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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

30 under 30: Millennials in the financial and insurance industries, 2016

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Editor’s note: We are unveiling our 30 under 30 list in three parts. The first part will consist of three nominees and their profiles (below), who also appear in the June issue of National Underwriter. The second part will consist of more nominees and their profiles. And, finally, we will unveil the complete 30 under 30 list later this year on  

With baby boomers retiring every day, it shouldn’t be a surprise that millennials are taking over the workplace. According to Pew Research Center data, millennials took over the workforce population in 2015 with 53.5 million workers, easily surpassing the 44.6 million boomer workers.

In the insurance and financial industries, however, that demographic change seems to be happening at a slower rate. Since we first started compiling this list in 2015, we’ve found that there are millennials leaving their mark in these industries. But it would seem that it is harder to come by their names because it takes a good effort to find them. 

See also: 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry

The following are profiles of a handful of shining stars under 30 in the insurance industry. Stay tuned for more on what millennials are doing to innovate and move these industries into the future. In the meantime, get to our first picks!

Marcello DePascale

Financial services representative, financial planner and co-leader of a wealth management team

The Barnum Financial Group

Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

The seeds were planted early. My father passed away when I was 10, and the life insurance product he was guided to purchase required a lot more time to build up a significant death benefit versus term insurance. The entire family had to struggle to make ends meet. I did not know all the financial facts at the time, of course, but I did absorb them as I grew older.

Growing up, I worked in my uncle’s small business right through my college years, when I decided to study business and finance. I became very interested in helping an old-fashioned family company streamline and modernize its operations, especially its financial operations.

I liked the challenge of making the business more successful, and helping the people involved. I interned at Merrill Lynch during college, too, and then chose Barnum. One of the firm’s big pluses for me was the resources provided to advisors, such as product and estate planning experts.

Describe what you do.

Along with my associate, I lead a seven-person wealth management team that serves individuals, families and businesses. I work closely with the clients I serve, and I like doing that and finding solutions for them. One of my first tasks when I joined the firm was to design an entire small business financial plan for my uncle’s business, including key person insurance, a fully funded buy-sell agreement, and a shareholder agreement.

I take a lot of pride in building and expanding relationships with new clients, too. For example, a cold call with a nurse-anesthesiologist a few years ago has blossomed into serving some 130 of these professionals around the U.S.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

For a client who was a widow at an early age and had two young children, I arranged for Social Security survivor’s benefits. We then used some of the proceeds from the husband’s life insurance on an insurance product that would ultimately fund the children’s college education. The wife was risk averse to the financial markets and this was a perfect solution.

What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry or what is the one thing you would change?

I think the largest challenge in the industry at this point is actually the overabundance of information the general public has access to. In most things, the more information the better; however, self-planning for the future based on something read on the Internet can be a very slippery slope.

I meet people all the time who have listened to a friend of a friend or picked something online to invest 100 percent of their assets in with dismal results. There is a reason people go to the doctor instead of diagnosing themselves using medical websites. Helping people achieve true financial literacy is my goal with every client.

What is the biggest opportunity that you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity I think is a relatively obvious one: There are 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day who are in need of help and guidance while there is one of the lowest numbers of advisors in the industry that there has ever been. These people desperately need to make proper investment and insurance decisions whether they know it or not. It is our duty to try to help them as if they were our own parents. 

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Some people feel that millennials, with their affinity for technology, are naturals for robo-financial advice, but actually most don’t want a faceless experience, based on what I’ve seen with my clients. They value human interaction and relationships. Technology, ideally, supports the advice. 

For example, millennials like a sophisticated aggregation tool where everything is clearly laid out, accessible and can be interacted with, instead of having to read through a lot of paper. Also, many are still living with their parents, even as they are working and paying off student debt. They are marrying later in life and also having children later. There is an extended period in their lives when they are saving, and they can really use guidance on how to make money work for them.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

The most valuable piece of advice I could give to someone looking to enter the industry is to make sure that they truly have an affinity for helping people first and foremost. This is a profession based on making and maintaining true relationships that matter mutually to you and your client. You cannot pretend to care and do the job justice.

You need to know that you will be working very hard to help people with eliminating the risks that can cause them or their family harm. Like any relationship, if you don’t put in the time to truly understand what is important to the other person, the relationship will not work. If you work hard and make the sacrifice to build the business right from the beginning and never compromise your integrity, you will be rewarded 100 times over.

