The Final 5

Richard Berry, Berry Financial Group, Dillon, S.C.

Michael “Cy” Cajthaml, McHenry County Investment Services Inc., McHenry, Ill.

Fred Cowley, Cowley Financial Group, Fort Worth, Texas.

Craig L. Randall, Randall & Louis Wealth Management, Fountain Valley, Calif.

Dean Zayed, Prizm Financial Advisors; Brookstone Capital Management, Clarendon Hills, Ill.

There is no shortage of highly talented advisors serving the senior market. We at Senior Market Advisor are reminded of this fact every year as we sift through the many dozens of thorough nominations we receive for what has become one of the most prestigious honors in the industry for an advisor.

It’s no easy task to whittle the nominations down to five finalists, and it’s even harder to select the winner, who will be announced at Senior Market Advisor Expo at Wynn Las Vegas August 22-24.

All of the finalists passed rigorous background checks through the National Ethics Bureau, and extensive research was done on a number of candidates before we selected the finalists. In addition to some eye-popping production figures, each finalist possesses qualities that lift their practices above the crowd. They prove that an ethical, client-first approach combined with effective work habits can really work in a big way. They use progressive techniques, have captivating personalities, they give back to their communities, and offer a willingness to share the secrets of their success with other advisors, all of which work for the betterment of the industry at large.

Read on to learn how they have reached this elite level, and don’t miss seeing all five in what promises to be a lively discussion at the Advisor of the Year Finalists Roundtable, the middle-day keynote event at Senior Market Advisor Expo.
– Brian Anderson

Craig L. Randall, RIA

President and Chief Investment Officer, Randall & Louis Wealth Management, Fountain Valley, Calif.

Family: Married for 28 years to wife Janice; sons Trevor, 16, and Cody, 14.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from California State University; MBA in finance and business management from Pepperdine University.

Years in the industry: 20

2006 Personal Production: $40 million ($25 million annuities; $30,000 in LTCI premium collected; $10 million face amount in life insurance)

Craig Randall has been called a “seminar advisor for the next generation.” His seminars are non-threatening and low-stress, leaving attendees feeling optimistic and good about themselves. It is not unusual for some of his seminars to have a 100 percent appointment ratio. He is also a gifted teacher with an effective ability to train other advisors, which has manifested itself in very high production levels in agents he has worked with.

Josh Hattig, president at Hattig Financial Co. in Longmont, Colo., says that beyond his own parents, Randall has been a primary mentor for his career, and has taught him the value of asking the right questions. “With new clients, he really does it like we’re supposed to do it,” Hattig says. “He’s been able to figure out a good way — in a short time — to truly be an advisor [to new clients].”

1. Tell us about your journey to the senior market — how did you get here, how long have you been here, and what keeps you here?
Craig Randall: I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 20 years now. Early in my career I was quickly moved into management roles. After a few years I found myself vice president of a small but rapidly growing financial services company. I was in charge of training on a nationwide basis. Needless to say I was traveling quite a bit, which was not a problem until my wife and I had our first of two sons.

I made a conscious decision that I was going to be there for my family, full-time. Traveling two weeks out of the month was simply not an acceptable option. It seemed to me that an easy transition would be to take a position as a financial advisor in a bank program. This is really when I tapped into the senior market. Most of the bank customers that had large deposits were seniors and they had time to come into the branch during the day to meet with me.

Eventually I made the transition from working in the bank program to being independent and working for myself. At this point I’ve been working with this demographic group for about 16 years. One of the reasons we continue to build our clientele around the senior market is that they are most comfortable working with someone they have developed a relationship with and that’s how I like to run my business. We always take our time, never rush into anything and place the emphasis of our business on the relationship.

2. What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Randall: Our success is really based on three fundamental elements that drive many businesses.

1. Marketing
2. Transitioning the prospect to a lifetime client
3. Support staff

Let’s start with the marketing aspect of our practice. Of course we get referrals from the CPAs and attorneys we work with as well as referrals from our existing clients. What really keeps us busy is the 40 or so appointments we set on a monthly basis from our public seminar program. Believe me, when you have 40 new appointments with people that you don’t know yet every month, it would be hard not to be successful.

You do have to take these folks through the prospect-to-lifetime-client process. I can’t tell you how many things we do with these folks for free, but I’ve found that when I’m not concerned about how much money I’m making and am only concerned about how I can help this person, money will follow. Part of our marketing plan every year is the goals we set for ourselves. I never set a production goal or earnings goal. I prefer to set action goals that will allow us to continue to build our practice.

