Here’s our final batch of ThinkAdvisor Life Health 30 Under 30 award winners for 2017.

These life, health and benefits sector professionals have survived the same economic ups and downs, and underlying societal changes, that have faced the other 2017 award winners, and they’ve survived another, additional challenge: the alphabet.

(Related: 30 Under 30, Part 1: Young Life, Health and Annuity Stars)

The award winners we honored in our first two batches may have occasionally received some opportunities partly because their surnames start with an A, or some letter close to A. Not these winners. These millennials have made a mark, fast, despite having to put up with waiting in more lines, for longer, than about two-thirds of their peers.

All were believed to be under 30 by the time we stopped taking nominations and stopped scouting for own candidates, in early January.

We plan to begin taking entries for our 2018 30 Under 30 program in January.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at what these winners have said about their careers, the current state of the financial services sector, and the future of the sector.

Zachary Meissner

Zachary A. Meissner

29

Bellevue, Washington

Vice president/sales manager

Pacific Capital Resource Group (The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company)

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Zachary A. Meissner: I majored in entrepreneurship because I always wanted to start my own company. Once you actually start to dive into starting a business, the real world risks involved become a bit daunting. The notion of becoming a financial planner really clicked for me because it was an opportunity to start a potentially lucrative independent business venture, but with a set of instructions and low financial outlay.

Describe what you do.

I work to imbue others with passion. I split about a third of my time between running my personal practice, recruiting advisors into our office (and often into the industry), and developing the practices of new advisors.

With clients, it’s about getting them to feel excited about planning for their future. Having a plan dramatically increases your chances for success in life.

When I’m recruiting or working with new advisors, I talk a lot about “The 4 I’s” of why people do what we do: Impact, Income, Independence, and Intellectual stimulation.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I’m most proud of earning my designations: Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant and Chartered Financial Planner.

This is a competitive industry and being the best means balancing the triad of success, which in my opinion comes down to: client interaction and service, practice management, and professional knowledge and/or continuing education. I am currently working on my Masters of Science in Financial Services (MSFS).

Another achievement that I am very proud of is building our clientele.

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

The first challenge is the lack of millennials entering the business combined with the fact that the average age of a financial advisor is around 57 years old. The second challenge is the threat of technology or robo-advisors combined with a misunderstanding of what financial planning actually is. With the advent of robo-advisors, consumers are increasingly looking toward online resources for advice.

Also, we no longer mirror the markets we serve: millennials continue to show increasing dedication to planning for their future and women are taking a more pivotal role in the planning process. Constantly changing laws and regulations require new fresh minds to reinvent the industry and client service.

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

The biggest opportunity is getting young people, women and minorities excited about a career in financial services. This will allow us to stay viable as an industry.

We also need to be better about leveraging technology to serve our needs, not just within planning and advising but within marketing.

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

Our generation spends a lot of time online. When we want advice on things, our knee-jerk response is to search for the answer on the Internet.

What millennials want from an advisor is both the types of advice that they can’t get from a robot, and an ear to listen and counsel. It comes down to emotional management.

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

The main concern I hear from young people is: “I don’t know if I am comfortable approaching my family or friends for business or referrals”.

Rather than seeing yourself as a sales person, see yourself as an advocate. The vast majority of people do not have a financial plan, and not one that is comprehensive and addresses the entire gamut of financial planning needs.

You won’t always be prospecting through your friends and family; eventually your market will expand and referrals will flow from many different sources. View the interaction with friends and family as an opportunity to help the people you care for most.

(Related: What Is the Best Way to Maintain a Focus on Growth?)

Alexa Meyer

Alexa Meyer

26 

Bellevue, Washington

Financial advisor

Pacific Capital Resource Group (The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company)

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: 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.

(Related: Penn Mutual’s President Was Talking About You)

 Vladimir Nikitenko

Vladimir Nikitenko

25

Atlanta

Financial planner

Lincoln Financial Advisors

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Vladimir Nikitenko: I always believed that people should pursue a career in something they were genuinely interested in. When talking to buddies in college, I would always ask if whatever they are studying for, if they research it and learn about it outside of what is taught in class and what was assigned. Following that logic, I was interested in finance well outside just the scope of school work… This lead me to purse my passion and become a financial advisor.