Andrew Ross Kagan

Branch President

Cornerstone Wealth & Tax Advisory Group Inc.

Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

The experience I had with all four of my grandparents having had dementia was a big revelation for me. The costs, grief, and hassle associated with long-term care and assisted living were almost unbearable at times. This is what changed my perspective on preparing for the future. I have made it my goal to educate my clients and help them prepare for the future with the best products and services I can offer.

Throughout nearly a decade in the insurance industry, I have had a “do the right thing” attitude with everyone I’ve met. Client-minded plans that create financial security for the future is what I do. 

Describe what you do.

Keep people’s hard earned retirement dollars in a safe place away from market risk.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I feel being nominated for this issue of 30 under 30 would be one of them. Besides that, I have completed an Ironman Triathlon and that was pretty difficult. 

What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry or what is the one thing you would change?

Honestly, our industry changes so frequently that you have to adapt and almost expect change. Helping people is what I do, so whatever I have to do to achieve that, I’ll make sure that happens.

What is the biggest opportunity that you see in the industry?

That’s easy: it’s helping people! I was told a long time ago that the more people you help, the more money you’ll make. It’s safe to say that I’m helping a lot of people these days!

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

I think millennials are looking for someone they can relate to and be an example for. I do this all the time, especially in meetings, where I pull up my personal accounts to show clients that we are in this together. Being a fiduciary in all your recommendations helps not only the consumer, but also our industry. So, please put the client first in everything you do. 

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

The one piece of advice would be to find a system that works for you and stick with it. Too many times I’ve seen people have a little success that goes to their head. You have to stay humble and focused and you can’t think you have every answer.

I always tell clients that if I don’t know the answer, I will tell them that I don’t know it, but you also have to know where to find the answer. Also, a mentor or someone you can call upon always helps!

Alexa Meyer 

Financial Advisor with Pacific Capital Resource Group

The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company

Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

I’ve always been a people person. I’ve always been a numbers person. There aren’t many careers where these two components go hand in hand.

I loved that financial services gave me the ability to develop a practice in my own way and with my own personality showing through. I also sought an industry where I can have it all — the family life I always envisioned and a career that made an impact on the world. 

Describe what you do.

I help empower families and business owners to make educated financial decisions for themselves and their future. My approach with my clients is to ensure that we are collaborating in the decision making process; I am the informant, educator, and advisor; they are not being told what to do. We form long-lasting, trusted relationships through this collaboration process as we continue to build their plan through the years.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I was extremely honored to have earned the Bronze award for Penn Mutual’s Career Builder of the Year. I really pushed myself that year beyond what I thought was possible and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to make an impact on so many families that year.

What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry or what is the one thing you would change?

I see a lack of understanding in what kind of value we can impart. With so much media around robo-advisors and DIY solutions, it may look like we are heading toward obsolescence in the marketplace. However, as our clients know, a financial advisor’s value doesn’t necessarily always come in the form of high returns, but in the intangibles: hand-holding clients through complex strategies, having the tough conversations regarding risk management that they might otherwise not address or even think about, educating the client on options they may have never realized they had. This component of the relationship is often more valuable to our clients than the reduced fees they could get elsewhere by doing things on their own. This is what we need to focus on marketing in the future: the relationship.

What is the biggest opportunity that you see in the industry?

Women — that doesn’t necessarily mean only working with single women or women as the primary breadwinner, but making sure you are connecting with the woman in the family in an important way. Women tend to enjoy working with professionals more than men. They are often more receptive to advice and therefore end up implementing planning faster.

Long-term, women also refer more clients than men typically do. Many women have been left of the financial planning process in the past, as it is traditionally an aspect of the household that men handle. By making them an equal partner at the table and getting everyone on the same page, the whole planning process moves a lot smoother.

What do you think millennials are looking for in an advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?

Millennials are looking for information and education catered specifically to their situation. Young professionals are taught to research, to use their networks, and to use the internet as a sounding board for major decisions in life.

Despite this, most people realize that all the ready-made financial advice available to them on the web might not be as fine-tuned as they need it to be for practical and highly personal decision-making. This is where we can be of value. By demystifying the world of finance and taking an educational, unbiased approach to our client meetings, millennials see the value in working with professionals.

What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?

Begin with the end in mind! Create systems that you know you can sustain or reformat as your practice grows.

*Want to nominate a millennial in finance or insurance? Please send an email to [email protected] for more information.*

See also:

Millennial consumers, mobile use and insurance sales

7 cities that wealthy millennials call home

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