Last but certainly not least is the value of support staff. My practice is very busy and, believe me, I need help all the time. I have two support people, a receptionist and a licensed administrative person who has the ability to work with our existing clientele very effectively. The key to good support staff is training and patience. Much of my success is due to the support staff I have developed; without them I couldn’t do what I do.

3. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Randall: The two biggest issues I see are the dramatic change in demographics and the increased regulation of our industry.

Let’s talk about the demographic change first. We have this huge generation called the baby boomers that are just beginning to hit retirement age. I believe that they will not be as prepared for retirement as their parents were. Many of the folks that are in this generation won’t have pensions when they retire and should consider Social Security as a supplement to their retirement income. This group will also live longer than any another generation, so instead of having to plan for a 15- to 20-year retirement, we will need to plan for 30 to 40 years, which has its challenges, especially when you consider inflation in the income equation.

Now let’s take a quick look at the regulation of our industry. Regulators are exerting more and more control over our industry, and this is not going to change. The industry shift seems to be toward managed money/asset fee-based models and away from 100 percent commissions. There are also licensing issues being considered that certainly will affect the entire industry. I really believe that those people that truly belong in this business will continue to thrive no matter what actions the regulators take.

4. What has been your most effective method of prospecting for new clients?
Randall: The best method I’ve found to continually build our client base is public seminars. They are actually a lot of fun to do and have a great return on investment, when done properly. Seminars tend to be kind of expensive to do, but when we are consistently getting 15 to 20 times our cost for return on investment, they are very productive.

5. Tell us about your community involvement, and what kind of effect has it had on your practice?
Randall: When it comes to community involvement, I don’t look for any return on my time or donations. I’m in a position at this stage in my career where I feel obligated to help when I can and expect nothing in return. I can remember one Sunday at church our pastor was going over the budget shortfall they had and asked everyone to help if they could. I was able to place a check in the basket as it passed by for the entire amount of the deficit. My kids are involved in several different sports and we are able to help the teams out from time to time. Most recently my oldest son’s soccer team was going to a national tournament and needed new uniforms. After a few weeks it became apparent that the team’s coffers didn’t have enough money to get the uniforms. My wife went out and purchased the team new uniforms. These are just a few of the things we have been fortunate enough to do. Now I’m in California and we have something called “karma” here and I really do believe that when you do good things, good things will happen to you. So perhaps my practice does benefit from these types of generosities, but that’s not why I do them. When you achieve a certain level of financial success, giving back is really just the right thing to do.

6. Tell us about your typical work schedule — how many hours a week do you usually work, how many appointments per week, how often do you take vacations, do you give seminars, etc.?
Randall: I work about 60 to 65 hours per week, which seems like a lot of time, but when you love what you do, time just flies by. I spend about 45 hours per week in the office and the rest of the time is spent working at home. We have a dedicated room in the house that we call the homework room. It has desks, computers, printers and anything else we might need. In the evening the boys and I will all do our homework together in the room, which gives me the opportunity to help them with their homework while getting mine done at the same time.

As far as appointments go, on an average week I will have 35 to 40 appointments that consist of existing client meetings and meetings with prospects that came from the seminar process.

When it comes to vacations we only take two to three weeks off a year, but we really go on some great trips. I remember when I was a kid, the family vacation meant getting into the family car and driving cross-country to visit a relative we didn’t even know. Now when we go on a family vacation, we get onto a plane and fly to great, exotic locations. It’s really a privilege to be able to take my family on such great trips; we are very fortunate. One of the reasons we can take such great trips is that I’m doing a minimum of three seminars per month. I bet in a year we do between 40 and 48 seminars. The opportunity we get to meet so many new people at the seminars is the driving force of our practice.

7. In the next five years, how do you see the landscape of what you do changing?
Randall: I’m sure that our practice will have transitioned to more of a managed-money model and away from commissions only. I’m also very sure that more of my time will be spent giving back to an industry that has given myself and my family so much. Currently some of my time is spent training other agents and I’m sure that will continue to develop and expand. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than watching an agent I’ve had a hand in training become very successful; it’s really the best!

Richard Berry, CSA, CLU, ChFC

President and owner of Berry Financial Group, Dillon, S.C.

