Rosemary Caligiuri, Harvest Group Financial; Mark Fields, EstateMark Financial, Inc.; Chris Hobart, Hobart Financial Group; David Hollander, Liberty Group, LLC; and Stefanos Loisou, Financial Workshops.

What makes advisors successful? Is there a blueprint they should follow? What path is the correct one? At Senior Market Advisor we agree there is more than one path in being a successful advisor, but there are common traits we look for in selecting an Advisor of the Year. Those traits we keep coming back to are sales, compliance and community involvement.

These five advisors all hit lofty sales numbers and from conversations with clients, industry professionals and rigorous background checks through the National Ethics Bureau, we found that they do it the right way. In addition to their production and compliance, these five share a strong belief in getting involved in the community, where they become a role model both within and beyond the industry in which they work.

The Advisor of the Year will be announced at Senior Market Advisor Expo, held Aug. 20-22 at Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando. All of the finalists will be on hand and will engage in a lively 90-minute discussion.

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 closing-day keynote event at Senior Market Advisor Expo.

SMA: What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Caligiuri: I started doing seminars once a month for 11 months out of the year. I did that from 1996 to about 2006. And then I had to back down a little because I was getting too busy. I was probably way too busy beforehand, but I’m a good worker. I show up in my office every day and work and do my job and do what I do best and love what I do. Being consistent in getting out there: radio shows, Q&A columns in the newspapers. Consistency and letting your light shine are probably the biggest things I can tell anybody to do.

SMA: What are the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Caligiuri: It’s funny, whenever there’s bad press, I always use it to educate the consumer. I think the biggest challenge is that consumers are unaware of the spin of what’s in the marketplace. It’s our job to educate them. I also believe in a holistic type of planning environment, meaning I don’t think one size fits all, and that’s why I have the diversification of products. Also, we need full disclosure as an industry. You know, “here’s a surrender penalty, here’s how it works, you cannot touch this for five years,” or whatever it may be. We even give our clients a little review sheet, so they know that these are the bullet points of my product. Do annual reviews so the clients know where it fits into their portfolio.

SMA: What has been an effective method of prospecting for new clients for you?
Caligiuri: I do a radio show, so I get clients coming in from that. I also have some agents in my office who I’m getting started, and networking is probably the best way right now. I think the seminar system has had challenges. I’ve never done the dinner seminar thing. For me it’s been more networking and having the consumer see you as an expert in newspapers, in radio, and getting yourself out there.

SMA: Talk a little bit about your community involvement and how it affects your practice.
Caligiuri: Well, I support a lot of the local grassroots-y projects and programs in our community. Being north of Philadelphia, we a great history, so we have opportunities to support some of the candle-lit holiday programs. So, with money or advertising dollars or time, we support those programs. Also, doing a very local radio show we try to be part of the community.

SMA: Tell me about your typical work schedule.
Caligiuri: Monday through Friday, it’s pretty much 9 to 5. I’m very balanced and good to myself, but I also work my tail off. What I normally like to do is only run three big appointments a day, meaning either first appointments (where I’m just meeting a client), a second appointment (where I’m proposing a plan and if I can close it) or a third appointment (with a close). But I like to only run maybe three of those a day, a 10, a 1 and a 3 p.m., and then maybe a quick delivery appointment, if it’s a very simple plan. I also need time during the day to handle my phone calls and do my plans. I go on three to four company trips a year.

SMA: What do you see changing over the next five years, and what do you think can be done better in the industry and your own practice?
Caligiuri: Well, I am a full-blown believer that the planner needs to have expertise — tax expertise, investment expertise, income cash-flow expertise, inheritance expertise. If that does not happen via individual agents going forward over the next few years, I think those people are going to become dinosaurs. I think the planners have to keep up. The industry is doing a phenomenal job in creating product that is going to handle the needs of the boomer. I think the industry is responding beautifully to creation of product. Suitability, I love suitability. I think the industry has to do it because it will keep us all on the straight and narrow and demand that we do the right thing for the client.

SMA: What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Fields: For me, especially in the senior or boomer environment, credibility is paramount. You don’t really have to be a financial guru today; clients are just looking for someone they can trust. You can be an outstanding investment scholar and do all the right things, but I think they’re looking for credibility and trustworthiness. They’re looking for service and to be treated honestly and fairly, and that’s what we do.

SMA: What are the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your
practice?
Fields: The fact there are very few true financial professionals and, after that, trying to handle client money right. For example, in Texas there are 120,000 licensed agents; just in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we have 50,000 licensed agents. In some areas they have to wear buttons so they don’t talk to each other. The average consumer bases his decision about whether to work with somebody on whether they like the person or not, right? Well, some of the greatest con men in the world are the most likable people. So educating the client as to what to look for in an advisor is a huge challenge, and it’s one that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on in my workshops. I’ve educated clients as to questions to ask and credentials and training to look for before putting $400,000 and their entire financial future on the line. I mean, if you’re a plumber and you’re going to fix my toilet, I’m going to look for your certification as a plumber. So I think the challenge of the industry is to upgrade continually, require certification and education.

