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Life Health > Life Insurance

13 insurance industry heroes you need to know

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Like medicine or social work or education, insurance is an industry that performs everyday miracles. It is an industry designed to protect, to guard assets and individuals and families. It is an industry that transforms lives.

There are many heroes in this line of work, most of them unsung. They run the gamut from executives directing 70 million hours of charitable work in a single year to visionaries working to transform the way we think about and plan for death to educators inspiring the next generation of workers. These are the true success stories, the ones that leave behind a legacy.

CEO, Knights of Columbus

LHP: Why Knights of Columbus? How did you get your start?
CA: We are a Catholic fraternal benefit society, and I joined my local council in the 1980s in the Washington, D.C. area. I was attracted to the mission of the organization, the idea of combining charitable outreach and Church and community service, with the idea of protecting the financial stability and future of Catholic families. Over the next several years, I moved into leadership positions at the local and state levels of the organization, and then at the corporate level.

LHP: Describe what you do.
CA: Because we are a fraternal benefit society whose first principle is charity, my work entails focusing both on the enormous charitable outreach that we do — $170 million and 70 million hours donated by Knights last year — and on the top-rated insurance program that we provide to our members. We are rated A++ by A.M. Best, with $94 billion in insurance in force and $21 billion in assets under management. We have seen solid growth in our charitable giving and our insurance business over the past decade and a half, so my yearly calendar is filled with a mix of insurance, business, Church and charitable meetings, activities and events.

LHP: Describe how you’ve experienced such strong growth in the Knights’ financial resources, especially that of life insurance.
CA: We work hard at what you might call mission integrity. The Knights of Columbus was founded more than 130 years ago to protect the financial future of Catholic families in the event of the tragic death of a breadwinner and to provide charity to those on the margins of society. Today, those same founding principles are at work in every aspect of our business, guiding our corporate governance, our professional agency force, our investments, and our day-to-day business operations. It is this continued commitment to our foundational principles that is the key to our ethical, sustainable and successful business model.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
CA: This past year, we were certified by the Ethisphere Institute as a “World’s Most Ethical Company.” We were one of two companies so honored in Ethisphere’s life insurance category, and one of less than 150 companies worldwide. I think this award, combined with our solid growth in both insurance business and charitable giving, and our top rating from A.M. Best for 39 consecutive years all indicate that we have a winning, sustainable model for growth precisely because that growth is based on ethical principles.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
CA: The day after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, I launched our 9/11 Heroes Fund in the amount of $1 million. We immediately understood that those who had lost a loved one who was a first responder would have an immediate need for emergency funds to pay the bills, or the rent, or the mortgage, and so we sent our agents out to meet with the widows of the fallen, and with a simple signature on an affidavit, we provided funds for their immediate use. Some of those first responders who fell that day were Knights of Columbus, most were not, but the families of more than 400 fallen heroes received our support because of our focus on both insurance and charity.

LHP: What excites you most about the insurance industry today?
CA: What excites me most about the insurance industry today is that when tragedy strikes a family, we’ve done something to protect their future, and we have been doing that since 1882.

Regional Vice President, Midland National Life Insurance

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
AB: One could say insurance is in my blood. My father started out in the business when he was 19. At the ripe age of 14 I started working in his office doing mostly clerical work. It was after my freshman year of college, again working in his office, that I decided I wanted to do what he did and become his succession plan. At the time he was a Regional Sales Director for Midland National Life. I will never forget the day I told him this, because he did not believe me. I switched my major to finance and became life and health licensed in the summer of 2008. I graduated college in 2010 and started working full time as an assistant regional sales director.

When I made this decision back in 2007, friends as well as many of my dad’s agents told me to go work for a large company and receive my training there and then come back. However, my dad always taught me if you are going to do something, do it right the first time. I wanted to learn from the man who was not only my hero, but also the smartest man I know. He passed away in August of 2013 and I have since been blessed with opportunity to succeed him as the regional for Midland National. So, now I have an even deeper understanding of the need for insurance, having personally experienced it myself.

LHP: Describe what you do.
AB: I partner with agents to uncover life insurance opportunities existing inside their current book of business to help them save time and make more money. I deliver turnkey sales ideas to be implemented into a practice. I recruit new agents and work with existing agents to grow their life practice. I assist with marketing strategies to find new clients. I work on complex case design with agents.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
AB: My target market is the independent agent looking to increase their life production. These agents are hungry for more. I would like to bring younger people into the business to do what I did with my dad, and help those young guys develop a relationship to become a succession plan for someone who would like to exit the business.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
AB: My father’s passing was very sudden. I am extremely proud that at the age of 25 I was able to step into his role successfully.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
AB: An agent called us asking for advice about a client with a terminal illness who was talking about taking their own life because their medical bills were ruining the family. This client wanted them to no longer suffer and have the life insurance. The agent was very distraught and was asking how he should handle this. We asked him to look into if the policy this client owned had a terminal illness rider attached to it. The agent called the product company and it did indeed. The client no longer was talking about ending life, but was able to accelerate the death benefit and take a vacation with family.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
AB: All of the possibility!!!! I feel from talking to agents who do property and casualty or financial planning that most do not focus on life insurance. LIMRA has said that we are at an all-time low for people having life insurance coverage. There is a lot of opportunity out there. I am also excited for the potential for younger people to get into this industry. That is a huge focus of mine and I really want to show young people that they can succeed in this business.


Financial Services Professional, WestPoint Financial

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
SB: I started selling life insurance the fall of my senior year in college. Upon graduation, with $400, a used car and a degree from one of America’s great universities in my back pocket, I moved to a city where I did not know anyone and started my career. Plan B was to make Plan A work.