Describe what you do.

I am an independent financial planner that focuses on comprehensive financial planning. I make an effort to know every detail about my client and use all that information to put together an all-encompassing financial planning, this includes retirement planning, investments, life insurance, long term care, college planning, and income planning. Once I have an objective plan, we then find the right products or services from a variety of sponsors to meet the needs of the plan.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

To me, sentimental achievements are much more important than purely worldly ones. Having said that, I honestly feel the greatest sense of accomplishment when I was able to take a client from start to finish, from chaotic to orderly, from uncertain to protected and knowing that after working with me, they are financially in a much better place than before they met me.

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

Self-reliance. With easy access to information, many people believe that they can do everything themselves and ignore advice from professionals. This is not only in the finance industry, I see this in my wife when she tries to diagnose herself and our kids on WebMD. We cannot all be experts in everything, and people need to understand that they cannot do enough research to know what professionals that spend their whole day, and life doing.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The average age of the current advisor. There are not enough young people in the industry and I believe that within the next decade there will be a ton of business and clients that will have to be passed down to the next generation of financial professionals. The need for good advice, planning, and quality financial products will remain, and being there to capture that opportunity is huge.

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

I think millennials need an advisor to tell them what they do not know. Professionals working with millennials need to be sharper and more educated and informed than ever before. With so much information out there, we need to truly be experts in our field. If millennials see this, I believe they will not hesitate to give us their business.

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

Do plenty of research to make sure you understand what will be expected of you, and how hard you will have to work to succeed, once you are in the business, no matter what happens, stick to your decision and know that you are in it for the long run.

(Related: Great American Parent Explains Annuity Unit to Wall Street)

Marty Pfannenstiel

Martin Pfannenstiel

27

Director of business development and chief compliance officer

ChangePath

Kansas City, Missouri

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Martin Pfannenstiel: I got involved in the insurance industry while playing football at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. I grew up playing sports and was always an involved student, so when I was approached by Mark Heitz of Aviva a carrier located in Topeka, I was intrigued. I studied accounting during my undergrad, and working for a life insurance and annuity carrier allowed me to use both my analytical skills and outgoing personality simultaneously. I’ve always been somewhat of a go-getter, so after experiencing one aspect of the industry with Aviva, I was motivated to see how I could put my skills and background to use in other areas of the industry.

Please describe what you do.

Essentially, I help provide advisors with advice on how to properly handle and allocate clients in order to ensure the best interest of the client is being met. ChangePath is a registered investment advisor with a direct affiliation to CreativeOne, an agent development organization, so I utilize both advisory and insurance services in order to meet clients’ needs. In order to help advisors prepare for approaching DOL deadlines and fiduciary responsibilities, without incurring additional overhead costs, I utilize insurance products as an asset class to hedge portfolios, teach advisors how to weather economic volatility using insurance and integrate annuities into client portfolios.

Please share an achievement you are especially proud of and describe why.

The achievement I am proudest of is obtaining my juris doctorate degree, along with successfully becoming certified to practice law in Kansas. The ability to have a legal understanding, while obtaining my taxation certification in law school, enables me to better serve others, advocate on behalf of advisors and positively impact those I work alongside.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry, and what is the one thing you would do to change it?

I think nearly everyone can agree one of the biggest challenges everyone faces is time. There’s never enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done, such as implement technologies that could drastically mitigate or eliminate the majority of non-revenue driving activities or confer with peers and mentors about struggles and successes they’ve faced. We can’t create more time — there are only so many hours in the day — but as an industry, we need to break down barriers so more advisors can implement technologies to scale their business and heighten the client experience. How do you change that? Embrace technology. Not only do the new technologies available provide time efficiencies, effectively scale practices, but they also provide transparency and better client experiences.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

Opportunity lies in the middle class. It’s truly an underserved market, but one that has significant potential. Although we’re in an information-overload culture and many are influenced by Google searching, it’ hard to identify the intricacies of retirement planning that could impact them. Often, many don’t know what they don’t know. Nor, will they know where to look. And therein lies the opportunity for advisors. With the current regulations, opportunities are going to swing in favor of holistic planners because of the very nature of our business — clients seek long-lasting, foundational relationships with their planners. And, studies show the middle class sticks with them. As advisors, can we earn a coveted place with clients by being the primary contact for financial resources and knowledge? This increases your value and client retention. Like I said, clients often don’t know what they don’t know, and it’s our responsibility to continually earn their business.

