30 Under 30, Part 1: Young Life, Health and Annuity Stars

Millennials size up the millennial market

Here's a three-part list to make you think: the ThinkAdvisor Life Health 30 Under 30 award winners for 2017.

This is a look at young life, health and benefits professionals who have already started to make a mark.

We collected nominations in January and have been reviewing and processing the entries ever since.

(Related: 30 Under 30, Part 2: Young Life, Health and Annuity Stars)

One startling fact about these young financial services professionals: They are all millennials, but, depending on what definition of the term "millennial" we use, this could be one of the last such lists we compile in which all of the people who make the final cut are millennials. Some say that the millennial generation ran from 1977 to 1995. Some say the youngest millennials were born in 2000. Either way: Some of the youngest people working in U.S. insurance company and insurance agency offices today are members of the post-millennial generation. The bright-eyed kid in your own office who goes out to get the bagels may really be a member of the iGeneration.

(Related: 30 Under 30: Meet the Millennials Who Are Transforming the Insurance Industry)

The millennials in this year's class of 30 Under 30 professionals are a formidable bunch:

  • They have seen rapid change in their personal lives. In the course of a few years, they went from rewinding videotapes to watch their favorite cartoons to watching their shows online.

  • They are tough. They have done well in spite of starting their careers in a time when health insurance faces endless turmoil in Congress, the U.S. Department of Labor has applied new rules to annuity sellers, and low interest rates are making it difficult for insurers to write interest-sensitive products. Between the time we started this year's nomination process and today, the wake from those forces led to changes in our own application processing procedures and winner publication strategy.

  • They, and the companies they are affiliated with, work harder than the rest at identifying opportunities. They tweet. They have up-to-date LinkedIn pages. They, or someone who's looking out for them, noticed our 30 Under 30 call for entries. They seem to be better than average at noticing all sorts of things.

  • They think. They had to fill out extensive questionnaires to participate in this year's 30 Under 30 search. Their answers paint an impressive picture of how the financial services market might change over the next few decades.

For a look at the first 10 people on the 2017 list, read on. We'll publish the second batch of 10 honorees July 31, and the third Aug. 7.

Note that we've based these entries on information provided by the nominators, the nominees, the nominees' LinkedIn entries, and the nominees' employers' websites. The ages, job titles and other biographical bits reflect how things were when the nominators submitted their nomination forms.

 

Michael Alvarez

Michael Alvarez

28

Atlanta

Vice President, Client Advisor, Insurance Solutions Group

Voya Investment Management

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Michael Alvarez: I graduated college with the goal of landing a job in strategy and came across what I thought was a pretty unique opportunity to join ING U.S. (now Voya Financial) just as it was beginning its separation from ING Group. I was able to land an analyst role on the four-person Strategy & Corporate Development team, which was responsible for spearheading the separation efforts. In preparation for the initial public offering, our team worked closely with the bankers and lawyers along with internal teams throughout the organization to crystalize how ING U.S. would convey its strategy and competitive advantages to the market. It was an amazing learning experience and a whirlwind introduction to the insurance industry.

I then moved into the investment management division and held several roles before the opportunity came up to focus solely on working with insurance companies on their investment portfolios. From my past experience on the strategy team, I had a high level understanding of the complexities of insurance investing and thought that the intricacies of the industry could provide a knowledgeable client advisor with the opportunity to add significant value. I jumped at the chance to shift my work back into the insurance space.

Describe what you do.

While insurance companies have broadly similar goals for their investment portfolios, each one has a unique set of specific objectives and constraints based on their liabilities, regulatory environment, capital position, and history. My first responsibility is to work with the chief investment officer of these insurance companies and his or her staff to deeply understand their specific set of circumstances. Based on these needs and objectives and using Voya’s deep investment resources, our team provides tailored recommendations and designs, builds, and manages customized investment solutions for insurance companies. In my role, I get to be in the center of the iterative process employed to develop and implement these ideas.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

Winning my first wrestling match in college. I walked on to the varsity wrestling team at the start of my freshman year and ended up in the starting lineup for almost the entire season due to injuries. I went the whole first year without winning a match (0-19). At the end of the year, I sat down with my coach to decide what to do about next season without any proof that I could actually compete at the Division I level (I hadn’t been recruited anywhere, I hadn’t beaten a Division I wrestler, and I hadn’t even won the wrestle-off for my starting spot). One option was stopping then, but we decided on an off-season training program and giving it at least one more year. The dedication paid off, and I won eight matches the next season. While I never became an outstanding Division I wrestler, I am proud of the individual progress I made as well as the team success we had over the next three years, culminating with a winning record in our league for the first time in 23 years while I was captain.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