LHP: Describe what you do.
SB: I try to be a hard-charging, high-producing sole practitioner with an upbeat attitude and an offbeat sense of humor in a big small town [South Bend, Ind.]

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice? 
SB: I look for people who do well that I can have an important relationship with. I serve as a problem-solver for people who own or control small and medium-sized family companies. I tell clients to think of me as Chairman of their Executive Benefit Committee.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
SB: I have written life insurance on a garbage man and I have written life insurance on the CEO of a Fortune I00 corporation. I have had 72 death claims in my career; the first one was for $5,000 and I had a death claim last May for $5,000,000. Serving as President of the Million Dollar Round Table wasn’t work for me; it was a glorious responsibility.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
SB: I was referred to a man in his 40s who had founded a company that employed over 100 people. I kept calling on him and he kept seeing me; but it was always one step forward and two steps back. It just felt like I was not making any progress; yet he really needed to own a lot more life insurance and I kept calling on him and he kept seeing me.

One morning he said, “I can’t see you; I forgot you were coming.” Another day I was shown into his office and he said, “You have two minutes.” I have a little pride; however, I knew I could help him.

One afternoon I was back in his office and we were interrupted by a man from the shop floor who needed his autograph. I asked, “How much do you pay the people out in the shop?”

He said, “Ten dollars an hour. Why?”

I picked up my briefcase and walked over to the comer of his office. I said “Would you pay a man ten dollars an hour if he stood here with a million dollars in this bag for your wife, Becky, when you die? However, if you live, the man will give you the bag back with all the money you put in, plus interest.”

The man looked at me and said, “Now you have my attention.”

After fourteen appointments, over an eight-month period, we placed a million dollars of whole life in force. This rather large man, who had played college basketball, only paid three years of premium. The next three years waiver of premium paid for the policy while Multiple Sclerosis ravaged his body. Six years after placing this case, I had the honor of delivering a seven-figure tax-free check to a loving widow with a school age son.

Selling life insurance at the high end is an art, and being persistent never goes out of style.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
SB: The products have never been better; the need to insure people properly has never been greater; yet tomorrow morning nobody will be lined up outside my door wanting to see me.  I love the fact we get to crusade for something that is good for the American public and we are paid well to do it.

Managing Partner, Barlas & Chambers, LLC

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
GC: Having personally dealt with the very difficult loss of my father, my brother-in-law and five of my father’s employees in a tragic airplane accident, I saw firsthand what happens to a family after they lose loved ones.

As the person in charge of dealing with all of the financial affairs of my father’s business claims, as well as his personal claims and the claims of his employees, I felt at a loss. Over time I realized how unprepared each person was in financial, estate and tax planning. This is the reason why I am passionate about taking care of my clients.

LHP: Describe what you do.
GC: I am one of the founders of Barlas & Chambers, LLC. As an advisor, I work with clients, providing them with “sleep insurance” and assisting them with the many facets of retirement. My team and I have the unique ability to create complete retirement solutions with incredible success.

Our commitment to excellence is evidenced by the selection of our staff and the quality of their work. We pride ourselves in having a team that sincerely cares, really listens, and puts the client’s interests before their own. In short, we treat clients the way we would want to be treated. It’s our exuberant commitment: to put them above all else.

The complete services we offer through our practice (utilizing partners when necessary) are: taxes, elder law attorneys, estate planning attorneys, money under management, financial planning, insurance practice, Medicare and Medicare supplements and long term care planning.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
GC: Our target market is boomers (ready to retire) to seniors (already retired). We have a very active tax practice; we process over 1,200 returns annually. This helps us look at our clients holistically and help find ways using the IRS tax code to in some cases lower their taxes and increase their income.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
GC: I strongly believe in giving back to my community in Tarpon Springs, Fla. and spend much of my free time volunteering at local charity events with my wife, Sandy, and our two children. We have, each and every year, proudly supported our men and women who have served our country. In 2013, we raised $13,000 to be given to veterans in need.

Being a veteran myself, I find that it is important to always remember and never forget what our soldiers are doing for us each and every day. Our community and the freedoms we are blessed with are important to me. I served in the armed forces and my brother still serves. Through a partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Sand Soldiers of America, we met some amazing men and women and raised awareness and monies to give back to our brave men and women willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a veteran’s service organization that offers a variety of programs and services for wounded veterans of the military actions following the events of 9/11/2001. I went to NY and helped at the First Aid station distributing water to the Emergency Responders.

Sand Soldiers of America is a local organization inspired by the veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I see the way Sand Soldiers encourages businesses, political and civic leaders to get involved and unite their community in support of our veterans and their families. I love that and the positive impact it has on our society as a whole.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
GC: Nothing better than an example that just happened this week! I had met with a client and his wife over eight months ago. We did some initial financial, estate and insurance planning at that time. He had elected to take Social Security at 64, and is now 66. His wife is will be turning 66 in 11 months. As we help clients determine the best choice for Social Security, we email back and forth different solutions. Today, we finally met to make the final decision and by utilizing our advice, he and his wife will increase their overall retirement by $125,000 over the next 20 years. They were in tears.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
GC: What excites me most about this ever-changing industry is the new ways we can help our clients retire with new technologies being made available to our industry. For example, we use a Social Security timing calculator, which allows us to help clients identify their maximized benefit and their retirement shortfalls. This valuable information is what I use to help clients see where we can bridge their retirement gap.

