Senior Market Advisor is proud to announce that Rosemary Caligiuri is the 2008 SMA Advisor of the Year.
Caligiuri took an interesting road to success as an advisor. She spent her first decade out of college as a nurse. Attending a financial seminar got her interested in her current field. Fast-forward to the present and the Langhorne, Pa.-based advisor is a $15-million-plus producer at Harvest Group Financial, which has more than 1,000 customers and an annuity AUM of more than $160 million. Caligiuri is a strong believer in remaining educated on the industry and its products. In addition to the continuing education programs she’s involved in, she’s received her Series 6, 7 and 63 licenses, and to stretch her wings she’s also had a radio show for the past eight years. Following are highlights of our in-depth conversation with her.
SMA: First off, let’s talk about your philosophy on the advisor/client relationship.
Caligiuri: The backbone of our practice is the relationship that we have with our clients. Our first appointments, our data-gathering appointments, take an hour to two hours. I truly believe that we can’t do a full plan — we can’t be as effective as we need to be to our clients — unless we have all that information. Certainly, I will respect if a client has a relationship with another broker or another bank. So the client then trusts us accordingly. We’re very open with our clients and I think that gives them the ability to let their guard down and share information. I think all of these little things build trust for the consumer. So, if it is appropriate, sometimes a client says, “Take it all over.” Then you’ve got a very strong relationship.
SMA: It’s no secret that the economy has slowed down quite a bit. What are some of the strategies or techniques you use to sell in a down market?
Caligiuri: First and foremost, it’s got to meet the client’s needs. Whether it is a down market or an up market, the client’s situation dictates where we put the money and how we position assets. In a down market, I think it is important for us to buy the client time. Market conditions are always cyclical. I don’t sell something just to sell something. It’s never, ever that. In bear markets like we are in now, we can buy portfolios when there is time and mitigate the effective taxes, etc. It all comes back to being educated and translating what is in the world out there to your conference room or kitchen table or wherever you meet your client.
SMA: I read a quote attributed to you that you see yourself as a life coach and a financial planner. Could you expand on that?
Caligiuri: I say it with a broad stroke. When clients come in, we talk about many different questions. Wherever they go in retirement, we encourage them to look at different housing communities or different types of communities. So we’re coaching, completely outside of dollars and cents, to the emotional aspects; they’re hand in hand. Should they move closer to their children? We don’t tell them yea or nay, but we open up lines of communication between family members and decision makers and things like that. When I say “life coach,” it’s more of a facilitator of communication, someone to bring up concepts that they might not have thought about. What we’re not giving them is advice. I would never give a client advice on personal issues, but we’ll throw them on the table. We just help them think through things.
SMA: You’re a woman in a male-dominated industry, but studies show that, more and more, women are making the financial decisions for their families. What type of advantage do you see being a woman in this industry?
Caligiuri: From the functionality of being a planner, I find it an amazing benefit being a woman because I can listen between the lines, have empathy, have the ability to kind of see through things. One of the things that has been interesting is that in the World War II generation, if the husband is the financial decision maker, oftentimes, he wants to know that there’s somebody there that his wife can go to in the event that he passes away. So, oftentimes, it’s because the husband wants me to relate to the wife. I love working with women in the boomer generation; we speak the same language.
SMA: I want to talk to you about the education side of being an advisor, the different programs that you’ve undertaken to make you an expert in certain areas.
Caligiuri: Well, I think one of the best programs is the CASL program, Chartered Advisor for Senior Living, or any of the other very good programs through The American College. You want to have really good in-depth training. I’ve become recently trained with the Ed Slott program and become one of his elite advisors. I also advocate any and every type of training with MDRT — they’ve got phenomenal training and Webinars. You put two or three or four hours a month into formal training, you’re going to learn something. That’s going to translate to your clients, which then builds trust.
SMA: More than ever, the industry has been in the news this year, first, with “Dateline” back in the spring and more recently with the SEC getting involved in its attempts to securitize annuities. What do you think about the public perception of this industry?
Caligiuri: The bottom line is perception is reality to the consumer. In many ways, “Dateline” did a disservice. But I have seen lousy sales techniques and I have seen appropriate sales techniques. When talking with clients or prospects, I use “Dateline” as a reason to talk about the reality that there are planners out there that maybe don’t do a perfect job, but that doesn’t mean the product is bad. As far as Capitol Hill goes and trying to securitize EIAs or FIAs, I don’t think we need more regulation — we need planners that really do think about the clients. How does that happen? It’s like trying to regulate any industry. There are used car salesmen that do great jobs and there are used car salesmen that are going to sell you a used car that was flooded a month ago, but has a new paint job. I think it is up to each and every one of us, and magazines like yours, to get good articles out there to say, “Hey, there are good planners.” That’s why I do a radio show. That’s why I do public works. The good apples need to be out there and shining.