When it comes to thoroughbred racing, there’s a lot more on the line than those horseshoe-shaped victory wreaths. At this month’s Breeders’ Cup (Nov. 4–5), for example, prize-winning horses will trot home with purses and awards worth a combined $26 million.
Who manages all that money after race day has come and gone? In many cases, the job belongs to Jonathan Green and Alan Rubin, CLU, co-founders of Woodbridge, N.J.-based Targeted Financial Services. Their firm specializes in serving thoroughbred owners, trainers and jockeys — a market segment that makes up about 25% of the company’s 400-plus full-service clients.
It isn’t an easy clientele to serve. Insurers aren’t especially keen to add policyholders who work around horses averaging about 1,000 pounds. The community is close-knit, so if a financial advisor makes a mistake, chances are, everyone’s going to know about it. And home visits can be time consuming, since most farms aren’t exactly a subway stop away from the office.
But Green, Rubin and James Payne — a third partner who lives in Texas — have persisted, developing workarounds to the challenges and building a thriving business that now relies almost exclusively on referrals.
“There’s an inherent trust factor involved with what we do,” Green says. “Our clients know us through the racing industry, and now, through word of mouth. They trust us.”
Finding a winning strategy
That trust, of course, wasn’t forged overnight. It took a lot of elbow grease — and a few family connections.
As a kid, Green helped his parents run DJ Stable, a horse-racing operation on the East Coast that won multiple titles. His parents later switched gears and took over the Green Group, an accounting firm Green’s grandfather had run for years, and a few of their horse-racing colleagues signed on as clients. After graduating college, Green, with his parents’ blessing, spun some of those horse clients off for himself.
Not long after that, Green and Rubin met through mutual clients — Rubin was working on the clients’ financial planning and Green on their taxes and estate planning. Neither was looking for a business partner at the time, but as they worked with each other, something clicked.
“It was a great meeting of the minds,” Green says. “After four or five months of working together, we realized there was a real synergy between us. And we’re still kind of in that honeymoon phase.”
It helped that Rubin brought a solid background in insurance and financial planning to the partnership. Growing up, Rubin had been inspired by a family friend who had his own insurance firm in New York. “Seeing how he enjoyed the business, how successful he was, how flexible his time was — it really influenced me,” Rubin says. He earned his CLU while completing his finance degree in college and went into business as soon as he graduated.
Armed with Rubin’s expertise and Green’s contacts, the pair founded Targeted Financial Services and began the process of building a client base the old-fashioned way: door to door. For several summers, Rubin and Green would travel to the horse-racing hotbeds of Lexington, Ky., and Ocala, Calif., and drive, house to house, ringing doorbells.
“Literally, we would go farm to farm and ask them to give us a shot with their financial planning,” Green says. “It would just be the two of us in the car, in the middle of July, in Ocala, eating potato chips, just going from farm to farm. You have to pay your dues.”
Serving a rare breed
During these visits, Green and Rubin noticed a lot of common financial challenges among their thoroughbred clients.