By Cyril Tuohy
Gabe Smith, a 38-year-old financial advisor with Ohio National Financial Services, has some advice for all the young advisors following in his footsteps: step up, get involved in any way you can, and don’t look back.
Smith, recently named the 2013 Young Advisor Team (YAT) Leader of the Year by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), said he would celebrate the honor at NAIFA’s annual convention Sept. 28-Oct. 1, in San Antonio, Texas.
For now, though, there are meetings to attend, clients to serve, new people to meet, and young, up-and-coming advisors to inspire.
It was the poet Robert Frost who, deciding to take the road less traveled, found that it had made all the difference. So it was with Smith, who got involved just because someone asked. That, too, has made all the difference.
“I didn’t understand what being involved in the industry was until someone asked me to join the board of my local association,” Smith said, recalling the moment when, just out of college, he joined the ranks of financial advisors and became a member of NIAFA.
“It was as simple as asking me to be engaged,” Smith said, in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet. “Sometimes it takes people to see in people what they don’t see in themselves.”
After joining his local NAIFA chapter, Smith was elected a member of NAIFA’s state association and eventually national chairman of the Young Advisors Team, NAIFA said.
“I cannot think of a better choice for YAT Leader of the Year than Gabe Smith,” NAIFA president Robert O. Smith, said in a statement. “Gabe’s dedication and service to our association and our industry should serve as inspiration to all young advisors as well as those of us who have been in the business much longer.”
YAT was established as a NAIFA subcommittee in 2001 and provides networking and education programs for advisors who are age 40 or under, or who have been in the business for less than five years.
NAIFA launched the Leader of the Year award in 2010 in recognition of the service young members have contributed at local, state and national committees.
Brock T. Jolly, a financial adviser with Capitol Financial Partners in McLean, Va., praised Smith for his passion, energy, commitment and involvement with NAIFA. “I’ve never met a guy who puts more heart behind the things that he does,” he said.
Smith’s most important piece of advice for young advisors joining the business is to “bond with people in your area,” and the more advisors become part of their communities, the more their communities will reciprocate.
Better yet, advisors should talk to and regularly meet their local business leaders – retail shop owners, restaurant proprietors, employment agency managers, manufacturing company executives, and leaders of civic and nonprofit organizations.
“There’s nothing that can replace being in front of people, whether it’s prospective, whether it’s centers of influence, whether it’s your peers trying to learn,” Smith said. “The more active an advisor becomes in the community, the more impact he or she is bound to have.”
All it takes for people to get involved is for leaders to ask them, Smith said. Like an advisor asking for a prospect’s business, leaders simply have to ask young advisers to step up and contribute. “It’s as simple as that.”
“I don’t have any control over when someone says yes or no, but I do have ability to control if I ask,” Smith said. The same holds true with asking others to get involved – they can always say no, just like clients.
“I think that people try to make it too complicated to get people involved,” Smith said. “It can be as simple to ask people to be part of a group: charitable work, advocacy, meeting with a political figure.” That’s how it happened for him, so why not for others?
Smith began his career at Northwestern Mutual after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University. He remained with Northwestern for 12 years before jumping to MassMutual Financial Group. He was there two years, before going off on his own as a representative of Ohio National Financial Services.
Next month he begins his 16th year in the industry and Smith, who has developed an expertise in selling life, disability and long-term care insurance, said he has no intention of leaving. Americans’ demand for asset protection, retirement planning financial help is just too great, he said.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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