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

Learn from the fast learners

(Image: Thinkstock) (Image: Thinkstock)

Here's the second section of a formidable list: the ThinkAdvisor Life Health 30 Under 30 award winners for 2017.

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

We published the first batch of 10 names last week. The third and final list will come out early next week.

All of the people on the list are young life, health and benefits sales and marketing professionals who are already making a name for themselves, in spite of being born after the Internet came to life.

Some could still be active well into the 2060s.

Note, as we said last week, that we've based these entries on information provided by the nominees, independent nominators, and other sources, such as LinkedIn entries. The ages, job titles and other biographic bits reflect how things were when the nominators submitted their nomination forms.

One thing that's clear is that these people are starting out fast.  

Alan Flores

Alan Flores

25

Santa Rosa, California

Owner

Alan Flores Insurance Agency

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

Alan Flores: I want to build a company that will allow me to work from anywhere while still bringing people powerful information.

Describe what you do.

I focus on educating clients and showing them the best options for their situation. I am not big on hard selling because I don’t like the feeling I get when someone is trying hard to sell me something. The most important thing for me is to make sure the client knows exactly what they are getting and why they are getting it.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

Being a guest on a local radio station that allowed me to educate the listeners on life insurance and I have been invited back to cover more topics.

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

The Latino community does not have a resource to learn about life insurance so I am going to make another website that gives them the resources they need. From articles that cover what life insurance to more unique situations like buying life insurance with an ITIN.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I see is educating the Latino community about life insurance. There are so many people that could truly benefit from having a life insurance policy, but they don’t have one because they don’t have a trusted resource.

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

I believe millennials want someone they can relate to. From my own experience, there are advisors out there that make you feel like you are in the wrong place when you go in to talk to them. It is as if you are too young to be talking to this advisor that has been in the industry for 30 years and knows everything.

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

I would say, don’t get discouraged when people question your authority because of your age. Show them you are knowledgeable in your field to gain credibility.

(Related: Planning Agency Growth Through Strategic Prospecting)

Megan Frey

Megan Frey

29

Seattle

Executive regional manager

Voya Financial

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

Megan Frey: Prior to my senior year of college at University of Connecticut, I completed an internship for a small company in Virginia. I was fortunate enough to be mentored by the company’s owner, who recommended I consider a job in sales. At the time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my time convincing people to buy anything, but when I returned to school that fall I took a few courses from the business school and loved the relationship building aspect of sales. I interviewed with multiple companies, one of which was Voya Financial (ING at the time) in their insurance business. Shortly after getting into insurance, I realized I made the right choice. I love the flexibility of the job, the ability to create your own brand (while working for a large company), and the opportunity to work with companies that understand benefits will help their employees protect their hard-earned savings.

Describe what you do.

I lead the sales team in Voya’s Pacific Northwest territory. Together, we focus on providing cost-effective solutions to brokers, consultants, and employers across five states. We have a diverse product portfolio which includes group life, disability, worksite (critical illness, accident, and hospital indemnity) insurance for employees, and self-funded stop loss insurance for businesses. Our team’s goal is to build relationships, find outside–of-the-box solutions, and continually educating ourselves on the ever -changing industry so that we can serve as a trusted resource to our clients.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

One of the hardest decisions I made was to leave my comfort zone as a successful sales representative, as part of Voya’s Southeast Region sales team (based in Atlanta) to take on my current role as manager of the Pacific Northwest team (based in Seattle). Our industry is so heavily relationship driven that starting over in a new market with all new people is incredibly tough. I’m proud of the fact that, although it wasn’t easy, I challenged myself to try something new. There have definitely been days when I have questioned what the heck I was thinking. Then I reflect on how much I’ve grown personally, as well as professionally, over the course of the past two years, and realize I’ve developed a whole new network of partnerships, mentors, and friends. I’ve also learned that I can accomplish whatever it is I set my mind to.