Also, we use a retirement analyzer that similarly allows us to help the client identify and maximize their retirement with 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. The analyzer does not take into consideration Social Security benefits to the extent of what the Social Security timing calculator picks up. With both tools, we can identify and potentially increase a married couple’s benefits by $200,000 in their lifetime, simply by making intelligent and informed choices at the right time.


Risk Management and Insurance Program Director, Eastern Kentucky University

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
BC: When I was in my second year of law school, I was walking down the hall of the school after an estate planning class and saw a 3×5 card thumbtacked to the Placement Office bulletin board. It said: “If you want to go to lunch with an insurance agent, contact the placement office.” I had not had lunch, so I went to the placement office. They said that there was a seminar downtown for insurance agents conducted by some attorneys from the home office. If any law students were interested, they were invited for a free lunch. So, I went downtown to get a free lunch. I met the home office attorneys from Northwestern Mutual and listened to a fascinating speech by Charlie McCaffery on how to use life insurance to solve estate liquidity problems. That lunch led to a job as a summer law clerk with NML and then a fulltime job with the NML Advanced Underwriting department after I graduated law school.

LHP: Describe what you do.
BC: I teach insurance and risk management in the Insurance Program in the College of Business at Eastern Kentucky University. We have 80 students — mostly juniors and seniors — who are majoring in insurance and risk management and looking to go to work in the insurance industry. I also serve as a consultant and expert witness in lawsuits involving insurance companies and insurance agents in courts throughout the United States. I also teach an ethics seminar for insurance agents.

LHP: Describe the No. 1 goal you work to achieve.
BC: My goal at EKU is to find and educate young scholars to prepare them to enter the insurance business.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
BC: One great achievement occurs when one of my students graduates, goes into field sales and comes back to report that he or she discovered that what we taught now makes sense and that they are making sales.

LHP: Share a story about a client or person you have helped.
BC: I am very proud to have been involved a bit with the appellate court reversal of the Glenn Neasham conviction.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
BC: The prospect of my graduates filling the huge need for smart, knowledgeable young people to replace the large numbers of agents, brokers, field management and home office people who are retiring in record numbers.

LHP: What would you say to convince recent high school grads or people who are looking to go back to college to study insurance?
BC: A degree in insurance is a ticket into one of the finest business opportunities possible. We are in the business of minimizing the risks inherent in life. When bad things happen, such as when a breadwinner dies or becomes disabled, the insurance industry is there to provide the means and the security for people to stay in their world. When property is damaged, destroyed or stolen, the insurance industry is there to restore that which was lost. What could be better than that?

Vice President, New York Life Foundation

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
MC: During and following graduate school, I worked in the public sector doing social work targeted at children and their needs. I was particularly interested in work being done through volunteerism and employee engagement programs at New York Life, when the opportunity to join the company came my way. The company’s reputation as a good corporate citizen was something I personally admired.

Since I started my career here in 2000, I have had the opportunity to work across the entire company to put our philanthropic programs into action. I am inspired by the challenges of the work and the satisfaction of the commitment we make every day. Our role is to service others. This business is about people. I believe that we not only have the ability, but a responsibility, to help keep the good things going in people lives and in our communities.

LHP: Describe what you do.
MC: As the vice president of the New York Life Foundation, my responsibilities include setting and driving the philanthropic strategy for the company. I recommend philanthropic investments and develop charitable opportunities that will demonstrate our values, align with our business, leverage our talents and match the interests of our agents and employees in addressing the needs of the community. 

I have held several positions in New York Life’s Corporate Responsibility area during my more than 13 years here; the fondest was managing our community service program, Volunteers for Good, a program that develops and promotes volunteer opportunities for New York Life’s agents, employees and retirees. I consider this program to be the heart of the company. In that role, I had the opportunity to see the selfless efforts of our employees and agents across the country. I was able to foster great collaborations while meeting the needs of our local communities and aligning with our business objectives

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
MC: Childhood bereavement is a topic that many do not know about, or like to discuss. I am proud that this is one of our primary focus areas and we play a leadership role for the field. The level of our involvement runs deep. Whether we are providing a grant to fund a bereavement program, convening leaders in the field to discuss best practices, creating tangible resources or engaging in volunteer service, we are there. 

By integrating our philanthropic work with our business, I am able to provide a bridge between the resources of the company and the needs of our communities, while also aligning with the work that we do as an insurance company: protection and security for people. 

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
MC: One of my proudest achievements was growing the Volunteers for Good program from a New York Home Office initiative to a national, company-wide program. The program has matured from a “nice thing to do” to an integrated business strategy supporting the financial investment of the company and the New York Life Foundation. My role earned me opportunities to grow my career and be part of our giving strategy. Our New York Life volunteers are amazing and I am proud to be part of a work family that gives so much in our communities.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
MC: I work with many great organizations; however, creating a strategy that has helped bereavement service providers to increase their capacity and resources in their communities has been transformational. I’ve helped raise awareness for the childhood bereavement field by uniting with remarkable partners including National Alliance of Grieving Children (NAGC), Comfort Zone Camp, the Moyer Foundation/Camp Erin, TAPS and the Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. These partnerships are influential in the childhood bereavement sector and have widespread impact as we are able to connect to local organizations in small towns and big cities — getting at the heart of the client, the bereaved child and family. I personally have seen how our involvement makes a difference and has helped promote childhood bereavement as an important issue that needs to be addressed further.  

