Chantel Bonneau quotes a Northwestern Mutual study of millennials that she says sums up her own beliefs: “One-third of millennials think that lack of having a plan was going to be the biggest obstacle for them when it comes to financial planning.”
She should know — she’s 27 years old herself.
Bonneau, a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual in Los Angeles, says she’s made it her job to reach the millennial market and help them get that plan. She does it by getting inside her own head.
Just five years into her career — one she says is “my first job out of college and hopefully my only” — Chantel has learned quite a bit about the market, and also about how to approach what other agents may consider the unapproachable market: the 25–35 age range. While millennials are not the only client base she serves, she enjoys getting her generation excited about financial planning.
This enthusiasm has propelled her to win a number of accolades in her short career. Her early success in building a client base earned her Northwestern Mutual’s Top Financial Advisor for the Western Region and Top College Unit Director for her recruitment activity. More recently, her impact in the market secured a spot on LifeHealthPro’s “30 under 30” list.
Bonneau’s career was borne of the desire to unite her academic interests into one job. While studying economics and accounting at UCLA, Bonneau was drawn to the idea of combining those areas of concentration into a career. She interviewed with investment firms, insurance companies and other companies that were looking for those attributes. Yet they had to provide something, too. She wanted a career that would allow her to “work with clients on both sides of the table.”
One of those companies was Northwestern Mutual. She interviewed with them in her senior year and began working for them after graduation.
Like most new agents and advisors, Bonneau knew her first objective was to get clients. In an area where many new agents founder, Bonneau thrived. She describes her client base as “all over the board,” but says she enjoys most working with millennials. “I love that group of people who have not even touched their potential yet but are working hard toward it. I’m excited to build that relationship and hopefully work with them for the next 35 years.”
Simply being millennials doesn’t make them her perfect clients, however. In fact, Bonneau has a snapshot of her ideal client, and she asks her current clients for referrals based on that image. “I ask for people who love what they do. I don’t want someone who hates their job — they’re not going to be excited about anything we talk about. I want people who are forward-thinking, who care about what they’re trying to accomplish, who love what they do and see a vision for their future. People who can connect to a bigger purpose than just today.”
That approach is working well for her; Bonneau says the majority of her clients are found through referrals. She says that’s just as rewarding as the referral; she puts effort and time into presenting her process to her clients. Equally impressive is how well millennials — that market that many agents are unable to reach — are responding to Bonneau’s approach. She says it’s the excitement she brings to the conversation that makes the difference. “I knew that if I could get passionate about financial planning, including risk management, I thought I could try to communicate that to other millennials.”
A winning strategy
Yet it takes more than passion to gain client trust. That’s where Bonneau has the advantage over her more senior colleagues. She says she gets inside the heads of her clients by examining her own needs and relating to the client sitting in front of her. “I try to ask questions to see what’s important to them. They will let me know. If your career is extremely important to you, hands down you probably need disability insurance.”