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

The current workforce is extremely diverse. One of the biggest challenges I see is figuring out how to offer products and solutions that can be relatable to the 20-somethings just beginning their careers, to the 60-somethings who may be getting ready to retire, and everyone in between. We have to continue developing new ways to engage and educate consumers. For instance, at Voya Financial we are focused on different avenues to connect with employees about the benefits offered at their worksite. Whether this is through educational videos on an employer’s intranet or social media campaigns via Facebook leading up to an open enrollment, we have to find ways to provide simple and relatable products to a very wide audience.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The ways we receive our information and make decisions continues to change rapidly. Most people no longer read a newspaper to get caught up on current events, nor do they write checks to pay their bills. I think the biggest opportunity lies in the way we deliver solutions to the workplace. Technology is evergreen and will continue to drive the way we act as consumers. Finding new ways to educate, purchase, and maintain these products will allow for growth in the industry.

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

I believe there is a general misconception that millennials just want things done for them. While we often feel we have a lot on our plate at any given time, we want to understand our options and how our decision will impact us not only in the short term but in the long term, as well.

From an Insurance carrier perspective, we need to make our products simple, but also provide the educational tools that allow millennials to make informed decisions. As a millennial, I don’t want you to just hand me a product. I want you to show me the product and explain why it’s the right fit for my situation. If I’m personally invested in my decision, I’m more likely to stick with it, which creates higher customer satisfaction and greater persistency.

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

When I first started as a sales rep, my manager told me, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” At the time, I didn’t understand just how many times you would hear “no” before you might get a “yes” and that can really wear on you.

The best advice I can give is this. When you get knocked down, always get up. Even though you’ve done everything right, you still might get a no, but it’s what you do with that no that makes you who you are and helps you define your personal brand. Learn, grow, and move on to the next opportunity, and what you learned from that last no might just help you get your next yes.

(Related: Invest in My Brand?… What’s the Point?)

Alexa Hofmann

Alexa Hofmann

28

Life brokerage sales consultant

Boca Raton, Florida

The Stamm Agency

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

Alexa Hofmann: Landing in the industry was fortuitous, truly. I’d just wrapped up school and decided to take some additional part time marketing coursework which left me with some free days during the business week; this led to my taking a position doing some general office/admin work with my agency. Within a few weeks, I knew that this is what I needed to be doing.

Brokerage appealed to me strongly because of the multi-faceted role we as sales/design specialists take on and I really love what I do for that reason, the challenges and complexities and movement of the industry. But- what truly had me hooked was bearing witness to how often advisors are told their clients are an absolute decline and nothing can be done (often by multiple sources) and the knowledge that so many of these people may have ended up getting the coverage they needed if someone at the brokerage agency revisited the file to re-strategize how to go to bat for the client.

What drove me then during my early employment with the agency and continues to drive me now is the fact that there’s such a great need for not only elevated levels of support but for awareness of how important it is for brokers not to lose sight of the fact that those files are people - because that’s what is happening and it happens often.

Describe what you do.

I specialize in driving life insurance sales. As a sales consultant and marketer for a life brokerage agency, my role is all encompassing in that I work as a consultant and point person to advisors to support them in their sales success and I also head the development and marketing campaigns for my agency itself, so my work requires me to stay connected and in tune with both consumer and business to business sales strategy, trends and behaviors.

My agents rely on me to help them to identify and guide their clients into the best products and case design as well as to aid them in their marketing strategy by connecting them with marketing material, training and information that aids them in developing their potential client base.

My marketing initiatives for the agency as a whole are aimed at reaching and developing new agent relationships by promoting our message and offerings through digital platforms, media and editorial content. The part of my work I feel is most unique and a specialty area of mine is in life insurance sales for high risk clients.

My agency has been specializing in impaired risk underwriting for more than 50 years and one of my primary professional goals is to raise awareness among financial professionals for how important it is to seek expertise in underwriting high risk clients. I take a hands-on, concierge approach to clients with high risk medical conditions, lifestyle or financial situations and work with the agent from the beginning stages of the sale to secure quotes, prepare the case for submission and see it through to approval.