SMA: What have been some of your most effective methods of prospecting for new clients?
Fields: I’ve only had two my entire career: referrals, always from clients (but anybody that’s doing a decent job has some modicum of client referral); and seminars and workshops. I’ve been at Tarrant County College teaching the Seniors Strategy Program for five years.

SMA: Talk about your involvement in the community, organizations you’ve worked with, and if those have had any effect on your practice.
Fields: Well, the Baptist Foundation is a non-profit organization that has 350 member churches, and I agreed to provide workshops for their seniors at various churches around the area at no cost. I spend all my free time at the colleges or serving on the advisory boards of the different colleges that I’m working with.

SMA: Tell me a little bit about your typical workday — what’s your schedule like?
Fields: I usually get to the office about 7:30 in the morning. I always open the market with a computer every day because I actively trade myself, for my own accounts, and then I do some client trading. I only see clients at 9, 11, 2 or 4 p.m. I usually see clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. We do administration on Fridays and Mondays, typically.

SMA: Over the next five years or so, how do you see this industry changing and what do you think can be done to improve it?
Fields: What I see changing is the groundswell toward the independent RIA gathering a lot of steam. I think the registered rep is going to ultimately be in the minority. Clients absolutely love the independent RIA, fee-based approach. They like to know that somebody is on the same side of the table with them. I think the fixed-index annuity market is going to continue to evolve. Products I offered to clients in ’95 weren’t even available in 2000. The products I offered in 2000 aren’t available now. I expect this trend to take on more steam.

SMA: What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Hobart: My biggest is consistency in my work ethic. I am very consistent in the marketing that I do, whether it’s seminars, follow-up with clients or just communicating with clients on a regular basis. And quite frankly, I work hard; I try to do the best I can for all the folks I’m working with.

SMA: What do you see are the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice right now?
Hobart: Compliance is always an issue. Being securities licensed and making sure you remain compliant becomes more and more important. In this industry there’s a lot of money to be made, and sometimes advisors will abuse that. Whereas, I think that it takes ethical advisors to make sure that they’re doing the right thing for clients. You hate to mention that, but that does seem like an issue that we’re seeing, and that’s why I think we see some of the “Dateline” issues out there. It’s a matter of advisors abusing this privilege that we have.

SMA: What have been some of your most effective methods of prospecting for new clients?
Hobart: For me, the seminar has been extremely effective. Consistently holding seminars, not waiting for the next time to set something up but having my office staff set up everything months in advance. That’s No. 1. The second thing goes back to that relationship issue, which then leads to referrals. I built my practice based on the seminars; referrals now account for more and more of my business.

SMA: As far as community involvement is concerned, what are some of the things you’ve been involved in and have they had any effect on your practice?
Hobart: Yes and no. One thing we don’t do is a lot of industry-type events. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing to do, but I’ve always had a real passion for working with homeless folks. We regularly work for a food pantry in town, and we also do a food service. And because I am financially minded, we also help some folks in debt counseling. We’re so used to seeing clients with large accounts, and sometimes there are people who just need basic advice.

SMA: Tell me about your typical work schedule. What’s a day like for you?
Hobart: I show up at the office somewhere around 8:30 or 9 o’clock. From 9 to 10, I usually prepare for the day, whatever that might involve, and brief my staff as to some things that we need to be working toward. The rest of my day focuses on serving clients. If it’s a face-to-face type of day, we typically have four appointments available: 10, noon, 2 and 4. Obviously, those times aren’t always taken up. In those downtimes, I’m doing follow-up with clients via the telephone or working to build a practice so we always have a full schedule. Usually we wrap up the day somewhere around 5 o’clock.

SMA: What are you seeing over the next five years regarding how the landscape may change or improve?
Hobart: One area we’re going to see a change is in the product offering. I think we’re going to have a lot more creativity and competition within the product area, which is very exciting. I like to see companies that aren’t resting on their laurels but instead are creating something new and exciting for us to work with. Compliance is also a big issue. I really think that’s going to shake the industry quite a bit, for better or worse. Also very important is that we’ve got this baby boomer population that is in desperate need of guidance by adequate financial advisors. There are literally trillions of dollars waiting out there to be properly worked with. Over the next five years, I think advisors are going to come in two flavors: The general advisor who’s going to know a lot about a little but not enough about what’s important, and the specialist advisors who will be called to action to work with these baby boomers.

SMA: What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Hollander: Getting good talent to work with me. That’s probably the hardest part: finding really good employees who can do as good a job as I would hope they would do. It’s very hard to find talented people who are committed to help you grow your business.

SMA: What are the biggest issues facing the industry and your practice right now?
Hollander: The biggest issues facing the industry are certainly the federal regulations that are occurring. The Deficit Reduction Act is the first act by Congress to change the Medicaid system as we know it with respect to entitlement programs for people who are 65 and older. So that’s going to deal with homes, with investments, with retirement accounts. I think most advisors and their clients are unaware of how this can affect them and how they need to plan for long term care in the future. It’s really important to understand how they can protect their assets. The other challenge in our industry relates to each advisor doing the best he or she can to get trained and staying committed to improving themselves.