Family: Married for 20 years to wife Jan; two sons and one daughter — Jordan, 17, Jamison, 14, and Jana, 10.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Francis Marion University

Years in industry: 20

2006 Personal Production: $28 million in annuities

Richard Berry has racked up a number of impressive statistics, beyond his $28 million in 2006 annuity production. Working out of a small town, he spends a lot of time on the road, going up and down the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts. Referrals accounted for about two-thirds of his business, while seminars generated the remaining third, and he is able to close business about 70 percent of the time at the first appointment.

Bo Johnson, chief marketing office at FIG Marketing, likens Berry to a Ferrari who truly outshines the Cadillacs. “We have 10,000 agents, and I’ve never met anyone like Richard Berry,” Johnson says. “All his clients love him. He’s the guy you want to have the ball in the last minute to make a play.”

1. Tell us about your journey to the senior market — how did you get here, how long have you been here, and what keeps you here?
Richard Berry: My journey to the senior market began in my hometown of Dillon, S.C. I had just received my B.A. and had all intentions of following in my father’s footsteps and pursuing a career in education and administration. My entire future changed when my next-door neighbor, George Lester Rogers, invited me to shadow him as he was about to retire from a lifelong career with New York Life. In our small, rural county of only 30,000 people, George introduced me to his clients who were mostly farmers and country folks at or nearing retirement. I quickly identified with the work ethic and integrity of this patriotic generation.

On February 2, 1987, I joined New York Life, with sales training and product knowledge that were second to none, although I was always one prospect short of unemployment.

In 2002, I became independent and joined an FMO specializing in marketing with seminars and direct mail at its core. Over the past five years, our Berry Financial Group Family has grown into a team of six full-time and four part-time staff members who allow me to do what I love best — meeting with and helping retirees achieve financial peace of mind.

2. What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Berry: The biggest keys are relationships, staff, focus, and passion. Statistically it has been proven that 85 percent of people leave their financial advisors not because of a lack of returns but because of a lack of relationships. At Berry Financial Group, we use every opportunity to bond with our clients, from phone calls and mail to client events and dinners. I can honestly say that each member of my staff goes the extra mile to make sure excellence is achieved in my office. We support each other and our clients through prayer, hard work, encouragement, and fun.

Two of my favorite quotes best sum up my approach to life and to my business: “If it is to be, it is up to me,” and, “Help people get what they want, and you will get more of what you want.” Everything that is done in appointments, programs and daily office operations has one focus — safety. I truly have a passion for helping the greatest generation on earth enjoy the fruits of their labor, free from financial worry.

3. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Berry: The biggest issues are communication, ethics and regulations. I believe that simplicity and information are keys to gaining trust and confidence from clients and prospects. Every investment tool has a purpose and a place, and it is imperative that we, as financial guides, provide our clients with strategies that are appropriate for them based upon many factors such as age, risk tolerance, accumulated wealth and personal goals. We owe it to this generation to provide them with the information necessary to make wise decisions regarding their financial future.

4. What has been your most effective method of prospecting for new clients?
Berry: As I have previously mentioned, the use of seminars and direct mail initially had the greatest impact as I prospected for new clients.

Conducting financial workshops provides me with the opportunity to identify my target market, to establish credibility and rapport with the audience, and to increase awareness of issues facing retirees today.

As my client base has grown, an increasing number of new clients are derived from referrals. In 2006, of the $27.9 million in assets under management, $18 million was derived from client referrals and new business from existing clients. Upon delivery of a policy, I make new clients aware of the benefits they can receive by recommending their friends and family members to Berry Financial Group. I also give them a calendar of events that includes referral dinners, appreciation events and public workshops to which they may bring guests throughout the year.

5. Tell us about your community involvement, and what kind of effect has it had on your practice?
Berry: Involvement in my immediate community does not have a direct impact upon my practice. Only 20 percent of my clientele are residents of my small hometown, while the majority are residents of coastal communities 80 to 150 miles away. I do feel strongly, however, that giving back to those around you is very important. I am a member of the Dillon Christian School Board of Directors, and I have served as a deacon at First Baptist Church. I support numerous charitable organizations, and this year I have placed special emphasis for “Addie’s Cure,” a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for lung cancer.

Also, for the past several years, I have been involved with helping other producers across the nation grow their practices in the senior market. As a mentor, I enjoy watching others achieve goals and learn how to better serve a generation who has meant so much to our country.