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

I believe millennials are looking for many of the same things others seek: integrity, transparency, lower fees, better value and better stewards in general. And why shouldn’t they get those things? I also believe they’re in search of advisors who utilize better technology in their practices, in keeping up with the times. Older advisors with less innovative technology aren’t having success capturing millennial clients as a result of the lack of a number of the factors I mentioned above.

The difference is millennials also want the long-term financial journey to be simplified and straightforward, so that’s the approach we should take. And, how do you overcome those millennials seeking instant gratification? We effectively communicate and help them visualize the tremendous impact planning can have on their lifestyle. We’re not trading oranges for apples. We’re teaching them to trade oranges for a full apple tree later. If you can hone in on your presentation skills in a manner that resonates, it immediately becomes relevant. And that’s the key to compensate for instant gratification-minded clients: relevancy. As advisors, everyone benefits when we are powerful and relevant story tellers that can help clients visualize their future.

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

My advice: finding a quality mentor is the key to success. And, there are qualities to look for in mentors that can help grow your business acumen and round out your soft skill set. Great mentors can be individuals who are still climbing, deeply vested in seeing you succeed, want to shape your future or help you better yourself. I am fortunate enough to have two extraordinary colleagues who have tremendously helped me, Mark Heitz and Lance Sparks. And those connections have been paramount in sculpting me as a professional.

(Related: Opportunity Creation: 5 Ways to Grow Your Business)

Zoltan Pongracz

Zoltan Pongracz Jr.

29

Shelton, Connecticut

Financial advisor/financial planner

Barnum Financial Group

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Zoltan Pongracz Jr.: A career in financial services kind of chose me. My parents and I immigrated to the United States when I was around four years old. I attended several elementary schools, and I did not think much about a career in my younger years. Fast forward some years, I ultimately became the first in my family to attend college and I set out to pursue a career in hotel and casino management, which the school that I chose was well-known for. Along the way, I took a finance course and fell in love. When I graduated, I connected with a friend who had gone to work for Barnum Financial Group, and he encouraged me to come in for an interview. I entered the firm’s training program and became an advisor in 2011. Since then, I’ve enjoyed building a business and truly helping my clients at the same time.

Describe what you do.

If I had to sum it up, I would say that I help my clients make smart financial decisions to achieve what they want, protect what they already have, and provide support for the people who depend on them. Most of my clients have multiple needs and they are looking for a personal CFO to quarterback their entire situation. I will often work with the other professionals in clients’ lives such as their CPA and estate planning attorney.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I’ve won industry awards and firm recognition, but my biggest accomplishments I would mention are actual cases where my team has had a tremendous impact on a family. I’ve done a decent amount of work in the field of special needs planning, and one financial plan in particular ended with a result that was not only life-changing for the clients but also for me. Times like that remind me of why I am in this business.

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

The upcoming changes to the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rules going into effect in 2017 and 2018. I could not agree more that financial professionals should be held to high standards and this overall should be a good thing.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

This isn’t exclusive to financial services, but for me the biggest opportunity I see is that, as things change, many advisors may not. This leaves such a huge gap to be filled by advisors who can put their clients’ needs first and give solid advice.

Demographically, there are more and more people reaching certain milestone ages such as retirement, and also the older baby boomers aging a bit needing estate planning advice. At the same time, millennials are starting to have an impact on the economy and be in a position where they are able to save.

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

I think millennials want someone who is really engaged with them and trustworthy. They want to be able to reach you instantly if the need arises. The main way we can serve this market is by always innovating and remaining a few steps ahead of the game. We have to be able to use technology that will appeal to this younger generation. For example, I use a financial planning tool that allows a lot of interaction between the client and advisor, aggregates all of a person’s finances on one screen, is viewable on an app, and supplements the financial education that my team personally gives.