A huge challenge for the insurance industry, and one that is extremely pertinent to my role, is the low yield environment, which has put enormous pressure on the investment income and profitability of insurance companies. The persistence of low interest rates and muted global growth has forced insurers to reinvest cash flows from maturing investments and new premium into investments yielding less than the overall portfolio yield for years. These falling yields have forced insurers to rethink their investment portfolios as they try to meet the return targets assumed in the pricing of their products. While there are prudent mitigating steps insurance companies can take, there are always trade-offs, and balancing these trade-offs between risk, liquidity, duration, capital efficiency, and yield is an enormous challenge. The industry would be greatly helped by a gradual rising rate environment to ease some of this pressure on profitability.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

In my view, rapid advances in the technology will create a massive opportunity for new winners to emerge in the insurance industry. We have seen changing technology completely reshape numerous industries over past decades, and I don’t think insurance will be any different over the long run. The companies that are able to skillfully adopt, apply, and/or develop new technology will have an enormous advantage over their peers in serving clients efficiently and profitably, and ultimately generating healthy returns on equity for investors.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

While it doesn’t appear to be the popular answer to this question, I don’t know that millennials are that much different from the generations that came before them. I believe people (including millennials) crave integrity, service and reliability. I believe they are looking for an advisor who listens and understands their individual needs — and someone they can trust to put their own needs in front of the advisor’s personal incentives. And I also believe that people of all generations are convenience-minded.

Advisors that can blend reliable, thoughtful and individually tailored advice with a convenient and painless customer experience will continue to be highly valuable to people of all generations, including millennials.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

My advice for any young person, including one in the insurance industry, is to evaluate potential opportunities not by the specific role being offered but by the people that you will work for in that role. I believe the most efficient way to start and grow a career is to work for people that are highly successful in your desired field and to align yourself with those that will allow you to trade your hard work and energy for their wisdom and guidance. Highly successful people have already spent years honing their craft, figuring out best practices, and learning from past mistakes. Working hard for them and adding value to their career is what gives you access to those lessons. Trying to recreate all of this knowledge and wisdom on your own instead can be highly inefficient and costly.

(Related: 10 Top ACA Individual Risk-Adjustment Bills)

Doug Amis

Doug Amis

27

Cary, North Carolina

President

Cardinal Retirement Planning Inc.

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Doug Amis: Like a lot of my fellow graduates I wanted to make a positive impact and do more than just work as a cog in a machine. I worked with one of my economics professors to narrow down just how I could help people most: advising. This field let me play to my analytical strengths without sacrificing the value of face-to-face service. The business provides me a path for professional and personal development and a foundation for a rewarding future.

Describe what you do:

I started out in the field as a stockbroker and it gave me a taste for financial advising, but I found my stride working as an independent advisor and financial planner. Working with my mentor we chartered an RIA to provide our clients individual service under a fiduciary standard. Being able to offer sound advice and provide a professional level of service while implementing investment and insurance recommendations has empowered my clients to rest easier and feel more secure about their retirement. My day is filled with planning for retirement income and protecting against risks like long-term care. Our firm places a great deal of importance on consumer education, helping people make the right decisions when it comes to risk management and investing. I work one-on-one with families and heirs both before and during retirement and throughout any financial crises.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

We have a number of families that have faced demanding healthcare crises and whenever I can go above and beyond it makes me feel especially proud. One client had been living in Florida for decades apart from his family. Following a diagnosis of dementia and a relocation to North Carolina, I helped him and his family recover close to $2,000 in unclaimed property. These lost checks were due to escheat to the state but a few internet searches allowed me to put this money back in the client’s pocket. The opportunity to help them unexpectedly in their time of need really made me value the little things we can do as an advisor.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge I see for the industry is how to best deliver the necessary advice to consumers that need our help. As more and more consumers look to fiduciaries, firms are going to need to listen. I would encourage the insurance industry to work alongside a qualified advisors providing comprehensive planning. The combination of conflict-free advice with a professional insurance advisor is a winning recipe.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The baby boomer population is a huge opportunity for advisors. There is a great need for specialized distribution planning and advice. On top of the various on-going changes to regulation, advisors need to respond to the changing financial markets. Having a multi-disciplined approach that combines risk management, conservative investing, and tax and estate planning can help advisors serve all markets of investors.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