One great story is our partnership with the NAGC. Less than five years ago, NAGC was a volunteer-run organization. Today, with New York Life’s support, it has significantly increased its ability to provide support and services to their member organizations. It has formalized gatherings and outreach initiatives to become the leading voice of the bereavement sector.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
MC: At this moment, we are supporting two groundbreaking initiatives that will have a significant impact in the childhood bereavement field. We are working on an online resource for all educators, school administrators and other professionals within the educational system in partnership with The Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and the top school associations. This resource and collaboration will provide the support and tools for educators across the country to know how to assist grieving students and their families. In addition, we are embarking on a national awareness campaign to increase the national dialogue on childhood bereavement. Although we have already accomplished a great deal in the bereavement sector, we are currently at a pivotal point in our work. I am excited about these projects and eager for the results.

LHP: What do you think is your legacy to the industry?
MC: I believe I have demonstrated that philanthropic activities are a concrete part of New York Life’s business strategy and, in particular, having a “defining cause” is an integral part of a successful business.  I am proud that New York Life has made a long term commitment to invest in projects that I am personally passionate about.

CBC Principal, Goodwin Benefits Group

LHP:  Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry? 
CG: I spent 16 years at a company that informed me the day after Christmas that they were going to let me go. It gave me an opportunity to evaluate what I liked most about my job, which was something that I’d never really done before. I realized I enjoyed the part where I was actually helping people with their day-to-day lives, which was the benefits piece. While I was in Human Resources, I had the opportunity to speak to people around the country about how their benefits applied to their lives. You really are acting as a confidant in many cases. Your clients are placing trust in you to make recommendations that will have a huge impact on how they live.

I began to look for a job in the area where there was a one-stop shop, whether you’re an individual or a company, to help you make the right decisions on behalf of the corporate structure, but also on behalf of the employees. I couldn’t find one of those companies until almost a year after I lost my job. My husband and I were making our plans for New Year’s Eve when a call came in from one of the agencies that I had applied to. They offered me the job, and it was exactly a year to the day from the time that I lost the job that I loved to the time that I got the job that I came to love. My first day was the first working day in January 1992.

LHP: Describe what you do. 
CG: I own and operate an independent insurance agency in Dallas. There are three of us here, including myself; my husband who keeps the books, deposits the revenue and writes the checks; and an employee who has worked for me since 2003.

The company I originally went to work for was a regional agency that expanded out of the Kansas City market. We had 15 regional offices, Dallas being one of them. I had management responsibilities over the Dallas market, really over all of Texas. At a point, I began to get frustrated with the fact that I was doing so much corporate stuff. I wasn’t doing what I really liked to do. In 2004, I prepared a budget so that I could focus more on what I really want to do, and when I presented it, I was told that we were not going to make an investment in the Texas market. So, I asked them, “What are my options?” There was only one option that was a real solution: Buying the business myself.

I thought, “I can’t do this. I’ve never done this. I don’t have the training or the education.” But we worked out a very generous arrangement for the purchase of the business, and in 2007 we opened our doors as Goodwin Benefits Group. I have clients today that I have been working with since 1992.

I attribute much of my success to my affiliation with NAHU.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice? 
CG: Our target market is small group, which in Texas is still 2-50 employees. However, we also assist individuals who are referred to us, or find us on the Internet, and people who are looking for help through the Medicare maze. We cover the spectrum of benefit plans, from what we call “core” benefits, to the ancillaries and other tax-favored programs.  

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of. 
CG: I have to admit that my proudest achievement to date is the initial roll out of our CHIP/Children’s Medicaid outreach project that started about five years ago. Mind you, it is not my agency alone that sees the worthiness of such a project. Our whole statewide association picked up the banner and ran with it. Looking ahead, our plan is to continue to act to fulfill our mission statement, which begins “To protect the consumer …” You think of consumers as those who buy insurance, but that’s not the only consumer. There are also consumers that can’t afford to buy insurance, consumers for whom access to clinic-based care is the only option. This is where the need really exists.

I think Texas is still the state with the largest population of uninsured, running between 25–26 percent. We work in the community day in and day out, and I still have moments — many moments — where I announce to employees: “Your employer is going to pay a high percentage of your cost of coverage.” There’s always someone in the audience that either asks or shows by body language, “I still cannot afford that.” That’s a population that needs to be reached.

This kind of education and outreach is critically important to me. I was a single parent, expecting a baby, 27 years old, and the children’s father deserted me. The only thing I could do was go downtown and stand in line with everyone else who needed help. That’s how I found out about the prenatal program for expectant mothers who needed resources. And that’s what you look for. You look for a young woman who is living at barely poverty level who really can’t afford coverage for her family. She either doesn’t know about the options or she is afraid of the cost. These are the people we are aiming to reach with these programs. 

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today? 
CG: I get excited when others are excited. There are so many opportunities out there to expand and grow our business, and certainly so many people who need our help. Yes, agents — myself included — are concerned about the continuing government intrusion into what WAS a very successful distribution system, but we have to stop the ranting and do our jobs. In the agent community, we used to say, “There’s enough business to go around,” and there still is. Some are just so paralyzed by the stress of learning everything and communicating everything that they forget to look at the forest.


President & Founder, Funeral and

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
CPH: My father was a stockbroker, and for three summers I interned with him at what used to be Paine Webber, which is now UBS. I was a finance major at University of Florida, and I ended up taking a job at my father’s friend’s firm, who was one of the top money managers in the world. I was his protégé and learned a lot about the market — the technical, the fundamental, I wrote their monthly stock market updates. It was a great, rapid entry into the financial services business. It was a pure blessing, on top of having my father, of course.