6. Tell us about your typical work schedule — how many hours a week do you usually work, how many appointments per week, how often do you take vacations, do you give seminars, etc.?
Berry: My typical work schedule requires perseverance and stamina. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are usually 12-hour days. I normally drive 90 minutes to reach the coastal communities I serve, where I see an average of five appointments a day. This includes opening interviews, annual reviews, policy deliveries and occasionally a few follow-ups. Tuesdays and Thursdays are frequently 14-hour days with appointments first and seminars from 6 to 7:30 p.m. followed by a 90-minute drive home.

I advocate that there are four “F’s” in life, in this order of priority — Faith, Family, Finances, and Fitness. I exercise daily, spend devotional, quiet time on my daily commutes, and enjoy tennis and golf when time permits. I reserve Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and at least four vacations a year to spend time with my wife and children.

7. In the next five years, how do you see the landscape of what you do changing?
Berry: Financial services has been and always will be an evolving industry. Changes take place gradually, but there is always change. New marketing strategies will begin to replace the methods we are currently using to reach prospects. Companies will develop new financial tools to focus not only on accumulation but also to concentrate on distribution of assets. Studies show that over the next few years, 90 percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances, and $25 trillion of wealth will be transferred from one generation to the next.

I believe that an even greater opportunity to market and to create protected investment vehicles is on the horizon. Although our marketing strategies and products may change, greed and fear will always be the primary forces driving investors. Consequently, asset preservation has, is, and will continue to be the main focus for the senior market.

Dean Zayed, JD, LLM, CFP

President, Prizm Financial Advisors; CEO, Brookstone Capital Management, Clarendon Hills, Ill.

Family: Wife Michele, children Marissa, 7, and Anthony, 5.

Education: Economics degree and JD from Northwestern University; LLM (Masters in law with a concentration in taxation) from IIT Kent College of Law.

Years in industry: 10

2006 Personal Production: $25 million; $12 million in annuities, $1 million in life insurance premium.

Dean Zayed, who was also a finalist in 2006 and writes the monthly “The Close” column for Senior Market Advisor, has what Matthew Rettick, founder and CEO of Covenant Reliance Producers, calls a unique practice that serves as a model for the future of financial services.

“He is a lawyer, a certified financial planner and an estate planner. His office is a one-stop shop for the senior client. They can obtain all of their legal, investment and life/LTC insurance,” Rettick says. “His practice is so successful, in fact, that he no longer has to pay for expensive public seminars. He has a long list of satisfied clients who continue to call on him, as well as refer their friends and neighbors. He is the ‘consummate pro.’”

1. Tell us about your journey to the senior market — how did you get here, how long have you been here, and what keeps you here?
Dean Zayed: I have been working with the senior market since I began my career 10 years ago. As an estate planning attorney and Certified Financial Planner, working with the senior market allows me to utilize my broad areas of expertise to serve the unique financial planning needs of the senior population.

Seniors have a huge concentration of wealth and a multitude of issues that come with this wealth. They seek reliable, sophisticated professionals who can go beyond the simple sale of a product and actual delve deeply into their affairs to address issues such as income planning, estate planning, charitable giving and beyond. Satisfying these diverse needs on a customized basis is highly motivating and definitely keeps me excited about working in the senior market. It provides me an immense amount of personal gratification to help them navigate through a myriad of issues that positively impacts them and their loved ones.

2. What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Zayed: The fact that my firm offers a comprehensive approach to providing financial solutions to my clients. I have positioned myself as my clients’ financial quarterback, or put another way, as their “Chief Financial Officer.”

As an independent advisor, there are no “standard” or “proprietary” products that I promote. In fact, I have access to the entire universe of investment options and vehicles. This includes utilizing vehicles across all segments of the financial services industry, namely fixed or indexed insurance and annuity products, securities such as mutual funds, and fee-based money management. Because I am without restraint in selecting the optimal investment vehicles to implement in my clients’ portfolio, I am able to exercise complete objectivity in creating the most profitable, sound and flexible portfolios.

Many times clients wind up with a combination of vehicles across these differing segments of the industry because this combination is the smartest way to satisfy all of their goals and address all of their needs. Working in all segments of the financial services industry gives my firm the credibility and infrastructure necessary to offer comprehensive solutions that allow me to successfully manage all of my clients’ wealth.

3. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Zayed: The biggest issue is the regulatory restraints being placed on all of us practitioners. It is serious enough to threaten the actual survival of thousands of advisors who I believe must act now to change their practices. For example, an indexed annuity producer will be scrutinized for providing investment advice without a license if he recommends that a client sell a security (such as a mutual fund) and place the proceeds in a fixed annuity product. It’s not to say that the annuity product is poorly structured or not suitable for the client — it very likely is best for the client. The regulators, however, may see it differently and seek to call it abusive and shut down the agent’s practice.

One way that I have addressed this regulatory environment is by establishing Brookstone Capital Management. Aside from my “retail” practice, Brookstone is a national Registered Investment Advisor that I established to specifically help insurance and annuity agents become investment advisor representatives and effectively build a fee-based investment advisory practice complementary to their existing practice. Brookstone acts as the agent’s strategic partner and provides a turnkey system that the IARs can access. I believe Brookstone is an industry-changing idea in that it will help transform thousands of annuity advisors into compliant, comprehensive advisors who not only can remain viable but also grow their practices.

4. What has been your most effective method of prospecting for new clients?
Zayed: Personal referrals are by far the most effective method of prospecting in the financial services industry. This has been the primary way that I have gained new clients. I firmly believe in providing a unique and memorable experience for every client of mine, regardless of the size of their assets. This includes creating a client-friendly atmosphere, providing a superior level of investment and financial advice, and maintaining ongoing communication about the client’s financial plan. These are the essential ingredients to upholding high levels of client satisfaction. A satisfied client is a client that will spread the good word about you and your practice, and with customer satisfaction comes repeat business and new referrals.

The bottom line is that we are in the business of advising clients who want to develop and implement an intelligent, effective long-term investment strategy, customized for their personal goals and resources. I work hard to cultivate and preserve the trust and confidence of my clients, something my clients experience early and often with me, and that compels them to refer their friends and family.

5. Tell us about your community involvement, and what kind of effect has it had on your practice?
Zayed: I recently began working with a large, national operator of assisted living facilities. These facilities provide upscale living arrangements for seniors who require some form of ongoing medical oversight and assistance with daily living. I conduct workshops for the residents and their families at the premises on estate and financial issues that is most relevant to them. I also offer to meet with the residents at the facility to address any concerns they have. All of this is done on a voluntary basis and if a resident retains my firm, we have a deeply discounted fee schedule that we use for them. This is my way of giving back to the senior population who may not have the ability or resources to seek qualified professionals on their own.

In addition, I am currently on the board of directors of several private foundations who provide ongoing aid to multiple local charities and causes. I am also an active member of and contributor to the global charitable arm of my church, through which we give hundreds of millions of dollars away to just causes all over the world.

6. Tell us about your typical work schedule — how many hours a week do you usually work, how many appointments per week, how often do you take vacations, do you give seminars, etc.?
Zayed: Whereas I do live by the motto to “work hard and play hard,” lately this has been skewed much more towards the “work hard” part. I am normally at the office from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and on average I have two appointments every day with either clients or prospects. But the truth is my work day never ends in the office. I maintain a home office and definitely get my money’s worth there. I spend a lot of my time at home working — many times at odd hours such as late night and early morning. Most of this extracurricular work stems from the RIA that I established in 2006, Brookstone Capital Management.

Brookstone provides the agents who become investment advisor representatives a deep level of advice, knowledge and ongoing compliance and technology support. These representatives have total access to my staff, investment intelligence, and, ultimately the sophisticated model portfolios that we manage. They can in turn offer their clients access to our professionally managed accounts. It is a mutually beneficial relationship and certainly has been worth all of the time, money and energy spent to build it.

7. In the next five years, how do you see the landscape of what you do changing?
Zayed: In the next five years, I think the explosion and transfer of wealth will continue, making the financial services industry a very exciting place to be. I also think our industry will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. This will include the creation of new products and services tailor-made for the seniors and baby boomers.

Furthermore, clients absolutely love the concept of working with one qualified advisor to handle all of their needs. It will therefore be critical for advisors to embrace this change, stay abreast of product developments and stay current with strategies and laws as they relate to their clients. I think the most prepared advisors will flourish in this environment and become financial leaders in their communities. These successful advisors will be able to provide a comprehensive investment strategy to their clients that takes into account all relevant factors as they help navigate clients from the boomer years to retirement and beyond.