I think millennial investors are looking for a competent advisor that can provide actionable advice. Millennials are often associated with the tech-savvy; providing education to these individuals empowers them to act independently. An advisor can best serve the millennial market by being flexible: flat fee, hourly fees, and recurring fee structures with a defined scope of work can attract these “do-it-yourself” investors. More and more millennial clients prefer to maintain control but want to have the safety of consulting a professional — without a sales pitch.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

This industry is becoming harder and harder to access. Career agencies have limited recruitment, and many entry-level jobs start in a call center environment. Looking for a company that can provide you a place to grow is important. Find the company that fosters responsibility and develops you by putting you in a position to make an impact. Do not underestimate the importance of having a mentor that challenges you to think outside of yourself: you can learn something new every day in this industry.

(Related: 4 Ways to Bridge the $12 Trillion Life Insurance Gap)

Bihayi

Whicliff Bihayi

26

Concord, New Hampshire

Competitive services consultant

Lincoln Financial Group

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Whicliff Bihayi: Growing up I actually wanted to work for the United Nations, like my dad. But he had a different plan for me, and he suggested I consider majoring in economics/finance and go into a career in financial services. And just as he’s done throughout my life, he didn’t let me down.

I was admitted into Lincoln’s leadership development program once I graduated college, which is a highly competitive program designed to accelerate professional development and be prepared to handle more complex roles.

Once I got established in my role and saw the impact we could have in people’s lives and their financial wellbeing — I was convinced that this was the right career for me.

The same altruistic reason why wanted to work for the United Nations, applied in financial services where we’re able to help our clients every day.

In insurance and financial services, you’re able to make an impact, which was important to me.

Describe what you do.

I help financial advisors and agents sort through the vast option of products at their disposal. Our Competitive Services Group is pretty unique in the industry in that we go out and educate producers on ‘which product when’, without necessarily touting one product over another. The objectivity in the work that we do has resonated extremely well with the field, as we don’t split commissions or anything like that.

And on the backend, I work on hundreds of live cases where a producer or advisor is either a) conducting their due diligence and wants to make sure the product they’re offering their client is indeed the best in the marketplace, and b) requesting a thorough review of their clients’ existing policies to see if they are meeting goals and if there’s perhaps a better product today.

My focus is on the life insurance industry and the long-term care industry.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I wouldn’t point to one specific achievement, but a series of accomplishments that solidify the work I do. When we’re able to educate advisors on the merits of certain products and services and we’re able to see their book of business grow overtime, is what gives me the most satisfaction. When an advisor goes from a $1 million book of business, and we’re able to grow that into a $3 million book — that is something I am continuously proud of.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

I believe as we think about the next wave of clients — Gen Xers and millenials —  they’re very autonomous and inquisitive… but they want ‘simple’. Android phones are arguably better phones, but I’ve had iPhones for 8 consecutive years now. The Yellow-Cab driver may have 20 years of experience in the business and knows the roads better than anyone in the city, but I order an Uber every time.

Transparency and ease of doing business is now more important than ever — and I think we can all agree that the insurance industry lags behind. Making illustrations simpler and easier to read — and everything from the application to underwriting need to be adjusted to reflect the fact that it’s 2017 and self-driving cars are being tested as we speak. Really though… self-driving cars…

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Talent. I believe we work in an industry that’s ripe for innovation and fresh ways of thinking. I think millennials, who are digital natives, have the potential to grow the industry in new ways and make a much bigger impact. I do concede that the industry needs to do a better job of recruiting the right talent. But I do believe that the next stream of young insurance professionals has the potential to take the industry to new heights. The tech ‘know-how’ of this generation creates immeasurable potential across every fact of the industry.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Millennials are extremely inquisitive, have access to more information than any generation that’s ever existed, and you may recommend a product to them…and within 2 hours, the millennial can request feedback on said product on a blog and have 147 strangers offering their input. Having access to such information makes this generation unbelievably knowledgeable, but it can also be a hindrance. What that means is millennials need to have a clear and established relationship with an advisor, before any business is done. Trust, transparency, and inclusion are vital to reaching a millennial. Because millennials have access to so much information, they need to be included in the decision-making process, and have to be given different options. Although the advisor may have done 99% of the work, the millennial needs to feel as though he/she did their homework, explored options, and made the decision themselves.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

Be a problem solver, create relationships, and establish your board of directors. Think about problem solving not only in the vein of, “here’s an isolated issue, and how can I fix it?”, but also proactively looking at the processes/interactions you have with your clients and peers, and how to make it easier and more impactful to interact with them on an ongoing basis.