I learned a lot. But I was the Vice President of Marketing and Sales, traveling 3-4 weeks of every month. It was very draining. A friend invited me to a workshop on the LEAP system, and I agreed to attend. I didn’t know term from whole life when I entered the workshop, but what I really liked about the system was that it took a comprehensive look at a financial plan rather than focusing just on investments. It emphasized that protecting your money was equally important to growing it. So I decided to leave my current firm and set up my own practice with Guardian. Out of the gate, I was New Agent of the Year, and then Agent of the Year for seven consecutive years. I really took to the insurance side and I believed in the value there.

Ultimately, I started to learn about other products and opportunities, and I realized I wasn’t doing right by my clients by selling products from only one carrier. So I left and went independent and since then I’ve had my own retirement and financial planning practice. I’ve changed from focusing mostly on financial planning to focusing mostly on retirement.

LHP: Describe what you do.
CPH: I lost my mother to cancer. When my mother got sick, I soon realized that it was the perfectly wrong time to ask about funerals, to wonder who we should notify. I remember after she passed sitting in a room with a funeral director going through burial choices. I was trying to act like I knew what I was doing, but I had no idea.

Once I got through the difficult process, I wanted to find a way to help people that were facing the death of a loved one. I had already begun building, because I had had six clients pass in a short period of time. I had delivered on claims, but I realized that I was no value to my clients when they died. So I started to build a website that was designed to have people go to one place and get everything that they were searching for. When my mother passed I put it on hold for a year because it seemed too creepy and weird to continue.

I write for IARFC’s magazine, “The Register,” and I was on the phone with their editor one day and he asked me about the website. I told him why I put the project on hold. And he said,  “It’s funny, Chris, we can barely use the word guaranteed in our industry, but death is a guarantee. It’s the one thing that we can really prepare people for.” The whole room lightened after I hung up the phone. I felt like my mother’s loss became a story that would help others make a difficult situation easier. So then I took and just went crazy.

If you look at life insurance, if you look at estate planning, sandwiched right in between those should be an end of life plan. It’s the missing piece of the financial planning process, something that needs to be standard and routine.

LHP:  Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
CPH: My target market is boomers and seniors, and the No. 1 way I reach them is through seminars. The largest church in my county has gone through the fourth round now of my seminars, which have three parts: In Part 1, an estate attorney covers wills vs. trust; in Part 2, we talk about life insurance; in Part 3, we talk about end of life planning. Over 75 percent of the people that attend these seminars ultimately come visit us as a prospective client. When I worked with the senior market, the response was infinitely better: 100 percent signed up for appointments. Every single one of them is now a client.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
CPH: The proudest accomplishment I have is being what seems to be a lone ranger in encouraging and educating the financial services industry to have a conversation about end of life planning. I believe that five years from now this is going to be something that we standardly talk about. I’m proud that my mother’s loss has inspired me not just to help families but also to enter into a niche market that has explosive upside. With the baby boomers, the evolution of the industry and the Internet, there’s going to be an exponentially growing opportunity to add this type of planning to your financial practice for revenue. The cost of dying has risen at an average of nine percent, and that’s only going to go higher. Not being prepared is selfish, and it can be avoided.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
CPH: One recent story is about the estate-planning attorney that I host workshops with. His parents are 90 and 89, and six months ago we went out to do their advanced planning. They didn’t do anything after the first appointment. But then my friend’s father became very ill, so I went out and met with them again. His dad could pass any day now. But if either of his parents pass tomorrow, I have every single detail and I can help them through the loss, and I know it brings tremendous peace of mind. My colleague has become so passionate after seeing the value face-to-face that he now has every one of his clients work with me on an end of life plan. Before the fact, this type of planning is eye opening; after the fact, it’s overwhelming.


Owner, Legacy Financial Network

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
MM: I was a senior in college, an entrepreneurship major, and I had to present an idea to a group of venture capital firms. One of the VCs was an executive with Northwestern Mutual, and she spoke to me afterward and tried to convince me to enter the industry. I really didn’t want to do it. In fact, I went home and was joking about it at a barbeque — and my dad said, “You know, you should really try it. You have an NW Mutual policy, your sister does.” I listened to him and ultimately decided to pursue the opportunity.

LHP: Describe what you do.
MM: What we do is run a four-step retirement education process. When I was new to the industry and in training, one statistic I heard is that a successful practice has at least 500 clients, at about a ten percent conversion rate from prospect to client. And I heard this and thought: I don’t want to say we made a difference because we helped 500 people. My mind works backward and I think, “What about those other 4,500?”Because really, if you talk to 4,500 people who ultimately walk away, you may have done more harm than good. They may at one point have realized that they have a need for life insurance, but they may not ever buy it. If someone else approaches them in three months, they’ll say, no, I’ve already talked about it with Mike and made a decision. So I want a much higher conversion rate than 10 percent, not only for the success of my business but to ensure I am helping the greatest number of people.

Step No. 1 is conversation. I tell my clients, I’m here to serve you. I believe that all of us want our work to have meaning. We talk about baseball, grandkids, whatever it may be. This step is about getting to know the client and establishing a connection.

Step No. 2 is gathering data, running tests, analyzing whether there are ways to increase your income without increasing risk. We teach people about standard deviation, and I like to use a driving analogy to do this. If you drive for 10 miles on a highway going 90 miles per hour are you going to get in trouble? Maybe not. If you go 20 miles, you have a higher likelihood of getting pulled over. If you drive for 50 miles, you have a much higher likelihood. It’s the same with standard deviation. The longer you take the same risk, the higher the likelihood that you’ll get hurt.