Michael “Cy” Cajthaml, CFP, LUTCF, CSA, IAR

President, McHenry County Investment Services Inc., McHenry, Ill.

Family: Wife of 28 years Debbie, son Mike Jr., 22.

Education: McHenry Community High School Class of 1974

Years in industry: 21

2006 Personal Production: $10 million+ in annuities; $3 million+ in variable and mutual funds.

Mike “Cy” Cajthaml is always looking to learn more. He is a frequent attendee at industry events and conferences, and is a poster advisor for running an ethical practice.

“This guy just exudes positive energy,” says Steven R. McCarty, chairman of the National Ethics Bureau. “It’s just obvious that he loves his line of work, and his clients love him. In the areas of ongoing personal education and deep client satisfaction, we have never seen his equal. He’s truly one in a million.”

1. Tell us about your journey to the senior market — how did you get here, how long have you been here, and what keeps you here?
Mike Cajthaml: I started in the business back in 1986. Prior to entering the financial services industry, I had my own commercial graphic arts business for 14 years and had contracted chemical poisoning from all the solvents I used. I was told by my doctor that I needed to consider a different profession. I told my insurance man my situation and he said that I should meet his boss, Burton Herman. Burt ran the Chicago branch of Transamerica in Oak Brook, Ill., at the time, and when we met, we kind of hit it off. Burt told me that he would help me become successful, and since then I have always considered him to be my mentor and thank him very much for giving me the encouragement and opportunity to help others.

He shared two bits of wisdom with me that I will always remember. First, that I should become the very best financial planner or the very best stockbroker I could be, but that I shouldn’t try to be both … that it wouldn’t be fair to my clients. I chose the path of Certified Financial Planner Professional. From early on I did well under Burt’s coaching, but my career made its first big leap when Burt told me to “stop thinking from my pocketbook.” It was as if the lights came on. Burt said to me, “Who typically has wealth, Mike? Is it younger folks trying to raise their families, pay their mortgage, save for college and the like, or is it those individuals that have already put those years behind them and are now either preparing for retirement or are already in retirement?”

The answer was obvious, and thus my decision to work with a niche “rifle shot” marketing plan serving the senior market, rather than trying to be all things to all people … the ineffective “shotgun” concept. If you need to drink, go to where the water is at.

2. What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Cajthaml: People believe that I am truly interested in helping them achieve whatever goals and dreams in life they are searching for. You see, it’s not about me. I don’t even consider myself to be a salesman. I’m a facilitator, and a good one at that. I’m simply here to help people buy what they need and want. None of us likes to be sold anything, do we? There is an old saying that one should never expect heat from the stove until you put wood in it first. I think it was Zig Ziglar that said, “If you help enough other people get what they want out of life, you’ll always get what you want.”

People need to know that I am genuine. I don’t sell products, but I do help people understand that I care about them and that I’m someone they can trust. It’s as simple as that. I make it easy to buy from me.

3. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Cajthaml: I’m very concerned about the fact that there are products out there that may not be in the best interests of our customers. What I mean by this is the fact that in this age of instant communication, the stories of how this senior or that senior was sold an unsuitable product such as an annuity with long, long surrender periods or unique death benefit provisions are just what some journalists are looking for.

Human nature being what it is, I feel we need to call on our fellow financial professionals to ask the carriers to quit creating these products that are less than what people deserve. Greed is an ugly trait that sometimes tempts us into doing things we normally would never do. Unfortunately, there are a select few agents who will capitalize on the client’s trust and position them into something that is really not right for them — all because they are reaping a huge commission at the client’s expense.

If the carriers will only create products that have features and benefits we can be proud to offer, coupled with commissions similar to those found within the mutual fund/variable annuity arena, we all can still make a great living while doing the right thing for our customers. Those few unscrupulous agents will have to find another industry where their bad judgment and selfish concerns can be better met. Thank goodness for NAFA and the National Ethics Bureau.

4. What has been your most effective method of prospecting for new clients?
Cajthaml: I use radio ads during morning drive time and I do the ads myself. I want people hearing me, not some announcer. I’m known as “Mike Cy the Investment Guy.” I also utilize cable TV, going on stations and shows that appeal to my target audience like TV Land, “Hannity & Combs,” Fox News Network, ESPN, Chicago Bulls basketball, Chicago Bears football, etc. I appear in the ads and do all the speaking. People do business with people they know and trust. My print ad appears twice a week in our local paper, I use coupon books, special spots in specialty papers, announcements, inserts, etc.

