What makes a great insurance and financial advisor? Expertise in the products and services they provide as well as the laws and regulations that govern them is certainly at the top of the job description.
Advisors need to be assertive yet personable, frank yet reassuring. They must be honest and trustworthy, and they are top-notch communicators. Making strong connections with clients, understanding the needs of those they serve and building lasting relationships are all crucial to advisor success.
Team-management, organizational, marketing and sales skills cannot be neglected either. Traits, tricks and best practices that bring success in these areas are often learned or perfected with training provided by mentors, companies and professional associations.
The Trait All Successful Advisors Share
Still, there is another more innate quality that I find nearly universal among advisors. I am fortunate to claim a number of advisors among my very close friends. I have had opportunities to meet and engage in meaningful conversations with hundreds of others. The one trait shared by every successful advisor is a nearly consuming passion for what they do and those they serve. They love their jobs and they love their clients.
The passion is expressed in their professionalism: the way they seek out training and education, contribute to their communities, connect with peers through their membership in professional associations like NAIFA, and always look out for their clients’ best interests.
Our industry recently won a significant legal victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of NAIFA, the American Council of Life Insurers and several of our industry coalition partners to vacate the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.
Throughout the debate on the DOL rule, our opponents tried to paint us as arguing that advisors should not have to work in their clients’ best interests. Nothing could be further from the truth! The advisors I know are dedicated to working as hard as they can to ensure that their clients thrive. They want to see that everyone has access to personalized advice.
Our opposition to the DOL rule was based entirely on the undue burdens the rule placed on advisors and their clients, as well as the harmful barriers it put between advisors and consumers. The 1,000-page regulation was a case of a regulatory agency attacking a gnat with a sledgehammer. If it were simply a matter of saying advisors must work in their clients’ best interests, we would have had no concerns. The great advisors I know have made working in their clients’ best interests a career-long pursuit.
The case of the DOL rule demonstrates why political advocacy is so important to the insurance and financial services industry. Great advisors recognize this fact early in their careers, and they get involved.
It should not be surprising that the passion advisors have for their profession and their clients naturally extends to advocating on behalf of their industry and consumers. When advisors experience just how much laws and regulations can impact their ability to advance their careers and serve their clients, political involvement becomes a necessity.
My friend Keith Gillies, NAIFA’s president and a 38-year veteran of the industry, said, “Lawmakers and regulators make decisions every day that determine whether my clients succeed and whether I can keep doing a job that I love. I’ve always considered it part of my job description as an advisor to be politically active and involved.”
NAIFA’s 2018 Congressional Conference
In May, more than 850 insurance and financial advisors joined me in meetings with representatives and senators in Washington as part of the annual NAIFA Congressional Conference. These advisors told lawmakers how they serve clients — from families to small businesses — in their communities across the U.S. They emphasized how important it is that they be allowed to help people identify and reach their financial goals — whether the goal is preparing for a comfortable retirement, providing their children with a college education or offering their employees’ health insurance and other benefits.
Although politically engaged advisors support their industry and protect their own businesses, they are also adding value for their clients. Advocating that laws and regulations not have harmful effects on consumers is another way that advisors work in their clients’ best interests.
It is a service that truly great advisors are happy to provide.
Kevin Mayeux, CAE, is CEO of NAIFA. Contact him at [email protected]