In this step, we teach our clients how to use Morningstar, how to double-check your advisor’s work. We go over your statement. We teach them to find the DNA of their mutual funds, to look at that ticker symbol. We help them understand whether they are in a fee-based relationship or a commission-based relationship.

Step No. 3 is reviewing the results of our tests. We go over standard deviation again, but now we have the figures from their account(s) using Morningstar. We go over fees versus commissions again and examine where they’re at. We review taxable income in relationship to tax brackets and Roth planning. This step also shows them retirement asset balances yearly based on the assumptions we made together in Step Two.  

Step No. 4 is making recommendations. Here, we look closely at our client’s goals — the X, Y, Z that they want to accomplish — and make recommendations for a tailored financial plan. 

The time frame from Step One to Step Four is around seven weeks. By the time we do any real financial planning, there’s been nine hours of face time completely spent on teaching them.  

LHP:  Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
MM: Eighty-five percent of the people we work with are between the ages of 63–75, with $150,000–$250,000 in investable assets. One of the things that I think has made us successful is that we are not interested in doing business with everyone. What we believe is that as you get older, you should decrease risk. On average, we are only doing business with people who are in retirement or near retirement and have a conservative to mid-conservative risk profile.

I’m never going to set a minimum asset amount for the clients we work with. We’ll meet clients with, say, $60,000 to their name. It takes a lot of courage to go that direction, and I understand why other advisors don’t take this approach. When you get a 1 percent commission check for $30, it makes sense that not everyone does this. But this is the way that works for us. These are the people we want to help.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
MM: No. 1 is the atmosphere at our organization. It’s very centered around caring for our clients. If we find out that a client is having surgery or is ill, we send flowers or a cake. We spend thousands of dollars on these gestures every year, and I think it’s worth every cent. I believe that the money is returned to us in referrals — but more importantly, it lets our clients know that we truly care about them.

The other thing I’m proud of is that, for clients who choose not to work with us, we often hear later that they are still using the plan we put together for them. Often two or three years down the road they’ll come back to us and they’re timid to tell us that they used our advice with a different advisor. Of course we’d rather that they did business with us, but more than anything we’re just happy that they used our plan, that they were educated. 

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
MM: I think what excites me most is how it is changing. Over the next several years, you’re going to have advisors going through the life and health classes, or getting their securities license, and asking “How on earth did people advise on annuities and not take into account Social Security benefits?”The industry is becoming much more holistic in that way. Advisors are starting to say, “How can we accurately suggest a particular annuity and say this is something you should look at if we don’t evaluate the biggest annuity, the one you already own, and that’s Social Security.”  

President, NAIFA
President, Disability Resource Group, Inc.

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
JN: My start in the industry came in 1984 when Norb Winter Jr. invited me into his Minnesota Life general agency located in my home town St. Paul, Minn. He saw something in me that I hadn’t realized. My previous job was selling advertising for a small market radio station. Norb persuaded me that if I could sell radio ads, I could sell life insurance. My “why” today is much different and has way more conviction than when I started. It has gone from surviving/making a paycheck to making a difference. 

LHP: Describe what you do.
JN: Three inter-related activities:  I’m currently president of a retail and brokerage disability insurance firm. I’m also a public speaker on the topic of disability insurance and the Six Steps to Daily Victories, which highlights my personal story of overcoming the adversity of a disability. Lastly, I volunteer within our industry associations (current president of NAIFA) and charitable causes that are close to my heart.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
JN: Our business model is built around serving advisors with their clients in providing disability insurance solutions. Additionally, we provide education and service directly to consumers, from single person CEOs to farmers, from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies. Generally, a person with a paycheck is a person that needs to protect their ability to earn that paycheck.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
JN: It is hard to identify just one, as many if not all of the achievements intertwine with one another. This has been a real lesson for me. I’ve come to understand that positive effort and results in one area will positively affect other areas of your life. I believe that is part of what the MDRT whole person concept is all about.

Personally: going from 174 pounds to 144 pounds and consistently staying physically and mentally fit for the past six years.

Professionally: Growing a firm around an area of insurance that we are passionate about and knowing we make a difference.

Publically: Giving back and serving our industry through a number of volunteer leadership positions, one of which is NAIFA.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
JN: Just this past week, I had a small business owner who was diagnosed with an illness a month ago call and say that he can’t continue working. The illness caught up to him; he just does not have the physical capability and mental energy to run his business. His first question was, “Is my family going to be ok?” Imagine if the disability coverage wasn’t in place or the life insurance. How do you answer his question?

Imagine walking with your friend, just 36, and she says, “I have brain cancer. My life is changed forever, yet I have maybe five years; maybe not. However, whatever time I have left, knowing that I have disability benefits and my life insurance gives me the space, the choice and control to live fully and peacefully until that day. Thank you.”

This business is humbling. This business is a calling and I’m honored to play a small part in it.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
JN: The opportunity to make a difference exists more today than ever before. There are more potential clients, the need for our products and services has probably never been greater, the quality of our products and services are better than ever before, the education and training is readily available, the media, the legislators and organizations like LIFE Happens support our work — we just need to go to work, make the calls, see the people and share our story.

LHP: In 1993, you suffered a broken neck during a water skiing accident and you were paralyzed from your chin down. You were eventually able to reach a level of recovery achieved by less than 1 percent of people with spinal cord injuries. Describe how your injury and rehab changed your perspective, work/life philosophy and your view of the importance of disability insurance.
JN: The injury and rehab solidified my perspective on daily victories, having a grateful heart and living with faith in action.