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

Come into the industry truly wanting to help people. Of course, as with starting any business, hard work is absolutely key, but even more important I would say is organization. Everything my team does is process driven, and because people have had a good experience much of our business currently comes from word of mouth and direct introductions.

Also, when I first came into the business, I did joint work with other advisors frequently and have always had a mentor. One way that I developed quickly and built the business in a short period of time is by learning from each and every one of these relationships. I always wanted to find that one valuable lesson or one great trait that others had and make it my own.

(Related: Meet 4 Leaders That Are Transforming the Insurance Industry)

Maxwell Schmitz

Maxwell Schmitz

29

San Rafael, California

Vice president, marketing

DI & LTC Insurance Services

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Maxwell Schmitz: I came for the work-life balance and stayed for the fulfillment of helping others. Working for a family agency, it was always evident to me that my parents had the unique ability to coach all my teams, join all the field trips, and kind of get away with taking a break at any point during the year. I was attracted to that. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the products we sell are used to help people in their darkest hour. A devastating diagnosis can lead to a massive change in a client’s lifestyle — for their whole family. There is so much to deal with at that moment in time. We are charged with insulating our clients from financial ruin in the wake of one of these life-changing events, even if we can’t be there for them emotionally or physically. It’s extremely rewarding to know that we have a role to play for someone going through so much.

Describe what you do.

I work with insurance advisors, benefits brokers, and financial planners to protect their clients in the event of a disability. It’s my job to educate our network of advisors about the importance of income and asset protection, and how these policies actually work. My other job is to make sure our agency is still relevant in 10 to 30 years. That means innovation and market expansion. And that’s been the driving force for our office since I joined seven years ago.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I was proud to serve as president of my [National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors] chapter at the age of 25. It was at that time that I co-authored a book on disability insurance. Since then I have completed my master of science in financial services. I am undertaking the tall task of making disability insurance accessible to the millennial marketplace by developing in-house drop-ticket solutions.

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

The biggest challenge from my perspective as a disability specialist is the dwindling number of carriers. Most people are more likely to experience a disability during their working years than they are likely to die. Yet life insurance sales dwarf disability sales. Insurance, and financial planning in general, is very much a top-down marketing business. Clients buy what the agent sells. Agents sell what the industry supplies. An abundant supply of life insurance products has spawned a culture of life insurance. A sparse supply of disability and long-term care companies means there is simply not a natural consumer appetite for these products. If I had it my way each life insurer would carry a disability product so that advisors would understand the necessity of covering the risk of disability before the risk of death.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

My generation. A workforce that is coming of age. The imminent realization that our parents are no longer a viable backup plan if we can’t make it to work tomorrow. Many of us are now married. Having kids. Taking a mortgage. Adulting. We just refinanced our home and when it was finalized and sunk in I felt like I got suckerpunched with how old I felt in that moment. Many of my peers are having similar moments where they ask themselves, “Who am I and how did I get here?”

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

I think it’s important to consider the psychology of where we were and what we were watching when our financial brains were developing. Many of us were in school seeing headlines of a collapsing market, a housing crisis, and now paying down a mounting student loan debt with figures that are reminiscent of the subprime mortgage loans of yesteryear. We are looking forward to the “auto” industry — not cars, but automation and autonomy. Most millennial consumers have an expectation that has been met in some parts of the insurance economy: a self-guided sales process powered by an algorithm instead of a salesperson or advisor. However, this only works for commodities. The complicated nature of DI underwriting is the keystone that keeps disability insurance advice from crumbling into commodity-status like car insurance or term life. Fortunately, there are simplified underwriting programs for DI that are essentially designed for millennials (realistic but still significant benefit amounts). These programs utilize a few shortcuts that make it worthwhile for the casual consumer.

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

Have an open mind and pave your own way. Constantly evolving media and advancing technology mean that there is boundless opportunity for innovation in our field. I always root for the little guy and would love to see independent advisors relish the evolution as opposed to Big Tech coming in with the next wave of disruption. We are at a crossroads.