Relationships will be the basis of everything you accomplish. No one has ever been successful in this industry without putting a great deal of effort into relationships. Get out there, shake hands and meet people, attend as many functions as you can, conduct as many pro-bono workshops as you can, and hand out as many business cards as you can. Those fruits will bear overtime.

Creating a personal board of directors will give you frank advice not only on what skills you need to develop, but also a) what goals you should be setting to reach the next step in your career, and b) provide input when you’re making important decisions.

(Related: Manulife Names Roy Gori President)

Jason Buchanan

Jason Buchanan

25

Santa Barbara, California

Account executive

HUB International Insurance Services.

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Jason Buchanan: My father is an insurance agent and also my biggest role model. He started his own agency and grew it into one of the most respected insurance agencies in the community. I always looked up to the way that he provided for my family and how hard he worked to give us the life we had. There was always someone that he knew when we went out somewhere as a family and that was due to him having worked with them before. From watching him I learned that you can make some amazing connections within your community and also provide an excellent life for your family in this industry. When the time was nearing for me to graduate college and move on to the professional world, I knew that this was the right path for me and wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Describe what you do.

I work with business owners to find the proper insurance coverage so they can maintain a healthy, safe, and well-functioning business. Whether it is finding the proper health insurance for their employees, or making sure that they are adequately insured in their liability coverage, business owners need a keen eye to navigate the complicated and confusing path of insurance. That is where I come in. For some, insurance can seem like a foreign language and my job is to translate this language into something that they can make sense of. I work side by side with them throughout the year to continuously provide support and peace of mind. My goal is to establish myself as a trusted member of their business and someone that they can come to at any time for assistance.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

An achievement that I am especially proud of is that in the past year I have passed both my Life, Health, & Accident Insurance licensing exam as well my Property & Casualty licensing exam. Obtaining both of these licenses was important to me due to the fact that it gave me the ability to help people with any type of insurance need. I now have policies in place with clients that range from general liability, to workers comp, to health insurance, and even cyber liability. It makes me proud that I can offer these services and that someone can come to me with a wide range of needs, and I will be able to satisfy them.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge I see in the industry is finding the right way to connect with someone and not come off as if you are only trying to sell something. It can be difficult to seem genuine when you are reaching out to someone out of the blue. The insurance industry relies heavily on relationships and it can be challenging to provide assistance if you have not developed that relationship with a potential client. Without the relationship, you need to show them why they should listen to you and what separates you from the person down the street doing the same thing. One thing that I would like to change and am aiming to change is the way people think of an insurance salesman. Insurance is never anything that someone looks forward to discussing, and when someone comes knocking on their door trying to sell it, it can be difficult to break that preconceived notion and engage them. I aim to change that to where they see value in talking with me and it becomes an enjoyable experience for them.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I see in the industry has to do with all of the new regulations in the Affordable Care Act. Now more than ever, professional guidance is needed to make sure that you are compliant with your health care and do not end up being penalized at the end of the year. It can be a business with over one hundred employees that needs to make sure they are offering, tracking, and reporting health care, or it can be a single person making sure that they have coverage and not pay the penalty. Insurance agents have a unique opportunity to offer their knowledge on how to navigate these new regulations. It can be a huge talking point that can lead to some very promising connections.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

I think that millennials are looking for someone that they can relate to and trust in an advisor. I myself being a millennial, I know that for something like insurance, I would want someone that is going to understand the types of issues I am facing. A millennial’s insurance needs are going to be different than a sixty year old’s insurance needs and millennials are looking for someone that can comprehend this. A common trait of millennials is being team-oriented and I believe that this mindset is what makes them want an advisor that they can trust and go to at any moment. Advisors can best serve this market by becoming more aware of the issues that millennials are being faced with. Many millennials are just beginning their careers, or having children, or buying a house, so an advisor needs to be able to understand how their insurance needs will correlate with what is happening in their lives.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

The number one piece of advice that I would give to a young person looking to enter this industry is to not get disheartened. This industry can be slow moving and at times it can be frustrating. It can take months and even years to make a sale or become close enough to someone for them to trust you with a part of their business. It is not a get rich quick business but when you do establish yourself as a knowledgeable, trustworthy member of the industry, things will start coming to you much more easily. The best thing to do is to stick with it and prove to them that you are not going anywhere. Team up with fellow agents and see if you can find any connections with people in the community. It is important to always be learning and continuing your education in the business as things can change on a day to day basis.