SMA: What are some effective methods of prospecting that you’ve been able to employ?
Hollander: I have been doing seminars since ’94. I see that as the lifeblood of my business. Because I’ve been doing it so long now, I get a lot of referrals. Referrals are key. We also try a one-on-one dinner program that’s worked really well.

SMA: Tell me a little bit about your community involvement and if any of that work has had an effect on your practice.
Hollander: I have devoted my energy and resources to the schools because in California we’re really suffering. There’s a fiscal emergency in California right now, so a lot of the schools are getting cut. In my town, I was somewhat instrumental in forming a fathers’ group that lobbied to re-do our biggest school. The other example would be with the hot lunch program. The school district didn’t really have a hot lunch program. My wife — actually I give her most of the credit — she found a food organization that had quality food for kids and was instrumental in getting that program instituted at the school.

SMA: Tell me a little bit about your typical work schedule.
Hollander: Usually in the morning, I come in and read the research around 6:30 to 7 a.m. Then I’ll typically check my voicemails. I try to block times to return calls. Then I spend a good deal of time looking over client accounts and seeing what needs to happen on a particular day, calling the client and making sure we get that done. We usually have a staff meeting at least once a week, on Monday morning. I also spend quite a bit of time working with my advisors, mentoring them on products and situations and legal issues. I’ll also spend part of the day with my attorneys, and we’ll talk about cases and strategies. I make a big deal about getting home by 6 p.m. because I want to have dinner with my kids. That’s something my clients know.

SMA: Getting out the crystal ball, how do you see the landscape changing or improving over the next five years?
Hollander: The biggest challenge, I think, to our industry right now is that there are a lot of experienced advisors who are getting older. I read recently that something like a third to a half of the financial advisors will be gone in the next 10 to 15 years. That in itself presents a huge challenge and opportunity. I think the second biggest challenge is that, especially in the senior market, the early years were somewhat dark. I think that there’s a huge opportunity to educate as many planners as possible about the options regarding long term care. I really believe that the success of this business goes back to long term care. How are you going to prepare for your client to live eight, ten years in a skilled nursing facility or assisted living?

SMA: What are the biggest keys to the success of your practice?
Loisou: I think it’s a great deal of understanding that I have and patience in working with people and helping them to achieve and develop their particular goals and objectives and what they want to accomplish. And it’s the great deal of passion I have for what I do. And an earnest desire to help, regardless of what the assets may be.

SMA: What do you see as the biggest issues facing the industry and/or your practice?
Loisou: I think it’s knowledge and, quite frankly, the media overall who don’t understand totally what is being done and the strategies that we represent to help people. I think our industry has to do a much better job of providing information in the public arena so that people are aware that we are there to help.

SMA: What have been some of your most effective methods of prospecting for new clients?
Loisou: For me, it certainly has been the workshops — seminar/workshop-type presentations — where people have come forward. People are generally very pleased with the knowledge that’s provided to them and the trust that they sense, and that has been a very good resource for client development. And probably the next most significant one for me has been the referral.

SMA: Talk about your community involvement and what effect that has had on your practice.
Loisou: I’ve been involved in Masonic organizations and I’m involved in the Shriners’ hospitals and the marvelous work that’s done there. Through those organizations, people have recognized what I’ve done and they’ve asked me to do workshops. And as a result of that, clients have developed on a natural basis. I’ve been very involved in several churches in which we’ve been active, and I’ve chaired our Greek festivals, which are in almost every community on an annual basis.

SMA: Tell me about your typical work schedule. What’s a day like
for you?
Loisou: Typically, I have two to four appointments per day with either current clients or prospective clients, and it’s meeting at their home, sometimes their business. And in the interim, there are always telephone calls to be made and administration that needs to be done with regularity. So, that’s basically a typical day — I don’t have a regimented schedule.

SMA: What are your thoughts about the industry over the next five years?
Loisou: I think the industry could do more in communicating the depth of education that we have. I see a greater need for our services as planners, particularly for the upcoming generations, who are not doing a strong job of saving for the future — the 76 or 78 million baby boomers. So there’s going to be a much greater need going forward, for those of us who express concern and really feel for people, to help them for the upcoming years. Here we are, in the economic circumstances that we find ourselves, hearing more and more about people who are raiding their 401(k)s and jeopardizing their entire financial future. For quite some time now, we have had $30 billion worth of employer matching funds that are going unused by employees across the country. That’s $30 billion per year of money that’s just being left on the table and that’s a very sad situation. So I think it’s getting back to the industry as a whole saying, “We really care. Folks, this is what you need to be doing.”

For more from the Advisor of the Year finalists, check out exclusive video interviews with: Rosemary Caligiuri, Chris Hobart, Stefanos Loisou and Mark Fields.