Having been trained in and after years of experience dealing with the most complex underwriting situations, I make a commitment to my producers to know their client’s case personally and to communicate and negotiate with carrier contacts to ensure the best possible outcome for their client which means personal involvement in review of medical records, financials and taking initiatives to look outside the obvious and identify how and what to use to improve the underwriting.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I’m incredibly proud of the successes I’ve been able to secure for my agents and would consider the reputation I’ve built to be one of the achievements that I’m most proud of. I’m so very, truly personally invested in everything that I work on that when the base of agents turning to me for all their business continues to grow and referrals keep coming in because they’ve been told that my work and results are so superior, it’s a very rewarding feeling. Obviously spending so much time working on complex cases there have been all types of challenges, but it’s the cases (without delving into too much personal detail) like a

client I worked on who is the single parent of a special needs child and had just about exhausted every effort to get life insurance, that make me feel proud to do what I do. That client had been turned down by 12 companies through 2 brokerage firms because of health and told there was no hope before the agent was referred to me. Placing those types of cases and seeing the relief it gave the client from the stress of

worry for their child’s care and needs is an accomplishment I’m proud to have been able to secure for my agent and that I regard in high esteem personally.

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

Reaching the core of public opinion about life insurance is where I feel the industry’s biggest challenge lies. Despite anything and everything that makes a top 10 msn list for why the millennial generation is so posed for turmoil, I for one am happy to be part of a generation whose world is constantly pulsing.

The fact that there is nothing stopping you from knowing about anything that you want to know about is amazing, but with every innovation and evolution that puts more information at our fingertips the unfortunate fact of the matter is that information from sources who are not knowledgeable or current in the subject matter is going to get in as well.

This topic is one that has been an issue of focus for me and a conversation that I’ve been working on furthering in recent months and the reason is because on any given day, at any given time, without fail I can skim my apple news feed and find more than one article reverberating a negative, outdated depiction of life insurance; these editorials are full of misinformation and almost always reinforce a negative image of advisors and the industry itself.

So, it is a challenge. Not only do we need to help educate people about their needs, we need to mold a more enlightened, modern understanding of life insurance itself out of the existing opinion about life insurance that millennials have formed based on their parent’s experiences and behaviors towards buying life insurance and the reinforcement from many out of touch editorialists.

With all the reach in the world to research and learn about any item we so choose, if no one is pointing out that we must retire the life insurance we know about from our parents and grandparents and learn more about today’s life insurance, we’ll never break through to the point of true engagement that we need to transform life insurance from a “need” product to a “want.”

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

I think the presence of AI and the innovations we’re making and that are in the works when it comes to technology and medicine are going to transform the life insurance underwriting process and thus the industry. If you think about how far we have come already in the advances that we’ve made in evolving with medical research, testing capabilities and treatments to be able to offer life insurance despite certain medical conditions, the potential to be able to insurance countless people whom we wouldn’t have able to before is huge.

In addition to the role technology plays in medical underwriting, the integration of interactive technology for health and wellness with life insurance coverage is also a game changer in terms of the financial landscape. Our industry is posed right now to be able to reach more people than ever and provide more people with life insurance than ever and that means the opportunity for us to help build a more financially independent and secure population who see their coverage as playing an important role in their life.

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

I think first it’s important for us to address that too many millennials aren’t looking for an advisor, period, because they’re hit so often with the message that advisors are not trustworthy or that they need to be on the defensive against greedy commission hungry sales people. The good news though is that people still want to understand and engage with someone who can offer guidance, so we as an industry can turn this around. What I think millennials respond to in an advisor is a sense of comradery, someone who is connecting on a real human level that engages them in their financial planning rather than just presenting and proposing.

Like I mentioned earlier, we can blast all the information and educational material we want about life insurance but if someone already has an existing impression of what life insurance is and who needs it and doesn’t feel it applies to them, they’re not going to read it anyway. To really do our best in providing professional service to the millennial market we should take advantage of all the opportunities there are to engage with other people. Connecting socially, sharing details about what went into the decision making in our own financial planning or helping to provide information and opinions about the products that are in front of people, not just those that we represent or sell are things to consider when thinking about how to appeal to people on a human level.