(Related: 10 Top ACA Individual Risk-Adjustment Bills)

Josh Butzke

Joshua Butzke

24

Wilton, Connecticut

Wealth manager

Prime Financial Services

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Joshua Butzke: I chose this industry because of a few reasons. I knew besides a person’s physical health, a person’s financial health is the most important thing. I also wanted a career that would afford me freedom; no 9-5, no cubicle. The last reason is that you earn what you deserve; it’s all on you and you cannot blame anyone else.

Describe what you do.

I meet people who have a need/issue/concern/question with their financial status and want to do something about it. It is then my responsibility to educate them, get to know them, and help them enjoy their lives without having to worry about money. I want my clients to not have to worry about that side and instead I can restore their time so they can spend it doing something they take pleasure in.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

Picking one achievement is difficult. From a tangible standpoint it is making Royal Blue my first two years with Penn. From an intangible aspect it is earning the respect from my parents, colleagues, and managing partners along with my clients- that feeling is great every time.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge I see in this industry is overcoming public perception. Too many times people will meet with an advisor who gives them, for lack of a better term, bad advice. That leaves a sour taste in the client’s mouth and their trust is immediately shattered when they meet with the next one. Or the trust is damaged enough where they won’t even meet with an advisor again because of that bad experience. Along with that is the negativity and the “popular” ideas from reading things online. Google isn’t always the answer.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I see in this business is to make a genuine connection with someone. In this growing digital age, everything is done online, not being face-to-face with someone. I utilize a hybrid approach of both social and face-to-face interaction. Utilizing LinkedIn to start the conversation and that gives you the opportunity to grow that relationship and take it off line. I see a growing trend of just dealing with people via social media and online interaction. Having a conversation with someone in person is much more powerful and helps you get to know your client even better, and that’s what the job is- building relationships.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

I think millennials are looking for a true trusted advisor. Remember, millennials live and grew up in a world of recession and that has scared a lot of people. They don’t trust investing/putting money into the market. They also value experiences more than saving money for things like houses and retirement. Advisors can best serve this market by really getting to know them — helping them understand they can do everything they want (vacations, buying a house, retirement, etc.) and not just pick one thing and sacrifice the others. That is truly being a trusted advisor.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

The No. 1 piece of advice I would give to young people coming into the business is having motivation. Cannot stress that enough. If you are not motivated every day, it will be very hard. Give yourself the opportunity to be successful, stay motivated — whatever your motivation is, keep it and run with it.

(Related: 10 Top ACA Individual Risk-Adjustment Bills)

Zachary Campbell

Zachary Campbell

29

Gilbert, Arizona

Risk management advisor

Strong Tower Insurance Group

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Zachary Campbell: I chose a career in insurance because I like helping people. At the end of the day it makes me feel good knowing I helped a client or potential prospect.

Describe what you do.

I am a Risk Management Advisor. I help businesses analyze exposure to risk and then determine how to best handle each exposure.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

An achievement that I am proud of is relocating from Indiana to Arizona. I am proud of this because I had built a solid book of business at my old agency in Indiana and then left it behind in order to move to Arizona to have a better quality of life. At the end of the day how many people would move 1,800 miles away from home and not know anyone except the people they work with and start over building a book of business? One of my favorite quotes is “Life is all about taking risks. If you never take a risk, you will never achieve your dreams.” Author Unknown

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge I see in the industry is a lot of people going online to get insurance. Most of the people that do this have no idea what they are doing until a claim happens and it is too late. Another thing I see is people in our industry not having the knowledge in order to help a client or potential prospect. They are not educated enough in certain industries or they are just trying to sell insurance not knowing what they are really doing.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I see in the industry is the number of clients that are being underserved by their current agent. This is a huge opportunity because I can help out these clients to show them the value and services that I can bring to the table.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