I’m branding myself as “the” guy to go to when my customer is faced with a decision as to what to do with his pension or profit-sharing rollover, inheritance, IRA, etc. You see, my music’s got to be playing when the parade goes by. You’ve got to stand up and shout. In the advertising business they call it TOMA — top of mind awareness. Remember the movie … “Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!” It works the same for us.

Key: You need a tagline and something customers can remember. As I said, I’m known as “Mike Cy the Investment Guy.” It kind of rolls off your tongue, and I hammer home a simple concept I call my S.W.A.N. Investment Strategy. Those letters stand for: Sleep Well At Night, and isn’t that something we all want?

5. Tell us about your community involvement, and what kind of effect has it had on your practice?
Cajthaml: I have been a board member in our local Chamber of Commerce. Get involved here if you are not already. I’ve had the honor of being the chairman for our major annual town festival called “Fiesta Days.” I help the Kiwanis Club by being the emcee for its annual “Little Miss Peanut” contest. I have been a lector/commentator and Eucharistic Minister in my parish. Just letting your fellow community members know that you’re a good person and willing to give back in some form helps to build that goodwill that is so very valuable. Be someone that people can count on. Our town uses a slogan that is so true: “Character Counts.”

6. Tell us about your typical work schedule — how many hours a week do you usually work, how many appointments per week, how often do you take vacations, do you give seminars, etc.?
Cajthaml: I’m president for an investment firm within a bank — McHenry Savings Bank. This is a wholly owned subsidiary of the institution and I am here Monday through Friday from before 8 a.m. to, in most instances, well after 5 p.m. I do not work on the weekends as the markets are closed and obviously so are the insurance carriers I work with. Late nights are common as I am blessed with a rather big practice.

I have two full-time assistants and one part-time, all of whom are absolutely fantastic to work with. I am lucky to have such dedicated individuals backing me up. They make me look good and my customers love them. This is a key to success. You have to surround yourself with the best people you can find, and I’m fortunate to have found such people.

We typically have anywhere from four to six appointments a day, and vacations consist of going with the national marketing organization I work with, CMIC, to exotic locations around the world. Another huge key to success: Hook yourself up with a marketing organization like the one I was lucky enough to find — one that has the integrity and experience to help elevate you to bigger and better things. Look for a group that cares about the customer, about doing the right thing, and they can help you earn the living you deserve. Watch your profitability soar! Remember, you can’t do it all by yourself.

7. In the next five years, how do you see the landscape of what you do changing?
Cajthaml: I have set very big goals for myself as I once heard it said that if you don’t shoot for the stars, you just might shoot yourself in the foot. We are facing the most negative media attack I’ve ever seen in my 21 years of serving the public and I’m going to do everything I can to prove them wrong. I will continue to work with my companies and the products I help people purchase. I will support organizations like NAFA, as they are on the front lines, telling it like it is, and straightening out those journalists that haven’t heard “the rest of the story.”

I will tell my peers about the National Ethics Bureau, and why they should become members. I will encourage my peers to talk to their political representatives and share with them how important our work is to the huge numbers of us now turning age 60 and beyond. It is critical that our industry educate our masses about how to preserve their wealth and live within our means through reasonable and thoughtful distribution. Annuities have been around for a very long time and will continue to be the foundation on which my clients will build their financial futures.

Fred Cowley, CIC

Owner of Cowley Financial Group in Fort Worth, Texas.

Family: Married to Sheila Clark Cowley for 49 years on Aug. 23. Son Ryan works as a producer in the firm, and is married with three children. Older son Clark is an attorney specializing in intellectual properties.

Education: B.S. and M.S. from Abilene Christian University.

Years in industry: 36

2006 Personal Production: $8,752,000 in annuities; $15,000 in LTCI premium.

Fred Cowley, as of mid-June, was the No. 1 producer this year for FMO GamePlan Financial Marketing LLC, with more than $10 million issued. He was AIMS’ (Allianz Income Management Services) No. 1 producer in 2006 as well, says Edward W. Nolan, vice president, Allianz Advanced Sales, GamePlan Financial Marketing LLC.

“It is such a pleasure for me to work with Fred,” Nolan says. “I have nothing but the highest admiration and respect for him. He always puts his clients first and is truly deserving of his success. I wish I had 100 more agents like him.”

