we didn't know that."

"It's actually tax deferred. You're not paying taxes today, but you're going to pay taxes later on."

Jeff Lehman  11:26  


Vicki Diep  11:26  

"When you don't know what the taxes will be."

Jeff Lehman  11:28  

Can't tell the future.

Vicki Diep  11:29  

And then, sometimes we'll kind of get into the history of the 401(k). I try not to, because I'm very detailed. I like to give a lot information that can kind of drown the customers a bit. [Laughs].

Jeff Lehman  11:38  

Oh, yeah, you and I both. I love history,

Vicki Diep  11:41  

I kind of back up. I've learned so much. Everyone is different. You don't know.

Some clients that you talk to? They want abundance of information.

Jeff Lehman  11:49  


Vicki Diep  11:49  

They want you to pour everything on them. But there are many that say, "Just give me the high level. Just tell me what you can help me with." So it all depends.

So, I learn to gauge and look at the body language. I learn to see their hand gestures. The questions that they asked me, if they're not asking me any, are they uncomfortable? You become kind of like a psychologist in a way, you know? [Laughs].

Jeff Lehman  12:12  


Vicki Diep  12:12  

It's like going through therapy session.

Jeff Lehman  12:14  

Yeah, it's true. Everyone has to kind of learn their different way, just by being in the field, because it's all about establishing trust with the person in front of you, and making sure that they know that you are trying to help them in their financial situation.

And the educational part is so great. Because just seeing what they know about their own financial vehicles — whatever they're using now — then you can say, "As long as you know that, and you know exactly what an IUL does, and if you still pick the 401(k), I did the best I could do." We move on to something else.

It is just about filling them up with as much knowledge as you can — well, and that they can take, you know, because I imagine the trouble there, or the challenge, would be making sure they know everything they need to know, but without piling on too much information. The essential things that they need to know.

Vicki Diep  12:59  

Yeah, yeah, the core essential thing that they should know.

Jeff Lehman  13:02  

Yeah, yeah.

Vicki Diep  13:03  

I spoken with several doctors and engineers, and they get really technical. Which is great! Because that's my forte. I love that. I like to get into numbers and analysis.

But the products that we have are just so good that sometimes they'll say, "It's just too good to be true." It's like, "No, it's not. It's true. You just didn't know it existed."

Jeff Lehman  13:23  

Yeah, they can have everything, and it's like, "And that's why I'm here. I just want to let you know what it is."

Vicki Diep  13:27  

Right. So, it's just kind of like what you mentioned: it's about trust, too. But it also depends on the people that you talk to and how jaded they are.

And, I don't know, it could also be luck as well.

Jeff Lehman  13:32  

Mm-hmm. Lot of things are.

Vicki Diep  13:34  

Some people it's just really easy. You approach a client who says, "I want life insurance. This is what I want. This is what I have. This is my budget. Hey, you know what? I want it. Give me that plan," and that's like one in a million.

But a majority of them are very reluctant, or are like "Okay, I just want to make sure you're legit. I just want to make sure you really care for me." So, I've spent a lot of time on building relationships and letting them know I'm here for them, and I'm more than just an agent or planner. I really care for their best interests, and I want to be alongside with them to plan for their future and if they have any questions. So, I try to provide really good customer service. I send them notifications, "Happy holidays," you know? Like we're friends. I'm not a stranger.

Jeff Lehman  13:55  

Yeah, that's what I love most about our vision, and that's how you get referrals, but it's also more than just that it is just good practice. It's just good human behavior.

Vicki Diep  14:36  

Exactly, and we need more of that.

Jeff Lehman  14:38  

The luck brought to mind that that's why we always want to be calling and the energy of actual appointment setting and in reaching out and touching and leads and prospects. That's why so much recruiting talk is about numbers. That brings you the opportunity for that luck, you know? If it's all timing, then you can't really solve for that in an equation — they are just tiny miracles — but, you can by constantly being active.

As many opportunities as you have for that luck to strike, the more luck will strike. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.

Vicki Diep  15:08  

Yeah, yeah. For some people, it might just take ten people to get someone really great, or 100, or 200, or never — I don't know. It's really interesting.

Growing up, I didn't really think too much about luck. It was more about working really hard, the effort. If you want to accomplish or achieve anything, you just have to put in the work. That was just my model. Growing up, things were not being handed to me, so I've always been a hard worker. I always speak my mind. But most importantly, I have the compassion to help others, because I truly believe that we need this product.

It's just education itself. As kids, we weren't taught financial literacy. Why not have financial literacy class?

Jeff Lehman  15:53  

I know, yeah.