Above all I think it’s important to think less about what we think people should know and focus on what we don’t know; when you get to know the person first you can get right to the heart of where life insurance fits into their needs and what they may not know about the product or industry. We can ask people as many times as we want if they know how much coverage they need but if they don’t realize they have a reason for needing the coverage then the insight we’ve been able to provide stops right there. What about asking people if they want to be successful in their personal, financial life; what if they answered no to the first question and yes to the second because they didn’t realize that life insurance could be advantageous in various ways and life stages.

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

AH: Don’t neglect setting personal professional boundaries. In an industry like ours, the competitive nature, and high expectations we place on ourselves and receive from others to make sales can be a great and challenging experience but it can also lead to feeling conflicted over how to deal with difficult clients or with a collaborative professional partner. Relationships are paramount and no one ever wants to risk a client being dissatisfied with them or their service but it’s important to have a clear understanding of the extent to which the customer is always right and when you feel your personal professional boundaries are being compromised. Unfortunately, not everyone is respectful of other people’s time and work, in life as well as in business, and spreading yourself thin out of fear or insecurity to appease a person who isn’t treating your relationship with reciprocity won’t lead to results but it will impact your confidence and the standards you set in business. Do great work and know the value of your time and efforts. If you regard your time and work with higher value other people will too and your business will flourish.

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

Chelsea Hopkins

Chelsea Hopkins

29

Topeka, Kansas

Marketing relationship manager

Advisors Excel LLC.

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

Chelsea Hopkins: My parents divorced when I was younger and most of my childhood we lived paycheck to paycheck. At the time, I never knew what sacrifices they were making for our family. I’ve since learned both of them had dipped into their 401ks to help pay the mortgage or keep the lights on or buy Christmas presents. They did what they had to do for us to survive in the moment. Because of those sacrifices they made when my sister and I were younger, neither of them have much saved up for retirement — and they’re both close to retirement age. It’s important to me to be able to help other families avoid going through the same situations they had to go through.

Describe what you do.

I have a broad title of “Marketing Relationship Manager” because my position is a catch-all for what we do on the Marketing team at Advisors Excel. My main priority is to assist financial advisors from all over the United States so they can focus on serving their clients in retirement planning. Each advisor/advisor's office is different; it’s important everything I do is personalized and customized to their specific needs. That’s the best part of what I do — every phone call, email or situation that arises is diverse and it is my job to come up with solutions to ensure the advisors we work with can focus on helping their clients.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

The company I work for has put a huge emphasis on serving others. Whether that be through our company helping financial advisors and their respective clients or via us as individuals serving in our community. Through our Big Brothers Big Sisters Corporate Program, I’ve developed a solid relationship with a child who needs a strong mentor in her life. Although we’ve only been matched for a year, I am proud of the connection we have built. I believe it will be a lifelong friendship and I can only hope that my mentorship helps to lead her away from the various forms of adversity that she may have to overcome throughout her lifetime.

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

At this point in time, I think the biggest challenge in the industry is the unknown. There is a lot going on with the Department of Labor ruling and the Trump presidency and no one really knows how it will all shake out. Uncertainty seems to be a theme surrounding those two topics and until there is some resolve or direction with both regarding future retirees, I think they will continue to be industry challenges.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

I believe tapping into the millennial market is one of the biggest opportunities we have. By leveraging an existing client base and getting introductions to younger generations we can start filling a pipeline for future business. I think the general public is typically reactive and waits until close to retirement age to actually start planning retirement past their 401k investments. If we start educating individuals before they are close to retirement age, it would better prepare a generation that will not have social security and pensions to lean.

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

Millennials are looking for someone to educate them, make suggestions and help implement financial plans — but ultimately let them have a hand in planning their future. Millennials are a strong willed, independent generation and want to make their own decisions, so they need a partner that is transparent, willing to listen & give them sound financial advice while allowing them to be involved in the decisionmaking process.

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

Control the controllables. You’re never going to be able to tell a client exactly how the market will perform or have every situation run as expected. So, control what you can — the relationships you cultivate, the hard work you put in, the people you surround yourself with, the accountability you hold yourself to — the rest will fall into place.

