By Cyril Tuohy
With the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors’ annual meeting starting Saturday in San Diego it’s worth remembering some of the arduous journeys of young advisors.
Financial advising requires a special form of labor — the mental labor required to make the most efficient use of other people’s personal capital. So it’s appropriate to highlight NAIFA advisors worthy of distinction.
Deanna Brown, an advisor with Ullmann Financial Group in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was only 15 when an accident left her well-to-do father unable to work.
Lacking disability coverage, Brown’s family had no income and lived on welfare and food stamps before moving to Jacksonville, Fla., from the Northeast.
Her father’s illness and the family’s subsequent financial setback taught Brown the importance of having a financial plan and that no one is immune to hardship.
Brown, 37, a member of NAIFA-Jacksonville, owns her own business with $269 million in assets under management.
She and three other advisors under the age of 40 appear in the cover story in the September/October issue of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine.
For 36-year-old Daniel J. O’Connell, an advisor with Benefit Resource Group in Dallas and a member of NAIFA-Dallas, the challenge of being an advisor did not come so much in the form of financial hardship as it did from the stagnant economy.
He joined the industry shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, when people hunkered down in the wake of the terrorist attacks and when the economy had already slowed in the wake of the bursting technology bubble of March 2000.
Signing up new clients, either through referrals or cold calls, wasn’t easy. But O’Connell prevailed and took advantage of the opportunity. In September 2001 he was named financial advisor of the month by Benefit Resources Group.
Thirteen years later, O’Connell is a partner at the seven-member agency that offers life, health, group benefits, financial planning and property-casualty for individuals and businesses.
His efforts have earned him a place at the Million Dollar Round Table eight years in a row, NAIFA said.
For 29-year-old Taylor M. Sledge Jr., chairman of Sledge & Company in Madison, Miss., the meaning of working as a financial advisor sunk in the moment he delivered his first life insurance death benefit to a widow.
She wept as she accepted the death benefit check.
“That’s when I realized that this business is not only a way to make a living, but an opportunity to really help people and do something positive for them as well,” Sledge told Advisor Today.
Sledge, president-elect of NAIFA-Jackson, has been a member of New York Life’s Chairman’s Council each year since 2012. His firm focuses on estate planning, financial services and financial transitions.
For Jason Peplinski, vice president of FP Wealth Management Inc. in Lincoln, Neb., and a member of NAIFA-Cornhuskers, the economy of the early 2000s and the Do-Not-Call movement presented him with some difficult moments in his budding career.
During the financial crisis of 2008, Peplinski found opportunity less in signing up new clients than in reassuring existing clients to stick with their financial plans. Communicating with clients about their holdings and why it was important to buy, sell or sit tight was paramount to helping get them through the downturn.
Peplinski, who founded his company in 2002 as JP Financial Services, and grew it to $150 million in assets under management, recently merged to Form FP Wealth Management.
Showcasing the success of young advisors has often been an important agenda item at NAIFA’s annual convention, but renewing industry blood seems particularly important at a time when 43 percent of all advisors are at or approaching retirement.
In a report issued in January, the consulting firm Cerulli Associates found that the average age of all financial advisors is 50.9 years, and that 43 percent of all financial advisors are above the age of 55.
“The independent channels are the most at risk because they have the oldest advisors on average,” said Kenton Shirk, associate director at Cerulli.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there were 443,400 insurance sale agents in the United States in 2012. The number of insurance agent jobs is expected to grow by 10 percent to 19 percent over the 10-year period ending in 2022, the BLS said.
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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