Vicki Diep  15:54  

Some sort of exposure. Talk about credit. Talk about how to manage your credit card. Talk about budgeting. Just, having good money management skills. It just felt like we weren't taught that. My family — my parents — didn't teach me that. I had to learn everything on my own.

Jeff Lehman  16:11  

Yeah. It's almost maddening that we don't have that yet in schools, because we've had that conversation for a long time, and it still isn't there.

But it is true — you hear, "When are we ever going to use this?" You hear that from a student about chemistry, and yet financial literacy? You could answer that with, "Every single day."

Vicki Diep  16:23  

Definitely. I mean, at least expose us at younger years, like in elementary school, like sixth grade, and then again, another one middle school, and then the last two years of high school. That would be so life-changing, right?

Jeff Lehman  16:37  

It'd be nice.

Vicki Diep  16:38  

Because kids, when they hit 18... Oh, man. They're ready. They're driving — credit cards! They get offered credit cards.

Jeff Lehman  16:44  

"This is what money is?"

Vicki Diep  16:45  

Right? APR, all that stuff at 20-something percent. There's a reason for that. If they have some sort of financial literacy knowledge background, they're like, "Okay, I know, I understand."

Jeff Lehman  16:45  

Be very careful.

Vicki Diep  16:52  

Use it in the right way, because you can build your credit and stuff. But a lot of kids, they don't know. So I just felt like, the minute they hit 18–19, that's it — their credit score is terrible because they don't understand. And then, next thing, you know, it's like, "Oh, I don't have money. Okay, now, I don't even want to talk about life insurance."

Come on — you know, retirement? I mean, more than 40% of Americans do not have a penny for retirement. That's terrible. Think about it. That is scary. And a lot of times, when I talk to clients, I ask them: "When do you want to retire? Do you ever want to retire?"

"Oh, yeah, absolutely." And the typical age is usually 65.

"Great, great. Do you have any plans to make that dream come true?"

"No, I don't, I don't have anything." That client is like age 50.

Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to live that dream and you don't have a plan in place. A lot of times, I try to have real talk with my clients. Some might take it well, and some may not, because they cannot even have that conversation with their spouse or themselves. They don't want to talk about finances. But that's something that's so important, that we all should, at a very young age.

Jeff Lehman  18:09  

Yeah, it can only get better if you address it.

Vicki Diep  18:12  

Right? It shouldn't be something so terrifying.

Jeff Lehman  18:14  

I know, the unknown disease is the one that kills you.

Vicki Diep  18:18  

That's like the most important thing

Jeff Lehman  18:19  

I know. Yeah.

Vicki Diep  18:20  

you could be making a whole lot of money, but if you don't know how to manage your finances, you're going to be broke all the time.

Jeff Lehman  18:26  

Yeah, and it's like we have to deploy a master's degree of financial literacy into everybody.

Vicki Diep  18:31  

But as long as they know the difference between wants and needs.

Jeff Lehman  18:35  


Vicki Diep  18:35  

You can't get what you want unless you really discipline yourself, yeah.

Jeff Lehman  18:39  

But that's why all our agents do what they do, in one way or another. It's to provide some education.

Vicki Diep  18:44  


Jeff Lehman  18:45  

And help people.

Vicki Diep  18:45  

Right, right. So important — and you work hard, you get rewarded, as well. And you get to determine how much you're worth. The more you help, the more you get rewarded versus working for someone that tells you how much you are worth. It really allows us the opportunity to make as much as we want.

Jeff Lehman  19:07  

Right — to reach for something and achieve it. Yeah.

Vicki Diep  19:09  

Right, just by helping people, we get rewarded. It's an incredible company to work with. Obviously, you know, I am still on my mission changing the face of insurance as much as I can. And whoever I come across, I'd love to share. I'm just so passionate about what I do. It's just like second nature.

Jeff Lehman  19:29  

Yeah. Even if there are challenges, as long as we keep moving forward.

Vicki Diep  19:32  

Right. It's not the easiest career to have.

Jeff Lehman  19:35  

Right? Takes a lot of energy

Vicki Diep  19:36  

You get more rejections than yeses. We just have to accept it. It's such a sensitive topic that many people don't even want to talk about.

Jeff Lehman  19:45  

And that ends up as a rejection for us.

Vicki Diep  19:49  


Jeff Lehman  19:49  

And every brain takes rejection harder than it does positive things, unfortunately. That's just like our psychology.

Vicki Diep  19:55  

Right? Right. I mean, buying a house — let's just say a half-a-million–dollar home, go in with a down payment of $150,000, just like that. They don't even question the real estate agent like, "Are you legit?" Because it's something that's tangible. They know it exists and it's there. But what we're selling is a policy, it's not something tangible.