My view of the importance of disability insurance was greatly affected by the accident and recovery. I learned firsthand that medical insurance tries to put you back together; however, it does not guarantee that it is back together just like you were before the incident.

Additionally, I learned the value of empowering yourself with choice and control by owning an individual disability contract.

LHP: Talk about your marathon training and the charity work you’ve done with it.
JN: My marathon training and charity fundraising have been a great combination to help myself while helping others. It was January 2009 that I made a  commitment to train for the Chicago Marathon and raise $26,000 for Danielle, age 11, who suffered a broken neck (spinal cord injury) at a gymnastics meet. Over the last five years, I have improved as a shuffler (runner), rebuilding my body and losing weight from 174 to 144 and going from a marathon finishing time of 6 hours 9 minutes to 4 hours, 22 minutes. I have raised over $100,000 for IL Spinal Cord Injuries Association and was the top fundraiser in the Bank of America Chicago marathon in 2012, winning the Daly Golden Shoe award.

In the words of a friend of mine, I’m a completer. Our industry, carriers, associations, the training and most importantly the people and experiences have contributed greatly to who I am and the results I have achieved.

CEO, Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?

BR: I began my career with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation ten years ago after spending 32 years with the Walt Disney Company. I have enjoyed being a student of the insurance industry and working with many companies and industry executives.

LHP: Describe what you do.
BR: I am the CEO of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. I have the pleasure of working with the industry and leading a unique charitable foundation funded and directed by the insurance industry.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
BR: We work and collaborate with all segments and regions of the insurance industry, including its many associations, advisors, consultants and vendors. We work to provide a united charitable voice for the industry while providing and guiding a nation — with grants, volunteer, and leadership programs.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
BR: In 2014, as part of our leadership initiatives and charitable fundraising, we conducted the “Women in Insurance Conference Series” comprised of four regional one-day conferences. Nationally, we involved over 1,300 women and men in a national forum/discussion on gender diversity in the insurance industry. More than 200 companies and 33 individual states were represented.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
BR: Through our four regional leadership boards we are making a difference in local communities across the U.S. More than 21 million dollars and over 180,000 hours of volunteer service have been provided through the united industry effort. We have involved thousands of insurance employees in supporting their local communities.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
BR: The quality, talent, diversity, and excitement of insurance students coming into the industry today is quite impressive. Across the U.S., we have many outstanding insurance educational programs: St John’s, The Katie School, California State University, Fullerton, and the University of North Texas, just to mention a few of the programs represented on the IICF Division Boards.

LHP: Discuss the charitable contributions you and your company have made.
BR: The IICF is committed to representing the insurance industry in the highest of standards. We are a reflection of the strongest industry brands and the commitment the industry makes to the communities where our employees live and work. Over the last 10 years the IICF has grown to be the largest united-industry charitable effort.

We have launched a national Early Literacy Initiative, working with our national advisory board and partnering with Sesame Workshop on an award winning early literacy program called “Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day.” This newest national program is being shared by industry companies, champions, and employees.

Through the IICF Week of Giving we have involved insurance organizations large and small in the work of community volunteerism. This program is only one of many volunteer programs conducted by the insurance industry. Collectively, the industry provides millions of employee volunteers every year.

LHP: Explain why charity and helping others is so important to you personally and discuss how it affects the industry as a whole.
BR: I have always been active in the community, even from a very young age. All of the companies I have worked for always encouraged active community support. Leaders and companies need to give back to the communities who support their business and success. Insurance is like no other industry — it is involved in every part of life. Demonstrating our visible and active support of local communities and their needs provides a face to the industry and allows the community to see insurance professionals in a different light – that of engaged and compassionate community leaders.


President/CEO, Royal Neighbors of America

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
CT: During my last year of college I worked in cardiac rehab in one of the pioneer facilities in Scottsdale, Arizona. I stayed for a while after graduation, but it did not take me long to figure out that unless you are an MD, you can support the system, but it would be difficult to lead or control it. So, it was time to change.

I am sure you can see the line of sight from cardiac rehab to building a wonderful career in insurance! In my first job I did auto accident injury claims. They liked that I understood medical issues.

I let decision-makers know that I wanted more responsibility and I actively pursued feedback on my performance. I was, and am, committed to continuous improvement and learning. I tried to make my boss look good and always made sure he had no surprises or was caught off guard. Yes, I said “he,” as I never had the opportunity to work for a female boss. Female role models were few and far between. Today it is different.

Along my leadership journey, the single most valuable decision I made was to cross functions.I had marched up the claims functional career path and was running a division. My CEO suggested that if I wanted to run claims for the company, he would only put someone in that spot that knew the entire business and had P&L (Profit and Loss) experience. That was all I needed to hear. The CEO let me take over a nationwide line of business; I got P&L experience and never looked back.

LHP: Describe what you do.
CT: Royal Neighbors of America is one of the largest women-led life insurers in the U. S. We are a not-for-profit, membership-based organization that provides life insurance and annuities to protect women and their families. As President/CEO, I am charged with continuing our vision of protecting women financially and empowering them to improve their lives, families, and communities. That includes ensuring that we meet the fiduciary responsibilities to our members by running a great business; that our members have the appropriate financial coverage for each stage of their lives; and that the guidelines of our nationwide chapter network of volunteers are met. Our philanthropic efforts are geared toward empowering women to get to a better financial place in three specific ways: our financial protection products, financial education, and philanthropic programs that help women “learn to fish.”

