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Young leaders help position the industry for the future

By Kate McCaffery | April 25 2018 07:00AM

The next generation is coming into its own and they’re not purchasing or selling insurance the same way their parents did.

Alongside this trend, young leaders within the industry are also coming into their own, rising quickly in an environment that needs their drive, tenacity and their perspective.

Young leaders are decisively moving the needle for their respective companies, increasing sales and changing the way things are done in a diverse range of roles.

“Oftentimes we think we’ve got something well understood, but when you look at it from (the point of view of) a different set of consumers, a younger demographic, you quickly start to realize there are things we could do better or differently,” says RBC Insurance vice president and head of operations and client experience, John Carinci, who was selected as one our Rising Stars in this special report.

Bringing a new perspective

RBC Insurance president, Neil Skelding, who nominated Carinci for this distinction, says this perspective is needed in an industry that is generally mature and somewhat traditional.

“Clients are not going to behave or purchase or operate in the ways that we’re used to,” he says. Young leaders are “bringing that perspective and they bring us closer to a client segment that’s really important.”

That client segment – millennials and adjacent cohorts – will not only be seeking advice in different ways, they will also be coming to a point where they are looking for advice at a time when the pool of available professionals will be retiring and getting notably smaller than it has been in the past.

HUB Financial’s vice president of sales, Andrew Fink – also featured in the Rising Stars report is optimistic about the opportunity.

Millennial advisors

“I think now, specifically, millennial (advisors) are at an advantage; the way Canadians want to interact with financial services is changing. They’re craving communication, social media and technology, all of which is second nature to people who are millennials or younger.”

The sentiment is echoed by another Rising Star, advisor Justine Zavitz, vice president of Zavitz Insurance Inc., in London, Ontario. “I understand how to reach this group and build the trust and long term relationships that not only pay off now, but also in the future as we all progress in our careers.”

In addition to the advisory practices that will need new professionals to take over, Fink also points to the wealth Canadians will be inheriting in future years, as well. He says advisors who are young and moderately established are going to be extremely well positioned to take over and provide support within the next 10 years.

“I think all advisors can have a positive impact on Canadians. The younger ones are going to be able to service the most underserved part of our market, which is the middle market, the average Canadian.”

Using social media

In addition to the use of social media, Fink says new advisors will also embrace e-applications and electronic delivery. They will find better and more effective ways to use the financial planning software that’s available. New entrants will find “non face-to-face” ways to serve Canadians in remote places.

“We need to be more efficient with our time,” he adds. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Fink’s passion for the industry first caught the attention of senior level executives at HUB, after he joined the company in 2013 as a broker development specialist. He earned his Certified Financial Planning (CFP) designation in 2015 before being promoted to director of national sales. Six months later, at age 28, he was promoted again, to vice president of sales for all of HUB Financial.

“He immediately made an impact,” says Chris DiSalle, HUB’s executive vice president and chief sales officer who nominated Fink for the Rising Stars distinction.

“He’s passionate. At thirty years old, he loves the business. He believes in the products. He owns the products. He’s sold the products. He also has capability. You can have someone who is passionate like that but not be able to step up on stage in front of 300 people and be present, passionate and engaging. He has a sense of reading the room which is exceptional,” he adds. “He naturally has that capability. People see it. They feed off of it and they love him.”

DiSalle says Fink’s contribution to the company’s bottom line is apparent, showing up as organic growth in revenue and company sales numbers. “Our sales team is better than it was. They’re better than they used to be. He works with them and coaches them weekly. We’re doing more business because of his training development and sales team coaching.”

At RBC Insurance, meanwhile, Carinci’s career path has taken him through all five of RBC’s business platforms, including stints in group risk management, wealth management, RBC Capital Markets in New York City, and in the company’s U.S. municipal finance business.

After moving to RBC Insurance in June 2010, Carinci led the development and launch of RBC’s Group  Benefits Solutions in 2013. The company moved from 16th place to seventh place in the under 200 life group market within three years.

“He took on our group business and fairly quickly he became an authority on the industry. He did a lot of homework on it. People who had been in the industry a long time were coming to him for advice about industry issues,” Skelding says. “He did that in a very short period of time. He got in, met the people, got to know what was going on in the industry and became an authority very quickly. You don’t always see that in more tenured executives.”

Zavitz is similarly driven. After graduating with an honours commerce degree from McMaster University, she continued on to earn her financial planning services diploma from Fanshawe College. She also has her CFP, her certified health insurance (CHS) and her chartered life underwriter (CLU) designations.

Today Zavitz is a Zavitz Insurance Inc. shareholder and manager, and a regular speaker at various industry conferences and events. She’s worked with the national board at Advocis, has served on CALU (Conference of Advanced Life Underwriters) issue groups and has lent her time and experience to a number of community causes, including the Joe Dickstein Scholarship program developed to support and encourage new advisors in the insurance field.

“The long term viability of our company is always at the top of my mind. I would like to see Zavitz Insurance grow,” she says, “with a focus on new advisors who we train and mentor into the business.” Working with new product lines and new target markets are also part of Zavitz’ plan for future growth.

The recruitment challenge

Despite the growing number of post-secondary institutions offering a financial services-specific education, DiSalle and Fink say finding new recruits who will make it as successful advisors is still a challenge.

“For the young person in this business, there’s only opportunity. There’s only upside, but it’s not for everyone. I think we can do a better job of being intentional about who we bring in to be financial advisors,” Fink says. “The skill sets and characteristics of people who will flourish in this business are not necessarily widespread in the population. I think it takes a unique personality type to survive and do well.

“We have measuring sticks and resources,” he adds. “As an industry we can be more thorough in our interviewing and on-boarding process. As an MGA we also need to understand that our return on the input we give to our recruits is going to take years to recover, but it needs to be done.”

To those who are new in the business, Zavitz and Fink have the same advice: Stick with it.

“First, educate yourself,” Zavitz says. “It’s not enough to just write your licensing exam and go through a four week training program anymore. Knowing the products intimately and the concepts you are recommending is the right thing to do for your clients and for your own success. Second, work hard. The best part about this business is the flexibility but it is also the part that can result in your failure.”

Finally, she says “be tenacious. There are times when you will feel like an utter failure. Your confidence will be totally shot and you will just want to walk away. Stick with it. This business is tough and you will struggle but it’s worth it to keep at it. It’s a great business to be in.”

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