(Related: NAFA Vows to Continue DOL Rule Fight)

 Kory Johnson

Kory Johnson

26

Tampa, Florida

Financial advisor

21st Century Financial Inc.

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

Kory Johnson: I grew up in a family of small business owners. Going into college, I knew that I wanted to start my own business one day, just as many of my family members have done. The problem was that I did not know the industry or market that I wanted to pursue.

Once I was introduced to the financial services industry at the University of South Florida, I realized there was a substantial disconnect with small businesses and personal financial planning. While small business owners put their companies’ finances first, many ignore their own personal financial planning needs. This was my opportunity to begin a career that will allow me to build my own business as well as be a resource to other fellow business owners.

Describe what you do.

I provide financial clarity in an increasingly complex financial world.

My commitment to my clients are to help them create more money supply now, increase their wealth, minimize their risk, protect their wealth, and do all of this without reducing their lifestyle.

I am an advocate for my clients, their families, friends, and the people they work with.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

Throughout my career, I am especially proud of the relationships that I have built with my clients. What I enjoy most about my business is that it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and discover what financial goals they have and what motivates them. Every referral that I am introduced to from an existing client is an achievement that I am extremely proud of.

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

The biggest challenge that I see in the industry is the countless perceptions people have in regards to what makes an ideal financial plan. There are far too many “financial entertainers” today that give blanketed advice and promote a one-size-fits-all plan to their audience.

Financial planning is a process, designed to form personalized strategies that are unique to each individual client’s goals. Advisors should take a fiduciary approach and act in the best interests of each individual client.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest challenge also creates the biggest opportunity. There are so many people that hear these one-size-fits-all financial advices, but are unsure what to do next.

Our job as financial advisors is to help! We have the opportunity to guide our clients through this financial noise that they are exposed to on a regular basis and properly educate them so they can make well informed financial decisions.

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

When searching for an advisor, millennials look for trust, transparency, and technology. Trust is definitely the most important. Gaining trust with millennials starts with listening to discover their specific financial goals. Millennials want to hear about all the options and all the facts.

As an advisor, it is important I remain transparent while educating my clients and thoroughly explain their options to ensure they feel most comfortable when we decide which strategy to implement.

Lastly, technology is an essential factor. Because we have information readily available at our fingertips, millennials enjoy the ability to access their accounts and progress within their financial plan. It is important for financial institutions and advisors to adopt technological change to better serve their millennial clients.

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

This career is a tough but a rewarding one. The best advice I would give to a young person looking to enter this industry is to find a mentor. You will learn more rapidly through the experience of a mentor than trying to figure it all out on your own. Also, mistakes can be avoided with the helpful advice of a mentor.

(Related: New Hire Roundup: Focus Financial Adds Five)

Andrew Kagan

Andrew Ross Kagan

29

Roseville, California

Branch president

Cornerstone Wealth & Tax Advisory Group Inc.

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

Andrew Ross Kagan: The experience I had with all four of my grandparents having had dementia was a big revelation for me. The costs, grief, and hassle associated with long-term care and assisted living were almost unbearable at times. This is what changed my perspective on preparing for the future. I have made it my goal to educate my clients and help them prepare for the future with the best products and services I can offer.

Throughout nearly a decade in the insurance industry, I have had a “do the right thing” attitude with everyone I've met. Client-minded plans that create financial security for the future is what I do.

Describe what you do.

Keep people's hard earned retirement dollars in a safe place away from market risk.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I feel being nominated for 30 under 30 would be one of them. Besides that, I have completed an Ironman Triathlon and that was pretty difficult.

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

Honestly, our industry changes so frequently that you have to adapt and almost expect change. Helping people is what I do, so whatever I have to do to achieve that, I’ll make sure that happens.

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

That’s easy: it’s helping people! I was told a long time ago that the more people you help, the more money you'll make. It's safe to say that I'm helping a lot of people these days!

