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Why relationship-based selling still works

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Marcello DePascale is the type of financial advisor that dispels every negative industry stereotype. His commitment to serving individuals and small businesses, his deep product knowledge and his own personal story make him both immensely trustworthy and likeable.

These same qualities have brought him early success. Just a few years into his career, he has a booming book of business and co-leads a wealth management team at Barnum Financial Group. We sat down with Marcello to find out more about his day-to-day work, the opportunities and challenges he sees ahead and the No. 1 piece of advice he would share with new agents. (Spoiler alert: It’s pretty good.)

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

marcello depascaleMD: 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.

LHP: Describe what you do.

MD: 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.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

MD: 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.

LHP: What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry?

MD: 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.

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

MD: 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. 

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

MD: 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.

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

MD: 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.


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