I think a lot of millennials are going online to get insurance because all of the advertisements that they see on TV and how every company can save them money. Advisors can best serve this market by letting the millennials know that we are here to serve them and give them advice rather them going online and doing it themselves.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

The number one piece of advice that I would give to a young person looking to enter the industry is two things: The first thing is if they work at an agency with agents who have a lot of experience and years in the business to use these people as a mentor. The older generation has so much knowledge about the industry and this is a great way for a young person to learn. The second thing I would advise is to make sure they are getting out in the community and building relationships. One of the number one things in the insurance industry is building relationships with clients and future clients. Successful businesses are built on relationships.

(Related: Playing the Relationship Game)

Hayley Carlotto

Hayley Carlotto

23

Amherst, Massachusetts

Data scientist

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Hayley Carlotto: I love answering questions with data. The insurance industry is rich in data and interesting questions, such as, “How risky is this applicant?”, “Is this transaction likely to be associated with criminal activity?”, and “How likely is this person to be a future customer?” MassMutual’s Data Science Development Program (DSDP) has been the perfect opportunity for me to grow as a scientist while doing what I love to do. This program combines full-time project work and enrollment in a graduate degree to develop applied and academic expertise as well as leadership and communication skills.

Describe what you do.

Simply put, I use data to answer questions. Currently, my time spent on project work is fully dedicated to the mortality modeling initiative that drives algorithmic underwriting at MassMutual. First and foremost, this involves building state-of-the-art survival models, and also exploring the predictive power of new feature sets, collaborating and sharing results with teams across the company, and analyzing business affected by the model to seamlessly expand its deployment to broader demographics and more products.

I’ve also contributed to MassMutual’s anti-money laundering project. We created a model that detects suspicious activity associated with money laundering by assigning a score to incoming transactions. Additionally, we deployed a web-based tool that assists in the investigation and enables domain experts to optimize the model’s performance over time by verifying transactions that the model deems suspicious.

As a member of the DSDP, I’m also pursing a Master’s in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Rigorous courses such as machine learning, algorithms, and statistics help to formalize the concepts I apply to projects on a daily basis.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

In September, we deployed a mortality model that algorithmically underwrites applicants on a large block of our business. Getting to that point took a lot of effort from teams across the company and it was exciting to see it all come together. This deployment has been incredibly successful and this year we expect a significant portion of all life business to be underwritten by the model.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

A great challenge in the field right now is the culture shift toward advanced, data-driven technologies. Embracing change can be challenging, especially for such a longstanding and established industry, but decision-makers need to be open-minded about incorporating such technology into all aspects of their business to ensure a successful future.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

There is a major opportunity to reach out to and provide coverage for the millennial generation. In terms of life insurance, personalized pricing and the ability to obtain affordable coverage without the need for invasive lab tests and doctors’ visits would resonate well with this demographic. This will require cutting-edge models and algorithmic underwriting systems to rapidly and accurately assess the risk of applicants.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Millennials are looking for education from knowledgeable professionals but the option to be self-sufficient. For this generation, a satisfying shopping experience entails going online whenever they like, an intuitive application process, knowing exactly what they’re getting and why it costs what it does and easily accessible customer service should they need it. Advisors and agents can best serve this market by combining their expertise with this kind of online technology to deliver customers a seamless and transparent experience. In other words, advisors must be able to meet consumers on their terms.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

To be successful on the data science side of the insurance industry, a strong quantitative background is a necessary foundation. Majoring — or taking courses — in mathematics, statistics, or computer science gives young people a leg up in this field, and in many other fields as well.

(Related: Insurers Sensing an Opportunity: The Promise of Sensor Data)

Marcello DePascale

Marcello DePascale

29

Shelton, Connecticut

Financial planner

Barnum Financial Group Inc.

Marcello DePascale is the type of financial advisor that dispels every negative industry stereotype. His commitment to serving individuals and small businesses, his deep product knowledge and his own personal story make him both immensely trustworthy and likeable.

These same qualities have brought him early success. Just a few years into his career, he has a booming book of business and co-leads a wealth management team at Barnum Financial Group. We sat down with Marcello to find out more about his day-to-day work, the opportunities and challenges he sees ahead and the No. 1 piece of advice he would share with new agents. (Spoiler alert: It's pretty good.)