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

I think millennials are looking for someone they can relate to and be an example for. I do this all the time, especially in meetings, where I pull up my personal accounts to show clients that we are in this together. Being a fiduciary in all your recommendations helps not only the consumer, but also our industry. So, please put the client first in everything you do.

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

The one piece of advice would be to find a system that works for you and stick with it. Too many times I've seen people have a little success that goes to their head. You have to stay humble and focused and you can't think you have every answer.

I always tell clients that if I don't know the answer, I will tell them that I don’t know it, but you also have to know where to find the answer. Also, a mentor or someone you can call upon always helps!

(Related: How to Succeed As a Multigenerational Advisor)

Katie Lyons

Katie Lyons

27

Radnor, Pennsylvania

AdviceNext consultant

Lincoln Financial Group

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

Katie Lyons: Truthfully, the financial services industry was not one in which I ever pictured myself pursuing a career. After graduating from Penn State, I was introduced by a friend to the ambitious, invigorating, and supportive people Lincoln. These people encouraged me to build a career from what I thought would only be a job. Since then, wonderful new opportunities and self-challenges have been ever present and led me to where I am today. Immersing myself in this dynamic industry and enjoying the people I work with has fueled me to continue on in this industry. Knowing that financial advisors’ clients are everyday people and I am a part of making a difference in achieving their financial goals continues to be very rewarding.

Describe what you do.

AdviceNext is Lincoln Financial Network’s ongoing initiative to introduce tools, technology, and resources to Lincoln advisors. I spend time understanding advisors, their staff, and how their individual practices operate to incorporate these tools appropriately for each practice. I am a friendly and knowledgeable go-to contact that assists financial planning teams in adapting to changes and feeling confident utilizing our technology and resources to best service their clients. I help advisors adopt Practice Management efficiencies within their practices so they can grow their businesses and spend time doing what’s important to them.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

The Broad Street run is a long-standing tradition in Philadelphia, the city where I was born and raised. I have always enjoyed running for fun but am by no means a competitive runner. Last year, I challenged myself and finished this long run without walking once. I never thought this race was something I could do and it was an empowering feeling to exceed my own expectations.

Additionally, I have always had an immense passion for learning about new places, history, cultures, and will never say no to a tour. Through my personal adventures and career opportunities I have been very fortunate to have explored many towns, cities, and countries. The diverse experiences and lessons I have collected from traveling have opened my eyes to various ways of life and continue to shape my perspective. I am always looking forward to my next excursion.

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

This is an industry that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. The ability to stay calm, stay educated, and adapt is very important.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Today, technology is ever-present and increasingly essential in the financial industry. People are constantly in contact using many different avenues of communication. Technology allows people to find information in real time, anywhere, in the palm of their hands. In the same way, clients are keeping track of their finances and we can keep in contact with our clients. There is an extraordinary opportunity to help others in this industry become comfortable with technology and use it for their benefit. I think this is why it is so exciting to be a millennial in this industry as this is where we can excel. Growing up with ever-evolving technology, and in a generation that is embracing change, our perspective is valued.

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

With so much information and influences at our fingerprints, it can be overwhelming to decipher the best personal financial path to trust. To best serve the millennial market, advisors can connect personally with their clients, clearly explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of options in easy to understand terms, and give clients access to view their account information online.

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

It might sound cliché, but my advice is not any newfound wisdom. The practices that have proven successful for many years before me still ring true today.

Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way because every opportunity is a new door and you never know what it will lead to. Whether the result is great or less than good, you will always learn something valuable and continue to grow.

Never become complacent or stop challenging yourself. Set professional and personal goals. For me, my birthday is always a time to reflect on what I accomplished the past year and am looking forward to in the year to come. Give your absolute all to everything you do and try to go a step beyond what is expected.

Enjoy the people around you, learn their stories, and take time to build relationships. Having positive and trustworthy people in your life, a strong support system, and motivating mentors will shape your day to day and the person you are.

Most importantly, do not forget that life is meant to be enjoyed.

(Related: USAA Commended for Use of Death Master File)

Reid Mathews

Reid Mathews

24

Dillon, South Carolina

Licensed financial specialist

Berry Financial Group Inc.

