At the 2014 MDRT annual meeting in Toronto, NU Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch interviewed Marcus Henderson, president and CEO of Henderson Financial Group, Inc. The following are excerpts of the interview.
Hersch: Tell me about your practice. How do you see the business evolving within the context of wider industry trends?
Henderson: Many life insurance and financial services firms like ours have shifted from being solo practices to multi-disciplinary, multi-advisor firms. Much of the advisor community is moving in this direction. My firm has, among other staffers, two CPAs, a CFP, plus two other advisors. We’re structuring our practice much like law firm, with senior partners.
Hersch: Do younger advisors also have a place in the firm? Are there challenges in bringing them up to speed on the skill sets they need?
Henderson: This is one of the most challenging things for us. One of our advisors, who is 27, has a lot of talent and a great pedigree. He’s developing his skills, but I imagined that he would be further along in his practice than he is now.
Hersch: Where do you see young advisors falling short? Some observers complain that young people overuse social media and therefore have underdeveloped personal communications skills. Do you share this view?
Henderson: Social media is making many young people unsocial. Their over-dependence on technology has hurt other communications skills. I hired a young advisor who had terrible hand-writing because, in school, he always typed everything on a computer keyboard. And this was someone who came from an affluent family.
Young advisors — the GenYers and Millennials — also frequently don’t understand why they can’t text or use social media in a business environment with the same ease they do personal communications. They’re perplexed as to why a text message has to be approved by compliance. So there’s a learning curve involved.
Hersch: As an older advisor, are you catering principally to clients and prospects in your age group — GenXers and late boomers?
Henderson: Yes — I work less well with younger people than I do with those my age. That said, I always have to be mindful of the three groups of folks who come to me seeking retirement or other financial planning advice.
Some overconfident prospects have to be prodded to see things differently before they change their saving and spending habits. For those with a more realistic mindset, I find that I just need to sit down with them and communicate what needs to be done. A third group of people comes to me distressed by the prospect of building a large retirement nest egg over a 10- or 15-year period. These people will do whatever I say.
Hersch: What are the top three issues you’re facing in your practice? How are you addressing with them?
Henderson: The challenges are mostly positive ones that come with a growing practice. When interfacing with younger colleagues who want to work full-time and take good care of our clients, a key challenge is just setting up my time properly to making sure we’re well positioned to assist clients fully.
Administratively, we also can use a para-planner — someone to fill the back-office gap between the office manager and the advisor whose job entails meeting with clients and prospects. The need for such para-planners is widespread in the advisor community; and that’s reflected in the high compensation for people in the position. I think the field will expand significantly, much as nurse practitioners are fulfilling a growing need in the medical community.
Finally, we’ll need to continue to leverage best practices to achieve greater synergies among our various practice specialties. In our firm, I’m the rainmaker and product guy. I have a director of financial planning who is also CPA. A third advisor handles fee-based planning, while a fourth does only retirement planning. Much like a law firm or a doctor’s office, the specialties within our firm need to be able to work together seamlessly to best serve the client.