Jeff Lehman  20:15  

I know.

Vicki Diep  20:15  

They're not going to see it until that time comes, and it could be decades down the line. So to them, they think, "Well, why would I want to buy a policy and put so much into it for retirement planning, if I'm not going to see it until 30 years down the line?" And that's when we have to get in and explain — just educate them, because they don't know. They're like, "I'd rather buy a house."

Jeff Lehman  20:40  

Yeah, I know. [Laughs].

Vicki Diep  20:41  

They'd rather buy a car.

Jeff Lehman  20:43  

Houses and cars and those goods don't have any of the barriers, and I think we have almost three barriers that we've isolated here. One is the taboo and stigmatized nature of death and finances. The other is: we have to educate because they may not even know what's out there as far as IULs go.

Vicki Diep  20:59  

No, they don't — ten out of ten, they don't know what's out there.

Jeff Lehman  21:01  

And then the third is what you just pointed out, which is that it's not tangible. It is a policy. They are abstract concepts. It is like, "Okay, so I own this, but I can never touch it." It is on paper. Paper is the closest we get to being like, "This is mine."

Vicki Diep  21:13  

Right, right. Yes

Jeff Lehman  21:13  

But it is so important. It's hard. There are a lot of challenges.

Vicki Diep  21:16  

There are a lot of challenges, but I love it so much because I feel like I've grown so much as an individual and I have so much more knowledge, history, background... just everything. Even rebuttals: if you have objections, I have something to say. I will share with you. I just love it.

I just love the nature of the job. I mean, at first it was really scary. It was tiring. It was frustrating. But now I'm just so energized. Now, I have this ammunition of knowledge that I will share with you if you allow me that opportunity. So now, with me, the rejection? I'm okay with it. You know at the beginning was definitely very hard. I don't know anybody that would be okay with rejections, right? But now I'm like, "Okay, I got it. Maybe it's not the right timing. Maybe you're not in the right place at the moment, but I'm pretty sure a year from now we will talk again." So now I'm better equipped emotionally.

Jeff Lehman  22:07  

Yeah, that's great. That's great to hear. It's like just true of anything. It just takes some practice. But it can be hard to practice something that is... At its weakest, it just hurts your brain, kind of.

Vicki Diep  22:16  


Jeff Lehman  22:18  

Because mood is so sensitive, our moods, but once you get resilient, or if you have practice, you tell yourself stories — which are probably true — like, "It'll be a different time." "That's okay." "It's not the worst." "It's not personal." Yeah. [Laughs].

Vicki Diep  22:29  

For sure, for sure. And it really strengthens you. And you learn more about yourself. Throughout this process, I definitely learned a lot about myself. I never knew. I'm like, "Wow, you know, I can do this."

Jeff Lehman  22:42  

Yeah, that's good. That's a good feeling.

Vicki Diep  22:44  

I can definitely do this. It's all about your mindset. And just believing in yourself and not giving up and just motivating yourself. I'm just fortunate to have the team around me. We motivate one another, and we all go through the same struggle. And it's good that we can all relate to one another. But it's also important that you know your capability; you know and you motivate yourself. You just change that mindset and say, "You know what, it's okay. Every day is another day, and it's going to be better than the day before. And if it's not today, there's tomorrow. If it's not tomorrow, it could be five years from now. It's okay. But most importantly, I have the heart and the compassion to really help people."

Change the face of insurance, that's always been my goal, and just helping as many people as possible. Having that, and being reminded of that, gets me up like every single day, just knowing that, "Hey, today might be the day."

Jeff Lehman  23:36  

Yeah, I think that's such a healthy centering and important inner drive.

Vicki Diep  23:40  

Right. There's a purpose.

Jeff Lehman  23:42  

Yeah, yeah. Because there will always be more people to help.

Vicki Diep  23:44  

Every single day, there's a family out there that truly needs me.

Jeff Lehman  23:48  


Vicki Diep  23:48  

And they're just waiting for me to talk to them.

Jeff Lehman  23:51  

Wow. Wow. Have truer words ever been spoken? Thank you so much, Vicki, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Vicki Diep  23:57  

Thank you for having me, Jeff. Maybe we'll talk again in the future.

Jeff Lehman  24:01  

I hope so. And I hope the listeners enjoyed our talk. Thank you, Vicki.

To hear more from entrepreneurs who built their businesses around financial services just like Vicki, you can listen through our past episodes on our feed at or wherever you can find podcasts. And, of course, remember to rate, review and subscribe wherever you're listening.

Until next time, thank you.

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