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

Reid Mathews: My dad has been a State Farm agent for 30 years and was always talking about the financial services side of the business. Also, I realized very quickly that money is extremely important. It does not bring happiness, but it does bring security. Being able to educate clients about their own hard earned money has fascinated me since day one.

Describe what you do.

I give people peace of mind financially through safety. By using financial tools that protect, preserve, and grow my clients' money, they are able to have peace of mind with their money.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I have more than doubled the Medicare supplement sales since joining Berry Financial Group and have completely added a life insurance division to the firm. Before I arrived, the main focus was annuities and long term care, and in just the second year of writing life insurance, I have placed more than $100k in target premium.

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 and always will be the prospecting aspect. It is our job to meet with people, and because of technology, more and more people will rely on their computers for information instead of us as advisors.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity is that people still love the human interaction. This coincides with the biggest challenge. If we as advisors can truly spend time building relationships, increasing our own knowledge, and adding value to our communities, then we will become wildly successful by setting ourselves apart from the rest of society hidden behind a computer.

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

Millennials want transparency. They want to be able to see day in and day out that you are looking out for them, and for their best interests. They want permanence and accountability. Advisors can spend their time educating clients and giving back to the community and that will impress and inspire millennials, influencing them to at least hear what you have to say.

What is the Number 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

Be persistent, patient, and believe in what you do. Embrace the ups and the downs. We are truly helping people, and the sooner you can believe that, the more success you will have.

(Related: Take Your Practice to the Next Level Through Mentoring)

Braeden Mayrisch

Braeden Mayrisch

29

Program manager

Voya Foundation and Corporate Responsibility

New York

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

Braeden Mayrisch: I chose this industry because it was unfamiliar territory for me, and I’ve always wanted to learn about new things. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in public administration and my professional background is in environmental legislation – unrelated to financial services. I had been successful in business and economics courses so I knew how vital finance was and the role it played in my daily life, but wanted to learn more about it from the inside.

When I found a position at Voya (ING at the time), I was only planning to stay for a couple of years to soak it up like a sponge, but it really grew on me. My previous jobs had all relied on groupthink: working only with peers who are very passionate about environmental issues in public service, you forget that people exist outside of your office with differing opinions. You can become very insular in your thinking, or you can try to work with and serve the individuals with whom you sometimes differ. What I came to like about financial services is that I both work with and serve individuals from different backgrounds with completely different points of view. Getting out of that homogenous space taught me a great deal about compassion and empathy.

Describe what you do.

I manage charitable programs for Voya Financial and its foundation, including grants, charitable events and cause marketing, help develop and oversee the strategy of Voya Foundation, and measure and communicate our social impact. I recently led a year-long strategic planning initiative for the foundation, which resulted in an entirely new giving strategy. I manage programs that provide experiential STEM programs for K-8 students that get kids out of the classroom for more hands-on activities. I also manage teacher training programs for current or aspiring K-12 STEM teachers. For financial literacy, I manage programs that teach high school students how to navigate life’s major financial milestones, or events that tend to impact one’s future ability to retire, such as student debt, credit, home ownership, investing and financial products and services, and family financial planning. And as we’re learning that companies successfully running these types of charitable programs are better apt to attract and retain top talent, my focus has shifted to engaging employees in the above efforts as teachers of personal finance, STEM education volunteers, mentors for students, and various other opportunities.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I get to improve the lives of children across the country every day, so there are so many moments to be proud of. But the pride these kids take in their achievements becomes my own source of pride. My proudest achievement to date was graduating 111 girls from the Voya-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge. This program assembled groups of high school and middle school girls and used Voya employee volunteers to teach them how to invest, and then empowered them to manage $50,000 stock portfolios.

When the girls completed the three-year curriculum, they kept the gains on those portfolios in the form of college scholarships. I watched these girls come into the program as timid young kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most of them had issues at home, some were even suffering from homelessness, so saving and investing were not on their list of concerns. I went to their program graduation ceremonies, where they’d speak to audiences of hundreds of people, and witness their transformation. They’d become outgoing, well-spoken, kind, and financially savvy. The change that these kids underwent and their outlook on their personal and financial futures, and their pride gave me an unrelenting faith in my company and my career.

