African American Financial Professionals Convene with Sessions to Bolster Practices

The nearly 600 financial professionals who attended the 13th Annual Conference of African American Financial Professionals in Washington, D.C., found the meeting well worth their time and effort. In the three short days they spent in Washington, D.C., they were able to acquire the skills and strategies they need to take their practices to the next level of success.

From Todd Schoon, JD, CLU, ChFC, Interim President of The American College of Financial Services, they learned the value of education and the pivotal role it can play in their professional success. Schoon was encouraged to pursue education at an early age. Growing up, his parents gave him and his siblings a dollar for every A they got in school, creating in them a life-long love of learning. This stayed with Schoon, and when he became a financial professional, he was encouraged to earn as many industry designations as possible. “Knowledge makes you more competent,” he told the audience, “which, in turn, leads to self-confidence.”

Over the years, two surveys have demonstrated the power of education and what it can do for advisors and their practices, he pointed out. The first showed that advisors with no industry designations earned $244, 766 a year on average, while those with designations earned nearly $699,594. The second survey found that professionals without an industry designation were six and a half times more likely to have compliance or ethical violations than those without a designation.

Getting and keeping wealthy clients

Attendees in search of strategies they can use to attract and retain high-net-worth clients received some great advice from two high-powered financial executives–Shirley Ann Robertson, a financial professional with Prudential, and Derrick Lewis, First Vice President, Investments, with Raymond James & Associates.

Under the guidance of her now retired business partner and mother, Robertson built Robertson & Robertson, a successful firm that provides high-quality insurance and financial consultation services. She developed her practice by working with women, families, ministries, and small-to-mid-sized business clients.

In 2004, Lewis joined Morgan Keegan and worked with a partner to expand his client base and create a niche business. By 2009, he had grown his practice from less than $50 million to $150 million, with $1.4 million production. Lewis credits his success to several factors, including caring for his clients, working with referrals, and providing great service to all of his clients.

Working successfully with HNW clients takes a lot of time and hard work, both Robertson and Lewis stressed. You need to be confident, know your clients very well, be honest with them, and be willing to go the extra mile. “We offer concierge service to our clients because they expect high-quality service from us,” Lewis said. “We do everything for them and we are available to them at all times. They have to know that you are “in.”

To attract and retain HNW clients, advisors must also do something most of them dread: get rid of their “dead” clients. They must do this to free their time so that they can offer great service to their “A” clients.

Robertson also offers comprehensive services to many of her small-business clients, which helps to build a stronger relationship with them. “I always try to portray a brand of excellence,” she said. With this high level of service, Robertson no longer worries about prospecting—her satisfied clients refer other clients to her. “Be your brand,” she said. “Always project the right brand, and always deliver a brand of excellence.”

At the end of the day, the key to working with HNW clients is to provide great service. For example, Lewis’ firm invites its HNW clients to its office and takes care of their financial services. “We spend the whole day with them,” he said. “This way, you get to know them and their families better. It’s all about letting your clients know that they are special to you. If you work hard, you will get lucky along the way.”

Robertson then reminded the audience about something that advisors sometimes forget as they strive to build their book of business: They will have good as well as bad days. The key to success, she said, is to diversify their practice and make a commitment to renew themselves. “Education gives you confidence, and confidence replaces fear,” she said.

Steps to success

From Keynote Speaker, Simon Bailey, attendees received some words of wisdom on how to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace. Bailey is CEO of Simon T. Bailey International and has been described by Success magazine as one of the top 25 people who will help others reach their business and life goals through practical advice and specific tactics. He is also the author of 10 books and is known for his concept of brilliance.

According to Bailey, advisors who want to make it in this business should:

*Be whole-person focused.

* Be a financial educator.

*Demonstrate institutional transparency.

*Personalize their services.

*Offer platinum service with a “brilliant” touch.


What to do when failure is not an option

From MDRT member producer, Esylfie Taylor, attendees learned what they need to do when failure in the business is not an option for them. Taylor is the founder and president of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services in Pasadena, California, and serves as a financial advisor to individuals, business owners, and HNW families.


As advisors meet with their prospects and clients, they should not try to sell products; instead, they should highlight and focus on their value proposition. “That is what they will buy,” he said.

Also, since many successful people already have other financial advisors working for them, Taylor shared an approach that will give those looking for business a chance to offer their own services to these highly sought-after clients. To enhance their chances of working with them, they can use the following sentence: I will never undo the good work you have so far. But I will give you information that you can use to make educated decisions. Let’s get started.

In addition, to be successful, advisors should always have the word “CHANCE” top-of-mind:


H: Hard work

A: Aptitude

N: No excuses

C: Character

E: Expectations

As he addressed the audience, Taylor stressed the fact that the agency workforce in the U.S. is shrinking while the population is growing. This creates a tremendous selling opportunity for advisors who are willing to work hard. “Remember that life insurance is sold, not bought,” he said. “So, don’t be afraid to quote a big number, prospect up, try to replicate your “A” clients, focus on being a problem solver, and expect people to buy from you.”

In addition, they should never give up on their dreams of providing financial services to the millions of Americans who need them. “If you do, you will never know how close you were to success,” he said.

Income-enhancing tips

From Northwestern Mutual’s Timothy Radden, CLU, CLTC, AEP, ChFC, attendees gained some critical insights on how to enhance the financial performance of their practice. Radden is a wealth-management advisor with a nationally-recognized practice and a frequent guest lecturer on wealth-management and financial-wellness topics.

To grow their income, advisors need to do two things: think big, and then add a zero, he said. But, to carry out these seemingly simple tasks, they must do the following and do them consistently:

*Start acting like a business owner.

*Put systems in place and set goals.

*Master the art and science of client-building.

*Look for people with problems and for those with the money to solve those problems.

*Give clients and prospects the best options available.

*Look for a problem, not for a prospect.

*Sell the problem, not the product.

Last but not least, Radden reminded the audience that as they work to grow their income, they should always remember that “the best interest of the client is the only interest to be considered.”

Ayo Mseka