(Related: Individual Disability Insurance Sales Were Stable in 2016)

Wesley Stout

Wesley G. Stout

28

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Investment advisor representative

Lincoln Financial Advisors

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Wesley G. Stout: I wanted to help individuals understand everyday risks when it comes to protecting their families and preparing themselves for a secure retirement lifestyle.

Describe what you do.

We are a financial advisory team that offers a unique financial planning experience for every individual. As a team, we work together to alleviate the fear in the financial planning process and offer a wide variety of solutions to meet our clients’ specific needs. Our tools provide a plan to guide individuals and their families, to and through retirement.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

The achievement I’m proud of was being named the 2015 Advisor of the Future for Lincoln’s Southeast Region.

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

From a client perspective, the biggest challenge is always saving enough to retire. The old pension plans and quality social security payments will be out the door for millennials and Generation X. If these individuals do not properly save for retirement, then they will have to work a lot longer than the generations before them.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

The biggest opportunity in the industry is that the average advisor is between the ages of 55 and 65. These “baby boomer advisors” will be looking to retire in the near future and their clients will want to work with someone that’s going to be around for the years to come.

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

I believe millennials are looking for someone that’s easy to work with and is trustworthy. Advisors can best serve this market by meeting these millennials face-to-face and demonstrating how they will be able to make their retirement saving strategy as streamlined as possible.

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

I would recommend having your finance degree along with a master’s degree. This shows credibility upon entering the business. Since there is a 90% turnover rate in the industry, young individuals that don’t build a successful practice within the first four years will be able to fall back on their education and apply themselves to a different position.

(Related: Formulas for Success: Howl at the Moon)

Jennifer Swedenburg

Jennifer Swedenburg

23

Retirement specialist

Poseyville, Indiana

American Senior Benefits

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you go into the industry?

Jennifer Swedenburg: I did not exactly plan or have a specific reason as to why I went in the insurance and financial industry. I saw the potential to help a lot of people and earn a good living depending on how hard I wanted to work. I also saw the potential with the market we work with at Bankers Life which focuses on baby boomers and seniors who have already retired.

Describe what you do

I meet with individuals in retirement or pre-retirement who are needing help with insurance or financial planning. The company I work for has a specific process that I like to navigate through when it comes to helping these individuals. Prospecting is huge in this industry and that is the first step to getting in front of someone who needs my help. It is something that is always constant in my business.

When I sit down with a couple or individual the first thing I do is fact find. This is by far the most important step in my company’s process. You can never properly nor ethically make a professional recommendation without this step. It is gathering information about what individuals have already planned for and what they still need to plan for. After fact finding is completed I make a recommendation if one is needed and 90 percent of the time it is. I am able to help my clients with a variety of different types of planning. Medicare, long-term care planning, financial planning, estate planning, etc.

The most important thing I do out of all of those things is building relationships. I strive to get to know each and every client very well along with their families. I have built some of the most valuable relationships a person could ask for. My clients do not just see me when they need something or have a question. If I am in the area I will just stop in sometimes and have a cup of coffee. That’s what makes my career so enjoyable.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of

I have many that I am proud of but the one that keeps me going was being named Rookie of the Year in 2014. Everyone always said that your first year is the hardest in this business. I am blessed to have achieved this award because there were many days I wanted to quit and give up but I just kept going. I knew there were people out there that needed my help and I wanted more for myself and my family so those are the things that made that achievement happen.

What is the biggest challenge you see in the industry?

The biggest challenge I see in our industry is perception. Too many insurance professionals do not take the time to LISTEN. I find every day that someone has been sold something they did not need nor did they want and just felt pressured or did not know what it was or how it worked. It makes it harder for the agents that are actively trying to listen and help people. This is why educating my clients on what they already have planned for and haven’t planned for is so important. I strive so that my clients can explain to me in detail what we have put in place and how it works and hope that other agents are doing the same.

What is the biggest opportunity?

The biggest opportunity I see in my business is helping the baby boomers. There are approximately 10,000 people every day that will which age 65. The company I work for, Bankers Life, believes in sitting down with people face to face. This is all a part of the process. I do not do business over the phone or through the mail. The market I work with loves the fact that they can put a face with a name and have their “insurance person” still come and sit down at their kitchen table to do business.

