For many Americans, the difference between successfully navigating a significant life change and financial catastrophe often comes down to sound financial planning and advice. Without access to the services of a financial advisor, challenges such as job loss or the sudden death of a loved one can become financially — as well as emotionally — overwhelming.
FSI members Denis Walsh, President and CEO of Money Concepts Capital, and George Connolly, President and CEO of Securian Financial Services, understand the importance of reaching out to Main Street Americans, and have built thriving businesses by focusing on this underserved market.
Both see their membership and ongoing engagement with FSI as critical to their success. “The Main Street investor is our market niche and that has been the case for us since day one,” says Walsh. In order to best address mainstream investors’ needs, Walsh and his team at Money Concepts Capital have developed a program — Enterprise 360 — that offers a holistic approach to financial planning. “You’ve got to get in there and help the client in a more holistic way,” says Walsh. “A financial advisor is most able to benefit a client when he or she is able to understand and then help with every aspect of a client’s particular financial picture, not just their investment needs.”
He continues, “We see ourselves right in the middle of every aspect of a given client’s financial planning related considerations. We make it a point to help our clients navigate the full range of their finances with the goal of helping them to become well-informed and extremely well-prepared.”
In describing the motivating factors behind his business, Walsh relates a story about one of Money Concepts’ seasoned financial advisors who was recently approached by a middleincome client for help with a routine rollover. As the advisor was sorting out the client’s finances, the client informed the advisor that she had suddenly been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The advisor was able to secure Social Security benefits for his client — a small step that, nevertheless, made an enormous difference in the client’s immediate financial well-being.
After the client passed away, further work by the advisor revealed that the deceased client’s pension had a life insurance component. The advisor was able to sort out the details and the pension was paid to the client’s husband at a time when he was grieving the loss of his wife.
“These are the types of situations that slip through the cracks, and they do all the time,” says Walsh. “As financial advisors, we are also advocates. We can have a tremendous impact by sorting out financial details in relation to major life events on behalf of middle income individuals.”
George Connolly echoes Walsh’s grassroots approach. “Our bread and butter business is middle class, upper middle class and high net worth investors,” says Connolly. “At Securian, we’ve tried to look at our offerings and be conscious about how we can best service the individual with $50,000 to invest.”
Part of Securian’s ability to serve Main Street investors comes from the company’s hiring model, which welcomes financial advisors who are new to the industry and enables them to build the tools and experience to grow into more seasoned practitioners. “For a significant number of our financial advisors, we are their first job in the industry,” says Connolly. “From day one, our advisors learn to deal with the fundamental, day-to-day issues — specifically, the life changing events — of the middle-market client,” he says.
As an example, Connolly points to the relationship one of his affiliated advisors has developed with one client over several decades, starting when the client was a new dental school graduate. Over the years, the advisor encouraged his client to maintain sufficient disability insurance. At the mid-point of his career, the client developed a condition in his hand that left him unable to hold dental instruments — a professional catastrophe.
The client was forced to give up his practice and take his career in a different direction. Because he stuck to the financial plan he developed as a young professional, however, he was able to weather this professional setback. Thanks to the advisor’s guidance and consistent follow-up, the client will be able to keep his home and send his children to college without raiding his retirement savings.
With their in-depth perspective on Main Street investors’ everyday concerns, Walsh and Connolly see the current regulatory environment as a significant barrier to providing effective financial advice to the middle market. Both see FSI as a vitally important partner in making sure that Main Street investors’ needs are met. “It is critical that we have an advocacy group such as FSI educating regulators and advocating on our behalf so that they understand our business,” says Walsh.
Connolly concurs. “FSI is focused on those regulatory issues that limit the ability of the mass market to get financial advice,” he says. “FSI is a balancing voice and not simply an organ of the financial services industry. This is what makes it so important.”