10 Years In

Ten years ago today, was a Sunday. I was set to start a career at Prudential Financial as a Financial Advisor the next day. My job experience to that point included: low-voltage electric work, aquatics (teaching, coaching, and life-guarding), and youth services (after school programs, camp counselor, etc.). So, clearly, I was cocky that that Financial Services would be easy.

To say I had no idea what I was getting into and that I was in over my head would be an understatement. Luckily, I was a good test taker, I passed my Life & Health, Series 6, and Series 63 in a little over a month (this reinforced my cockiness). I didn’t know the first thing about insurance or investments in a practical setting but being young and naïve, I knew I was smarter and better than everyone. I received quite the gut-check when I had made a total of $7,000 by New Years 2014 (less than $30,000 annualized) and the other FAs around me were putting up numbers that doubled or tripled mine.

As luck would have it, I worked in an office with some incredible people. In an industry known for “Every man for himself” I found myself with no less than half a dozen mentors that combined for well over a century of total experience. Over the next few years they would to teach me as much as I could handle about the basics of prospecting, planning, sales, underwriting, products, and more.

As time went by, it was becoming evident that I was excelling in some areas and struggling with others. Unfortunately, the areas I was struggling with were the two areas that had the largest impact on my income, prospecting and sales. Since I was still young enough to believe that it wasn’t my fault, I decided to start my own business a month after I got married.

Six months later, I had dragged my wife through enough financial stress that I started looking for a back-office role. I spent the next two years supporting a MassMutual producer. This time was integral to growing and strengthening my understanding of products and the planning process. It was also my first experience consulting with an advanced markets department. My appreciation for just how powerful a tool Life Insurance is grew exponentially.

By the Spring of 2016 I was ready for a change. I saw an ad on LinkedIn for a position with a Brokerage General Agency in the city. My limited experience with BGAs came from the handful of cases I had facilitated through an outfit on Long Island. I called the President of the firm and asked him if he had heard of the place I was considering applying to. He told me that he knew the owner, I should apply, and that he would call on my behalf.

My tenure at Algren Associates began on May 23rd, 2016. My world to that point had consisted of roughly a dozen products. In my first two weeks I had meetings with more than a dozen different carrier reps to learn the basics of their offerings. Talk about humbling. I was learning about things I didn’t even know existed. Products, Riders, Concepts, all brand new. On top of that I was being introduced to many of the advisors that utilize our firm.

I knew there was a lot to learn conceptually. What I did not know, was how bad I was at staying in my lane. My first six years in the industry were spent managing the sales process from start to finish, for myself and then for others. I now found myself in a role that was relegated to the first step only of the sales process. With no malicious intent I was running too many illustrations, assisting too much (and poorly) with licensing, and getting too involved with underwriting and servicing, when I should have been focusing on my own duties. Almost three and a half years later, I still struggle to let go sometimes. But I do think I am improving!

Thinking back over the last ten years, it is hard to believe that it all happened to me. I can’t help but feel deep appreciation and gratitude. It took an enormous village to get me here and I am proud that many people from that village have graduated from the monikers of colleagues, mentors, and mangers to friends. One of them went from being Girlfriend to Wife!

One of the people I looked up to most (he has since passed) once told me, “If you want to have a career in this industry, you need to be a student of insurance. The products and the laws will change, if you cannot pivot with them, you will fail.” I look forward to continuing my education, meeting new people, and making proud all the people who have helped me and believed in me throughout my career.