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Marcello DePascale: The seeds were planted early. My father passed away when I was 10, and the life insurance product he was guided to purchase required a lot more time to build up a significant death benefit versus term insurance. The entire family had to struggle to make ends meet. I did not know all the financial facts at the time, of course, but I did absorb them as I grew older.

Growing up, I worked in my uncle’s small business right through my college years, when I decided to study business and finance. I became very interested in helping an old-fashioned family company streamline and modernize its operations, especially its financial operations.

I liked the challenge of making the business more successful, and helping the people involved. I interned at Merrill Lynch during college, too, and then chose Barnum. One of the firm’s big pluses for me was the resources provided to advisors, such as product and estate planning experts.

Describe what you do.

Along with my associate, I lead a seven-person wealth management team that serves individuals, families and businesses. I work closely with the clients I serve, and I like doing that and finding solutions for them. One of my first tasks when I joined the firm was to design an entire small business financial plan for my uncle’s business, including key person insurance, a fully funded buy-sell agreement, and a shareholder agreement.

I take a lot of pride in building and expanding relationships with new clients, too. For example, a cold call with a nurse-anesthesiologist a few years ago has blossomed into serving some 130 of these professionals around the U.S.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

For a client who was a widow at an early age and had two young children, I arranged for Social Security survivor’s benefits. We then used some of the proceeds from the husband’s life insurance on an insurance product that would ultimately fund the children’s college education. The wife was risk averse to the financial markets and this was a perfect solution.

What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry?

I think the largest challenge in the industry at this point is actually the overabundance of information the general public has access to. In most things, the more information the better; however, self-planning for the future based on something read on the Internet can be a very slippery slope.

I meet people all the time who have listened to a friend of a friend or picked something online to invest 100 percent of their assets in with dismal results. There is a reason people go to the doctor instead of diagnosing themselves using medical websites. Helping people achieve true financial literacy is my goal with every client.

What is the biggest opportunity that you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I think is a relatively obvious one: There are 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day who are in need of help and guidance while there is one of the lowest numbers of advisors in the industry that there has ever been. These people desperately need to make proper investment and insurance decisions whether they know it or not. It is our duty to try to help them as if they were our own parents.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Some people feel that millennials, with their affinity for technology, are naturals for robo-financial advice, but actually most don’t want a faceless experience, based on what I’ve seen with my clients. They value human interaction and relationships. Technology, ideally, supports the advice.

For example, millennials like a sophisticated aggregation tool where everything is clearly laid out, accessible and can be interacted with, instead of having to read through a lot of paper. Also, many are still living with their parents, even as they are working and paying off student debt. They are marrying later in life and also having children later. There is an extended period in their lives when they are saving, and they can really use guidance on how to make money work for them.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

MD: The most valuable piece of advice I could give to someone looking to enter the industry is to make sure that they truly have an affinity for helping people first and foremost. This is a profession based on making and maintaining true relationships that matter mutually to you and your client. You cannot pretend to care and do the job justice.

You need to know that you will be working very hard to help people with eliminating the risks that can cause them or their family harm. Like any relationship, if you don’t put in the time to truly understand what is important to the other person, the relationship will not work. If you work hard and make the sacrifice to build the business right from the beginning and never compromise your integrity, you will be rewarded 100 times over.

(Related: Why Relationship-Based Selling Still Works)

Mack Dudayev

Mack Dudayev

29

Boca Raton, Florida

Owner

InsureChance

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Mack Dudayev: I was working in phone sales for home and auto warranties. One day a local life and health general agent asked me if I could sell his products over the phone. My first day I sold two health policies, I was stoked and been in the industry ever since. I worked for few other agencies over the years, got some experience and eventually decided to strike out on my own.

Describe what you do.

