On the surface, the life of a minister and the job of a financial advisor would seem quite different. A minister tends to the spiritual needs of his church, while an advisor focuses on the dollars and cents of a client’s portfolio. Opposite worlds indeed.
Yet Mark Pruitt says that when he was a minister for 18 years, he dealt with many of the same issues he does now as the head of Strategic Estate Planning Services, Inc. in Dallas.
Many times a congregant would come to him, needing financial aid. But before any money was handed over, Pruitt would ask for a detailed accounting of the person’s finances.
“We looked back six months to see how they were spending their money before we would give them resources to pay for things,” he says.
Then there were the times when a parishioner was dealing with the loss of a loved one and had nowhere else to turn. “They turned to the church and I became kind of the point person on that,” he says. “When you lose a loved one, you have so many decisions that have to be made and you really don’t have any resources to turn to.”
He also helped the staff at the church select health-care policies and 403(b) plans. So when he decided to switch to insurance and financial services full-time in 1998, Pruitt felt he had the necessary skills to shepherd people’s financial lives.
Yet he wasn’t looking to simply provide financial advice; he wanted to offer a wide range of resources to his clients, which number about 800. How wide ranging? Well, Pruitt’s clients can get tax consultations, estate planning expertise, nursing home reviews and even help repairing their credit rating. And what happens if a client’s computer malfunctions? “I have a guy that can go to our clients all over the nation and repair their computer,” he says.
Seniors, in particular, do not have those kinds of resources in one place, Pruitt says. “Everybody’s compartmentalized, an attorney’s just an attorney, CPAs just do CPA work, brokers just do broker work, insurance agents just do insurance work,” he says. “We’ve taken a lot of those things and put them in one service where we can refer people out. These are people that I refer so we don’t get paid on most of these services—we’re not paid any commission—they’re just people that we’ve used personally with our own families.”
Those referrals may not bring in extra revenue, but more importantly, they build trust between his firm and his clients— an important cornerstone of his practice given the “major breaches of trust” between the public and financial institutions like banks in recent years, Pruitt says.