By Cyril Tuohy
A New Jersey-based general agency has developed a team of Indian financial advisors geared to serving the South Asian market in the greater New York City suburbs. Their distribution model could serve as a model to reach the nation’s growing ethnic markets.
The agency, Emerald Financial Group based in Bridgewater, N.J., is affiliated with MassMutual.
The addition of the South Asian team marks the first time MassMutual has had a South Asian-only sales unit in the heart of an Indian community, MassMutual said.
The new associates, Deepak Malhotra, Al Devji, Shamsha Devji, Hal Gandhi, Varsha Patel, Anil Sharma, Sanjeev Shah and Alpesh Shah, bring nearly 75 years of combined industry experience to the service of clients.
The geographic definition of South Asians includes those from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
Of the more than 1.5 billion people living in these countries in 2012, India has the largest population by far with more than 1.2 billion people. Pakistan is home to 180 million people, Bangladesh home to 155 million and Myanmar home to 53 million people.
North central New Jersey is home to one of the largest South Asian communities in the U.S., and Emerald Financial general agent Michael Vesuvio said the new team represents a group of advisors “who come from — and are a vital part of — the community they serve.”
Finding and training financial advisors from the same ethnic and cultural backgrounds as the markets advisors want to penetrate has traditionally been a challenge for insurance distribution.
But with the nation’s rapidly changing and growing ethnic markets, financial advisors are keenly aware of the importance of coming from backgrounds and living in communities that reflect the markets these advisors want to serve, industry experts said.
“We share the same values and concerns of our community,” Malhotra said.
Emerald, which has a roster of 11,000 clients, has organized its advisors along categories anchored in professional expertise, gender and sexual orientation.
The agency boasts an attorney team, an LGBT team, a qualified plans team, a “special care” team for clients with disabilities and a women’s leadership team.
Emerald sells protection products ranging from life, disability and long-term care coverage, as well as retirement products ranging from annuities to individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to mutual funds to trust services.
The agency also sells employee benefits, financial management and succession planning services for businesses. In many North Jersey communities, South Asians own and operate small businesses such as retail shops and gas stations.
Nimesh Trivedi, director of multicultural marketing for MassMutual, specializing in the South Asian market, said MassMutual provided a good fit to meet the financial needs of South Asians, many of whom value conservative principles grounded in protection products.
“The company’s longevity, financial strength and flexible line of superior financial products can help South Asian families secure their future and protect the ones they love,” Trivedi said in a statement.
South Asians represent the highest earning segment of any multicultural group in the U.S., according to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey.
Indians are willing to sacrifice a big portion of household income to save for a college education, even if that means saving for children as opposed to saving for themselves, according to MassMutual’s 2013 State of the American Family study.
MassMutual’s research found that 33 percent of Indians have six months or more of monthly living expenses set aside as savings. The priorities for those savings are for their children’s college education and keeping the family financially protected, the survey found.
Protection products play a paramount role in the households of Indians living in the U.S., and the study also found that 70 percent of Indian respondents say they want to be actively involved in decisions regarding finances.
“We understand the importance of protecting our families and providing a college education for our children to this community and can help our neighbors prioritize these goals in their future plans,” Malhotra said.
Indians are more likely to own mutual funds, individual securities and college savings plans than any other ethnic group, the survey found. Despite a solid financial foundation, only one-third are satisfied with their financial situation and one-third are worried about being able to meet their long-term goals, the survey also revealed.
The findings indicate there’s plenty of opportunity for advisors — South Asian advisors in particular.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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