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Meet Advisor of the Year finalist Alicia Lewis

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Alicia Lewis has deep roots in the retirement advisor space. She is a third-generation advisor who has been in the industry 11 years.

When she started in, she says she was shocked at some of the recommendations senior clients were receiving, especially with respect to subjecting their savings to the whims of the market. From that point forward, she was determined to educate retirees on all options available to them.

“The baby boomer generation has so many different elements coming up against them in retirement, and I enjoy showing them how we can help overcome those,” says Lewis. Those challenges include generating an income without depleting their hard-earned nest egg, the cost of health care in retirement, longevity and inflation.

“When we meet with potential clients, we consistently hear about their worries about all of these,” says Lewis. “That is why becoming an all-inclusive retirement planning firm was important to us.”

Layman Lewis Financial Group focuses almost exclusively on retirees and seniors. The company’s total sales were just shy of $23 million last year, including $14.25 million in annuities and $275,000 in life insurance.

On challenges: To state the obvious, I’m a woman in a man’s world. In addition, I’m a third-generation advisor. I have had to work extremely hard to gain the respect of potential clients and prove that I am as good as ‘the boys’ in our industry. I’ve also had to overcome the expectations that some clients put on me to be like my grandfather or father. As much as I admire my father, and began in this industry because of him, I am NOT him. I’ve discovered different gifts and passions that I have that set me apart from my father as mentor, and make me a great advisor because of that.

On prospecting: A large portion of our business comes from client referrals, which I take personally. If my clients are willing to recommend me to their friends they must trust me, and they must like and approve of what we are doing with their money. Both of those things mean a lot to me, and in turn, they affirm the choices we are making as a firm for our clients. My father taught me well: “If you take care of your clients, they will take care of you.” I’ve never seen that more true than this past year. It feels good knowing they believe in me and what I’m doing for them.

On client retention: Relationships are key to retention. We see our clients multiple times a year, and not all of those times are business. While we do encourage an annual review (at minimum), often clients come in multiple times a year for updates, reallocations and reviews. We also hold multiple client appreciation events throughout the year that allow us to all get together on more of a personal level. I used to think this was a benefit for the relationship between me and my clients, which it is, but because of these appreciation events our clients have become my friends. I don’t believe in just keeping business “business” with our clients. I’ve loved becoming friends with them; and we’ve seen numerous blessings, both financial and personal, that have come from investing right back into our clients.

On financial literacy: Education is key. If a client does not fully understand a concept related to her retirement plan, we will take all the time needed to help her get to that place of understanding. Not only is it important for clients to know the “why” with the “what,” it is also vital for them to have all the data to make an informed decision. We have a saying here in our office that “the option you are never given is the option you will never take.” Educating our clients on all options available is a fundamental step in serving clients well.

On qualities of a good advisor: First and foremost, being able to put clients’ needs first, while wholeheartedly committed to doing the right thing, all the time, every time. Professional qualities would include the ability to creatively build “bulletproof” retirement strategies and, at the same time, long-lasting personal relationships with clients. I also think you must be a leader worth following. You can be a great salesman, or in my case, woman, and put together bulletproof plans, but if you aren’t a leader worth following, your team won’t be there to help get you there. Again, so much about this industry, and success as a whole, is about building relationships with people around you. When you can prove that you are serious about what you want, where you are going, and that you are worth following, you just have to GO and the rest will fall into place. I’ve seen that prove true in my experience.

On the industry’s future: The changes just keep coming and I believe we will continue to see the advisory field culled as many professionals are not able to weather, adapt and capitalize on that change. Fear of market volatility has grown exponentially since 2008 and that’s where we’ve come in to catch those who have fallen through the cracks and lost their portfolios. More and more, people are looking outside of the big investment firms for more safety and entire portfolio planning in retirement, and over and over again they are finding solutions that they weren’t aware of when they first began their investment journey.