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

One of the biggest challenges I see in the industry is attracting young talent to client-facing positions. It’s easy to find a student fresh out of college interested in going into a role like communications or marketing. It is extremely difficult to find an entry-level young professional interested in becoming a financial advisor. This means that you have individuals from one generation trying to serve the needs of another generation. Our younger customers have crippling student debt, we don’t trust easily, and we are accustomed to instant gratification. Building a workforce that understands and can serve us and the unique issues we face is tough, just as it would be tough for us to understand and serve the previous generation.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Definitely a need for simplicity. Industries are constantly disrupted by younger companies that make what they do easier or simpler. Take the example of Uber. Before Uber, if you were taking a cab, you’d have to find a dispatch company in the area, call them to see if any cabs were available, and then wait for a half an hour or more. Now, you pull out a phone and press three buttons and a car comes directly to you. I’m hoping more financial services companies learn from this. I recently helped a friend log into his 401k so he could check his fund performance. He didn’t understand a single thing about his company’s online portal. It was unclear where his investments were, what his gains were, what these various investments mean and how to adjust them… everything. If a smart company comes in and makes financial technology, products and services easy to understand, it would be a huge success story for this industry.

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

Aside from what I previously mentioned—advisors who understand our generation’s needs and also the need for simplicity—and an advisor that we can trust for our own financial security, we want an advisor that is committed to improving his or her community. And I don’t just mean traditional philanthropy. Advisors and their companies should speak outwardly about financial inclusion, or provide financial products and services that benefit individuals from all walks of life. Millennials value socially responsible companies in their consumption decisions more than any other generation, so we want to know that the companies we’re supporting work to improve society as a whole.

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

I’d say seek out a company with strong corporate values, where you can be yourself. It’s so easy in financial services to fall into a career that is just a job—working in spreadsheets, sitting in meetings, doing research. If you find a company, like I have, that is not so laced up, where you can get work done but also be yourself and have fun and be a part of something greater than the “bottom line,” what could be a monotonous day-to-day becomes an amazing long-term career. Find an employer that encourages you do things like take time off to volunteer, an employer that provides you with major development opportunities, or an employer that will financially support you if you decide to further your education. These non-compensation benefits are signs that you are at a values-driven company.

(Related: From ING to Voya: A Successful Exercise in Rebranding?)

Matt McCormack

Matt McCormack

28

Hartford

Competitive services consultant

Lincoln Financial Group 

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

Matt McCormack: I committed myself as business major my freshman year of college, although at first was not sure which industry this would ultimately lead me into. After completing various courses in economics, accounting, and finance I quickly developed a sincere interest in financial services, which is what lead me to launch my career in the insurance industry.

Describe what you do.

As a consultant for Lincoln’s Competitive Services Group, I work with financial advisors and insurance producers by providing in-depth product analysis for the life insurance and long-term care marketplace. A few areas that I specialize in include: case design, sales concepts/presentations and policy audits. My understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of products across the marketplace allow me to tailor design plans to fit specific client needs and objectives.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I am very proud that through my time in the financial services industry I have had the ability to assist many advisors implement thousands of income & wealth protection solutions for their clients.

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

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in the insurance industry would have to be the sustained low interest rate environment we’ve experienced. Due to these unfavorable rates carriers have had to raise premiums, reduce benefits, while some have even decided to exit product lines such as variable annuities and long term care.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

I believe technology poses the biggest opportunity in the insurance industry. As individuals have become more accustomed to everyday conveniences brought to them through innovation and technology it is vital that the insurance industry adapts to meet these new expectations.

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

I think millennials are looking for advisors that are knowledgeable and trustworthy. In addition to an advisor being knowledge and trustworthy I think millennials are looking for advisors that are easily accessible and are in tune with technological advancements.

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

When speaking to a younger person looking to enter the industry I would make it clear that to be successful in this industry it requires hard work and determination.

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

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