A 35-year industry veteran, Cowley has been a guest lecturer in 49 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and Great Britain. As of mid-June, he was also on the verge of having his local radio show, “Protecting Your Profits,” become nationally syndicated.

1. Tell us about your journey to the senior market — how did you get here, how long have you been here, and what keeps you here?
Fred Cowley: I first became a registered representative with Ordway-Saunders Securities Corp. in 1971. I was blessed with a $40,000 REIT sale to an 85-year-old chiropractor whom I later converted to Christianity along with his 84-year-old wife of 65 years. After becoming president and principal stockholder of the firm, I later sold my interest and moved to Fort Worth to build a new firm.

We then proceeded to see the developing needs of senior adults as life expectancy was being extended and the attendant costs of retirement and health care became more critical. Subsequently, I discovered I, too, was a senior adult and firmed my conviction to treat my peers the way I would desire to be treated under similar circumstances.

2. What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Cowley: One must always relate to the needs of the prospect who is sitting in front of you. You must not be “pushy,” but always be more concerned with their well-being than your own. Our business card states, “We Listen.” A gentle, calm, kind spirit reaps multiplied results. Never criticizing others along with giving permission to say “no” has shown us to be trustworthy, caring and honest. Further, to successfully market solutions and strategies, one must also own the products yourself. That is to say, “I personally practice what I preach.”

3. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Cowley: Perhaps the greatest challenge is in combating false ideas and rhetoric from those who are not qualified to be critics. They show up via the Internet, newsprint and airwaves. It is unethical to set forward untruths about various strategies that, in turn, adversely influences seniors to pass up the very solutions which could make a major difference in their retirement existence. One should never set forth misleading concepts that will lead prospects to ignore and miss the very strategies they need to comfortably survive retirement and health failure.

4. What has been your most effective method of prospecting for new clients?
Cowley: Having built my practice through workshops promoted first by direct invitation and then by full-page newspaper ads, we have now turned to an information and fact-filled weekly radio show. This practice has enabled us to enter nearly 20,000 homes every Saturday morning. Through a dedicated, toll-free line, we are setting 20 to 40 appointments per week. The radio show has enabled us to double last year’s volume in the first quarter of this year. Due to demand, with a turnkey program, we are syndicating the radio show through other agents in other markets throughout the country. Previously, we hosted three to four workshops per month.

5. Tell us about your community involvement, and what kind of effect has it had on your practice?
Cowley: I am quite involved with my church in reaching out to 75,000 unchurched people within three miles of our location. These are people whose lives are wrecked with alcoholism, drugs, pregnancies, poverty and incarceration. We go to the jails and the neighborhood with love and genuine caring for their needs. They are hungry for something spiritually fulfilling, and God is using our various ministries to fulfill their needs and heal their pain. Because of our proximity to a major university, Texas Christian, we are also reaching out to students through an “adoption” ministry to give these students attention and a home away from home. Since the school’s mascot is a horned frog, we have named the program “Adopt a Frog” ministry. We have found that God rewards investments made on His behalf and that every act rewards itself. Our practice has been richly blessed by assisting others in meeting their needs when their own methods have failed.

6. Tell us about your typical work schedule — how many hours a week do you usually work, how many appointments per week, how often do you take vacations, do you give seminars, etc.?
Cowley: I take appointments as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, when requested. If a prospect or client needs me on Saturday, I will make time available at their convenience. My job is to be a servant to my clients. My hour-long radio show, “Protecting Your Profits,” is aired live every Saturday morning and then it’s off to the office if needed. I average four appointments per day, Monday through Friday, and usually one or two on Saturday. We have added three producers, one of which is my son, in order to accommodate the demand for personal interviews. My wife and I find pleasure in taking our two sons and their families on one-week trips to the mountains for skiing in the winter or elsewhere in the summer. For us, our family vacation is an important function that allows us to experience a very close relationship with our children and grandchildren.

7. In the next five years, how do you see the landscape of what you do changing?
Cowley: Successful producers will have to work harder and compete smarter to attract prospects which fit their market tier. This is going to require more dedication to ongoing educational opportunities. Also, we must continue advancing our marketing skills, using the media to attract an audience and be competitive. I personally have no plans to retire, but do have a succession plan in one of my sons. Marketing is the key now and will continue to be a challenge to capture clients with legitimate solutions to protecting your profits. My goal for our clients is to help them to remain financially secure as late in life as possible.