I’m a co-founder of InsureChance Inc., a life insurance website where clients can comparison shop with all the top carriers. We serve clients in all 50 states completely online and over the phone, our main niches are simplified issue life insurance. If a person needs to have a life insurance policy that same day, or with a reputable company, we get it done. My responsibilities are business operations, sales, training, some marketing and whatever else that needs to get done that week.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I am extremely proud that me and my brother slash partner were able to get the agency of the ground with some sweat equity. No large loans or investors, we are completely bootstrapped and continue growing that way. It required long hours and ability to wear many hats to get the job done, but we did it.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge I see is the lack of technological implementation in our industry. There can be a major improvement in the way life insurance underwriting is being done because it takes too long and there is a lot of trial and error to learn which companies are best for certain risks. I feel like carriers need to be more transparent with agents about their underwriting so better processes can be created. The other big challenge is the lack of effort of carriers to do complete e-apps . As it stands now there are way too many steps in the application and underwriting process which is a big downfall for the modern consumer. Today's consumer wants it now! They can plan and purchase a world travel itinerary from their laptop in few minutes but they have to jump through bunch of hoops and wait a few months for life insurance.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Biggest opportunity is that insurance is going digital and this is only the beginning, so there is a huge market potential for internet insurance sales. Both carriers and brokers that are already aggressively taking up real estate on the world wide web will be successful in the coming decade.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Millennials are looking for advisors who offer a consultative sales approach, simple to understand products and transparency. They want to be guided along the process so they can make their own decision rather than be pressured into something that's best for the advisor and not them. The best way to serve this market is meeting them where they are, in other words the advisor should use digital channels like a blog, social media and youtube.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

Best piece of advice I can give to a new agent is master marketing. You can be the smartest advisor or have the best products but if people don’t know who you are it doesn't mean anything. If you first master marketing you’ll always have a steady flow of clients to grow your business year after year everything else will fall into place.

(Related: 5 Predictions for the Future of the Life Insurance Industry)

Sean Dudayev

Sean Dudayev

29

Boca Raton, Florida

Chief marketing officer

InsureChance

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Sean Dudayev: Initially it was a way to make income through college. However, after working in the industry for over a year, what my partner and I gathered from most of our clients is that they were getting mistreated in the marketplace. We both had a strong disdain for agents who sold clients policies that benefited their own bottom line and not the consumer’s. It was that fact along with the lack of innovation in the industry that inspired us to make change. So, we decided to start InsureChance, to help motivate change in insurance and be a part of those efforts.

Describe what you do.

I am the marketing branch of InsureChance Inc. which is a digital life insurance agency. My responsibilities entail making sure that consumers can find us so that they can receive true consumer oriented service. Most of my focus is on educating our customers on how we operate, the entire life insurance process and what they should expect from life insurance agents as well as life insurance companies. My marketing tactics revolve around education. I always believed that if you can educate your customers, you will earn their trust and their business.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

One achievement I’m especially proud is being able to build InsureChance through 100% bootstrapped efforts. It’s easy to get caught up in the start-up hype and start raising capital before you figured out the process. We decided we didn’t want anyone influencing the way we operate or the way we treat our customers. So we grew through sweat equity and reinvestment of our own profits.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, or what is the one thing you would change?

The biggest challenge in the industry is that it has been slow to adapt to the digital consumer. Attaining a policy involves a lot of steps which can take months for an individual to attain coverage. Some people still drive to their local agent to get coverage. Even agents that have evolved and work with customers over the phone or through digital channels still send paperwork in many cases, which many of our clients find perplexing. Life insurance companies simply aren’t quick enough to adapt. The companies that are geared towards the digital sale, with no exam life insurance products, are only able to do so by setting strict caps on their products on coverage amounts, approval criteria, and cost.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Every challenge presents in it an opportunity, due to that I think the opportunity lies in the automation of the life insurance buying process. The companies need to adapt their business practices to the digital consumer. Being better than the competitors in your industry isn’t enough anymore. Companies need to be provide the same simplicity and intuitiveness that companies like Amazon and Apple have conditioned consumers to think is the norm. Instant approval for standard products is the future for life insurance companies. The first big player to do that wins big, and the first agent or agency to take advantage of marketing it will also.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Millennials are looking to be informed. The insurance industry is confusing to the everyday consumer. With so many companies and agencies out there it can be hard to know what the best option is. Millennials like to know everything there is about a purchase before they make the buying decision. Make sure you’re the that of that information so that they don’t have to go elsewhere looking for more. The best way to serve this market is to educate your consumers. Make sure your marketing material teaches them something rather than sells them something, and educate them further when they make contact. If you focus on educating rather than selling, your bottom line will benefit from it.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

Be innovative. You don’t have to do it the way everyone else is doing it. There is a lot of room for creativity in this industry and just because you don’t see it being done, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Be bold and try new things.

(Related: All in the Family: Brothers Build Success by Never Giving Up

--- Read Millennial Investors Scarred by Financial Crisis on ThinkAdvisor.

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