Migrating to the senior advisory profession was a natural progression for Curt Knotick. You see, Knotick, CLTC, a financial consultant with Accurate Solutions Group, LLC in Butler, Pa., started as a Metropolitan Life agent in 1989 and became an independent agent in 1994, working primarily with group and individual health products and life insurance.
Knotick’s transition to the senior market came about after he became interested in the long-term care industry and Medicare supplements. His business lines currently include life insurance and long-term care (15 percent), annuities (70 percent) and investment management (15 percent). Until five or six years ago, he says, his clients’ average age was about 65. That’s dropped to 58, as younger clients have realized the need to take control and plan prior to retirement versus just reacting at retirement, Knotick says.
That increased awareness of the need for planning fits well with his focus on retirement income, says Knotick. He tells prospective clients that his role is to be their general contractor for retirement income. Using a homebuilder analogy, he explains that their foundation of income should be guaranteed against market volatility and fluctuation.
In Knotick’s experience, that approach naturally leads to a conversation about annuities. What’s changed since the 2008 stock market crash, though, is that many clients are initiating the conversation about guaranteed income. “Over the last few years I really see a focus on a portion of assets being used for income and utilizing annuities with all the new and innovative income riders and the fixed indexed annuity,” he says. “It has become a central talking point for consumers coming to us and asking us for that information.”
Seminars and referrals are the firm’s primary prospecting methods. Knotick believes that seminars make prospects more comfortable and allow them to ask questions in a non-threatening environment. It gives them an opportunity to have a first meeting and not feel threatened by sitting down in a conference room, he says. “They get to know our core beliefs, they get to understand who we are, and they get to ask us questions in that easy setting. I absolutely love seminars and last year, I believe, about 40 percent of our revenue came from seminars and the rest came from existing clients and referrals.”
The firm’s success in attracting clients allows Knotick to limit the number of new relationships the firm establishes so he and staff can work on delivering quality service and building relationships with clients. That focus allows for a more personal approach to the advisor-client relationship, he says: “We look at our firm as a family. We’re here to solve problems and we’re here to find solutions and we’re here to guide someone into and through retirement.”
Controlling the firm’s growth also helps Knotick stay abreast of industry and product developments, which he cites as an ongoing challenge. His focus is mainly on income planning, wealth transfer and tax strategies, concerns that typically surface during the distribution phase of a client’s life.
Knotick has spent a significant amount of time in community service, although he stresses that he views those activities as service in line with his faith-based values, not as business networking. He’s served as assistant treasurer for his church and on the board of the Butler County Humane Society, a local animal shelter. His current activities include budget counseling through Crown Financial Ministries and teaching retirement planning at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa. Although the college students are far from retirement, Knotick has found that they are thinking about it. “It’s great to have that conversation when someone’s 18, 19, 20 years old and they’re actually seeking that information and trying to understand [that] we’re responsible for our own retirement,” he says.
Success rarely comes without effort and Knotick is no exception to that rule. He and his wife are in the office each day at 7:00 a.m. Mondays and Fridays are primarily service, client prep and staff meeting days. The rest of the week is devoted to meetings with clients or prospects, and Knotick limits those meetings to four per day. The midweek days can get long, he adds. “Some of my meetings are evenings because a lot of prospects and clients are still working. So, those days may not end until 8:00 at night.”
Accurate Solutions Group, LLC
Number of years in industry: 24
Total production 2012: $11 million
On addressing the needs of baby boomers: “We are active in marketing to baby boomers who are in the ‘red zone’ of retirement. Those individuals need retirement planning that uses insurance products, but they are also still working and in the accumulation phase of life so our recommendations are a little different. The transition to retirement is just beginning to take place. As an Investment Advisor Representative, I’m able to provide advice on both insurance and investments to help guide them through the red zone and into retirement. Baby boomers want expertise, but also like convenience. We can bring that to the table, being their complete advisor, since we are licensed in all disciplines.”
On designations: “In my dealings with clients, the topic of designations doesn’t come up too often. Clients and prospective clients want to know, first and foremost, that you are acting in their best interests and not your own. Being Series 65 registered on the investment side in a fiduciary capacity goes a long way in helping them understand that difference.”