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Penn Mutual’s Tom Harris: Clients Want Your Advice

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Tom Harris knows the painful, lonely path of financial professionals who try to persuade clients to protect themselves against mortality and longevity risk.

Harris is executive vice president and chief distribution officer at The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co.

He oversees the distribution of Penn Mutual products both through the company’s own career agents and through independent producers.

He has a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, as well as the Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant and Fellow, Life Management Institute professional designations, meaning that he understands the math inside the products as well as the clients’ need for protection.

Via email, we asked Harris a set of VIP questions that touch both on his professional knowledge and on what he does off the clock.

1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

Tom Harris: I’ve got my eye on technology. I’m watching how protection, management and the use of data are being used to drive our business and create better experiences for our financial professionals and clients.

2. How has it been changing recently (2021), and how do you expect it to change (2022)?

The shift to digital new business and in-force policy support had started prior to the pandemic. It’s greatly accelerated in 2020 and 2021, and I expect that to continue in 2022.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

Continue to be flexible in running your business, especially as it relates to your employees and how your clients want to interact with you. Embracing these changes can increase efficiencies and better meet client expectations.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

I’m really following developments related to information protection and cybersecurity. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal are daily sources for updates on cyber-related companies, security and news from D.C. related to regulations on the use of data.

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic? Why/why not?

It’s been 613 days since I last worked in our corporate office, so my work-from-anywhere habits are firmly established, with the exception of my cat Zoom-bombing my meetings. I still don’t have a solid plan of defense for that.

6. What’s your biggest hobby, and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

I enjoy fishing. Last summer I caught Mackinaw trout in Lake Tahoe and had a local restaurant cook it for dinner that night. Delicious!

7. How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

The most recent event was The Clambake, an annual fundraising and networking event of The American College of Financial Services Center for Veterans Affairs.

While virtual this year, the money raised at this event provides scholarships to members of the military community and their spouses for education and professional designations that will help them in the financial services profession.

I’ve been on the Center for Veterans Affairs advisory board for 10 years and always look forward to this event.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. I bought it over five years ago and figured there was no time like the present to read it.

9. Any special holiday plan, activity or focus you’d like to share as we near year-end? Or a New Year’s resolution that you’ve decided on?

I’m looking forward to in-person holiday celebrations with my family. My New Year’s resolution is to be optimistic and lose weight (for what must be the 30th year in a row). It’s going to stick this time for sure!

10. Any other update/fact about you or piece of advice/wisdom you’d like to share with our advisor audience?

The advice financial professionals provide to clients has never been more valued. While technology can enhance the FP/client relationship, it will not replace it.