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
CT: Our market is middle and upper middle market women and their families with products geared to their needs and solutions during differing life stages and transitions. When initially looking to purchase a financial product like life insurance, many people don’t think about how their lives will evolve as they grow. But life moves at a fast pace. There’s college, marriage, new home, children, retirement, etc. We help our members plan for each stage and show them the appropriate product that will protect specific needs.

Also, our research tells us that this market is typically frustrated with financial services and is feeling underserved and misunderstood. Women seek simplicity, but stability with products and services for themselves and their families. They also prefer to buy from socially responsible companies. Royal Neighbors is the perfect fit for this market. As a not-for-profit organization, our business success funds benefits for our members and supports them as they make a difference in their own communities. So our members not only have the financial protection they need at each stage of their lives, but also know they are giving back through their membership.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
CT: I have been very blessed in my career and have many accomplishments of which I am proud. That said, leading Royal Neighbors as the CEO, being responsible and accountable for the entire enterprise while steering it back on course, is very special. Royal Neighbors is a unique business. Nearly 120 years young, it boasts of an amazing heritage that I’m proud to help keep alive. Being able to lead a great business while also giving back and being socially responsible is a wonderful combination. It feeds my passion of educating women about financial matters and making a difference where it counts — in neighborhoods across the country.

Our success over recent years has been recognized in many ways. One example was the Stevie Award for Turnaround Executive of the Year that I received from the American Business Awards, while another was the Athena Award that recognizes women of significant business and philanthropic achievement and impact. These awards demonstrate the collective efforts of a team which strongly believes in Royal Neighbors and what we do.

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped. 
CT: Life insurance is there at the most difficult time for a family — the loss of a loved one. I knew a woman who did not think she needed coverage because she was not the major breadwinner in her family. After many discussions, she finally purchased two policies on herself, a term and a universal life. The term was there for financial protection at a reasonable price and the universal life was being funded to help with future college expenses for her daughter. Then the worst happened; she died suddenly and unexpectedly.  Her husband did not see why the coverage on his wife had been necessary. But months after her death, he told me that he does not know what he would have done without the financial protection. His loss was devastating and that will not change, but he could hire help to keep the family running, pay off the mortgage, and set aside what was left for future education costs for his daughter.  

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
CT: The future is amazing. When you can get up every day and ask, “Who can I help today?” and then commit to understanding their future needs and develop solutions; it does not get any better than that.

The future of products is also very exciting. They do not have to be overly complicated, but they need to serve more than one need for a client. There are many ways this will unfold in the future. In addition, the role of saving for the future, including retirement, is more and more important for clients to understand. The need is there. Just think about this statistic: 50 percent of people aged 50 have less than $50,000 saved for retirement. As I said, the need is there!  Life insurance and annuities can and should play critical roles in this necessary planning.

Co-founder, Allied Wealth Management

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
RW: A personal and heartbreaking experience led me to my career in the senior market. My grandmother’s second husband, Bud, was killed in an automobile collision. A log truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and hit Bud head on at a stoplight, killing him instantly and widowing my grandmother. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed and my grandmother was awarded $750,000. Grandmother did not live an extravagant lifestyle, so $750,000 and a railroad retirement should have lasted her the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she gave the money to my Uncle Terry’s broker on Wall Street and was broke by the time she was 70. I don’t know how or what the Wall Street guys did with her money, but I do know she had enough to make it through her retirement and failed because of the Wall Street system. This has bothered and affected me my whole adult life, and now I have a chance to help people by properly positioning their savings to fund their vision of retirement, preventing what happened to my grandmother from ever happening to them.

LHP: Describe what you do.
RW: The events surrounding 9/11 forced me to retire from my career as a private pilot and change professions. My wife, Leah Wheless, was already seasoned in the industry, and together we formed Allied Wealth Management, now Allied Wealth. We ensure our clients’ dreams for their retirement are achieved with safe, secure and simple strategies.

At Allied Wealth, we think it’s incredibly important to give back to our community. When you attend any one of our seminars and give to the Wounded Warrior Project, we will match all donations and contributions. We also support Angel Flight, which arranges free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, or medically-related need.

LHP: Describe your target market. What needs do you look to address in your practice?
RW: We target individuals who are ages 50+. We have recently seen an influx of younger investors and life insurance prospects though, who are in the age range of 38 to 39. Typically, these prospects are high-income earners in the industry of oil and gas, or in various fields of medicine.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
RW: I’m particularly proud of creating an environment where my clients are successful both before and during their retirement years. 

LHP: Share a story about a client you have helped.
RW: Recently, I met with a woman who attended one of my workshops who felt she didn’t have enough money for me to talk with her about her goals for retirement. It took her a lot of guts to even set and keep the appointment. When she came in, I could tell she felt about two feet tall. She explained that she didn’t have any money, and that she was sorry for wasting my time. I noticed that she was wearing a postal worker’s uniform, so I asked her about her job and how long she had worked for the post office. She said that it had been 38 years! I knew then that what I was about to tell her would probably change her life. I asked her how much money she made, and she stated about $50,000 per year. I told her that she was due a pension when she retired from the post office; she stood to claim over 40 percent of her annual salary each year for as long as she had breath in her body. Tears started to stream down her face. She couldn’t believe that after all of her hardships and worry that she would, in fact, retire with a guaranteed income in the form of a pension each year. This woman came to my office feeling two feet tall, but when she left, she felt 10 feet tall. We never wrote business with her; however, helping people like her every day is why I continue to do what I do. 

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
RW: I’m excited about the endless opportunities to help people achieve their goals and dreams for retirement.


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