What are most millennials looking for in an advisor?

I think most millennials are looking for someone they can relate to and an honest advisor. They want someone they can have a commonality with and not just feel like they are being sold something and never seeing that person again until there is an issue or question. They are looking for someone who would just stop by and say hello because they are in the neighborhood. Millennials look for someone they can trust or feel like they can rely on to put them in the best position possible.

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

The number one piece of advice I would give to a young individual is to JUST LAST! It is going to seem impossible to achieve the smallest things when you first start but you have got to stay positive and motivated. I was constantly reaching out to my managers and veteran agents for advice and help. There were several times I wanted to quit in my first year and just kept going and I am so glad I did. I would not be where I am today had I let myself fail. Do not make failing an option no matter what it takes.

(Related: ASBA Chooses LTC Advisor)

Glenn Usher

Glenn Usher

29

Concord, New Hampshire

Competitive services consultant

Lincoln Financial Group

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Glenn Usher: It was a long road before I ended up in financial services and to be honest, it wasn’t my first choice initially but I’m grateful that I landed here. Originally, I went to school for engineering, then finance, and finally I majored in accounting. During my junior year I ended up landing an internship at Lincoln Financial Group in an internal auditing role. As fascinating as that sounds, it was actually a really great role to have so early in my career as it exposed me to virtually all of the functions (and people) inside of the company. Networking with people at the same time you’re auditing them is every bit as hard as it sounds, but I ultimately landed a permanent role with Lincoln as an analyst in the product development area. I worked in that role for 2 years before moving to the retail side to help advisors understand our company’s products and where they fit in the marketplace. Helping to educate advisors on the various solutions available to their clients is extremely fulfilling as the work goes beyond the advisor and impacts clients and their families across the country.

Describe what you do.

My role has evolved a great deal over the last several years. Currently I’m in a Field Development role on Lincoln’s Competitive Services Team. My primary role is to support the sales team in helping Advisors and Agents understand my company’s products as well as what the rest of the market has to offer. I specialize in the Long-Term Care market which has done its own share of evolving over the last decade. There are now several different tools and products an Advisor has at his/her disposal to help protect a client’s wealth from expenses arising from a long-term care event. I spend a lot of time educating Agents and Advisors about all of those options, and when/why one product may be more appropriate than another in any particular situation. In my role I also act as a liaison from the field to the product development and marketing areas to ensure the voice from the field is resonating and we’re helping to deliver products and content to meet the needs of our advisors.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

One achievement I’m particularly proud of would be helping several of our distribution partners build out their own curriculum when it comes to the topic of long-term care. Over the last few years a great deal of emphasis has been put on the importance of planning for long-term care, but not much in the way of how to go about doing it. After years of fielding questions such as: When does a stand-alone long-term care product make sense versus a Linked Benefit policy? Or, when/why should a client attach a Long-Term Care or Chronic Illness rider to a Life Insurance policy or Annuity? It was abundantly clear that there was a gap in education around ‘which product when’. Acting in a consulting role to two of the larger banks and wire houses, I helped to shape the training modules they’re now using to take the LTC conversation from the ‘why’ to ‘how’ we plan for long-term care. I’m proud of this achievement as it not only ensures that Advisors are having the conversation with their clients — which is something I’m extremely passionate about — but, also, that they now have the tools to be able to make the right decisions for their clients as well.

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

I think the biggest challenge in the industry, specifically the long-term care industry, is a lack of education around exactly what the risks are and how to solve them. The long-term care industry has taken a beaten in recent years due in large part by negative PR regarding the pricing actions many carriers have had to take on their in-force blocks of business. This, along with a lack of understanding of all of the LTC solutions out there and how they work has really hindered a market at a time that it should be blossoming.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

With every big challenge comes great opportunity — spoiler alert — it’s long-term care planning. The financial services industry has been focused on the baby boomer generation for the last several decades when it comes to investment and insurance planning, but there’s a huge gap in the level of long-term care planning that has been done for this generation. With over 10,000 baby boomers reaching the age of 65 every day, there’s a huge opportunity staring us all in the face, but a difficult one to address. The long-term care conversation is an extremely difficult one to have with a client, but an extremely important one. Too often, advisors overlook the impact that even a short 2-year LTC claim would have on their client’s portfolio. With a little additional planning this risk can be addressed and with the abundance of products on the market today, it’s easier than ever to find a product that meets the client’s specific needs — but it’s really about having the conversation and just asking the question first.

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

I think millennials — like any generation — are looking for an advisor that speaks their language. Every generation has their own identity. With Millennials, it’s technology. Millennials aren’t just tech-savvy, we need and rely on technology as a vital part of our lives. Most of us have grown up with computers, cell phones, and the internet and become disoriented without it. The next time the power goes out in your house or office, keep an eye on the millennial and how helpless we become. The point I’m making is that millennials need to be presented thoughts and ideas in a different way than a Gen Xer or Baby Boomer because our values are different. We’re impatient and rely heavily on technology — two things that don’t necessarily jive with the current state of the insurance industry. As the industry invests resources and energy to make the insurance process faster, advisors need to continue to market themselves in the digital era as that’s where millennials will go when they’re looking for an advisor.

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

Find a mentor or mentors, ask them as many questions as they’ll answer, and don’t make the same mistake twice. These are all cliché, but they’re cliché because they work. Having a reliable mentor that you can feel comfortable reaching out to ask even the most mundane questions is invaluable in this industry. Another benefit of having a more seasoned mentor is that you may be able to avoid that last point entirely. You wouldn’t be making the same mistakes your mentor did if you followed through on the second point — never be afraid to make a mistake, but never be afraid to let someone else make it for you first.

(Related: The Secret to Your True Potential Is Fried Chicken)

Jordan Witt

Jordan Witt

29

Crossville, Tennessee

Vice president and wealth advisor

Witt Financial Group

ThinkAdvisor Life Health: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?

Jordan Witt: My dad, and lifetime mentor, has been in the industry on and off since he was a young kid. I had the privilege of growing up around the financial industry and knew (if earned) I could have the opportunity to follow in my father’s footsteps. Before I went off to college my dad asked if I would be interested in joining him in the wealth management business someday. I started doing an internship with my dad in the summer of 2009. He taught me a great deal that summer and I got to see firsthand how he helped protect his client’s money during the financial crisis. It was then I realized this was not only what I wanted to pursue, but how fortunate I was to work alongside my dad in the family business.

Describe what you do.

I help people preserve their wealth, protect their legacy and plan for their future. My job as vice president at Witt Financial Group is to conduct periodic reviews with clients, assist in new client meetings, host public and private seminars and handling all of the life insurance at the office.

In today’s world, investing and insurance are very complex, so my goal is to deliver world class customer service, product knowledge, and to help simplify client’s overall financial plans. Also, I pride myself in acting as a fiduciary to all clients.

Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

Starting a weekly radio show in 2017.

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

The biggest challenges I see in the industry is lack of consumer knowledge and lack of advisor knowledge. Every advisor should be educating themselves and their clients more through personal client meetings, social events and quarterly coaching events.

What is the biggest opportunity you see in the industry?

With studies showing that many advisors and insurance agents are over the age of 55, this makes for a tremendous opportunity for young agents to begin a career in the insurance industry and mentor under an agent who has been in the business for 20-30 years.

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

I believe millennials are looking for someone they can trust. Technology is also a big part of what millennials are in search of, but nothing can substitute for trust and building a long-lasting relationship with their advisor. Advisors can best serve this market by networking in their local communities, usage of social media and integrating technology into their businesses.

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

As most young agents will tell you, beginning a career in insurance is challenging. If you are committed to beginning a career in insurance, be ready to work long hours, study and read everything you can get your hands on related to the financial industry and learn from your mistakes.

The first piece of advice I would give to everyone is to seek out a mentor and learn the business from top to bottom. A mentor can help you with business knowledge, marketing, product knowledge, how to conduct meetings, and most importantly, how to provide world class service to clients. Lastly, if you decided to pursue a career in the financial services or insurance industry, have fun and be passionate about helping others achieve their financial dreams!

— Read Millennial Investors Scarred by Financial Crisis on ThinkAdvisor.