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An Unlikely but Rewarding Career Choice

As Hefren-Tillotson’s Director of Insurance, I oversee the insurance department’s day-to-day multi-faceted operations. Among my many duties, I provide insurance expertise and direction to our financial advisors and their clients seeking customized solutions based on their individual financial planning needs analysis.

Being in the insurance and investment industry was not on my radar when I was younger; it rarely is for most people. Prior to graduation from Washington & Jefferson College in 2002, I was majoring in Psychology with a focus in Education. My career aspirations were to become a doctor, a physical therapist, or follow my passions for teaching and coaching.

It all changed one day when a guy walked into my father’s office and saw a picture of me on his desk. “What’s he doing now?” he asked. It wasn’t long before I got the call from Northwestern Mutual. During my seventh interview, I finally asked my future boss when he was going to offer me a 100% commission job as a financial representative. Originally, I thought it was just a job, not the launching of my professional career in insurance and investments.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Deep down, I wanted to help people in some way but didn’t know where or in what capacity. I backed away from teaching. I felt social studies or psychology wouldn’t impact anyone’s life the way I wanted to.  What am I doing today? Teaching!

Not only can I say I love it; I can say I love the fact that I am helping people the way I wanted to. Whether alongside an advisor, their client, an intern or a colleague, I am educating others like an internal insurance consultant would when selecting the proper insurance to fit the individual’s wants and needs. 

At Hefren-Tillotson, we consistently provide customized solutions while uncovering opportunities that advisors and clients don’t even know exist. But before I do anything – and this is where my extensive training comes in – I make it a point to look at and understand every single client’s goals and objectives first. How could I possibly make a prudent recommendation if I didn’t?

Experience was my greatest teacher

Looking back, Northwestern Mutual had a top-notch sales training program that taught me, among other things, the true meaning of what I do today – help people plan for some of the worst things that can happen to a person or family becoming injured, sick or passing away prematurely. But at the time, I was only selling proprietary term, whole life, and disability insurance. I had blinders on for a while, but then opened my eyes to understand there was an entire universe of insurance solutions that we didn’t utilize or fully understand. I wanted to learn more about insurance and become securities licensed, so I left Northwestern Mutual, and my world opened up.

When I joined Federated Investors, I came to understand the wholesaling and investment side of business. PNC Bank taught me the banking and wealth management sides. I transitioned to a general agency and then to a national agency that specialized in group healthcare benefits and individual insurances. Ultimately feeling that my proficiencies were suitably fine-tuned, I joined Hefren-Tillotson in 2016. Past experience has truly been my best teacher. Obviously, I would have never had such outstanding opportunities.

The insurance industry changes, as it must

There are always changes. I have been watching the shift from Current Assumption Universal Life (UL), to Guaranteed ULs, back to Current Assumption, and now to Indexed ULs. My concern is a lot of carriers seem to be quoting things that are unrealistic without certain parameters around them and practical regulations.  

The actuarial guideline, AG 49, was created to put parameters around quoting IULs, but I don’t feel it has done a good enough job yet. More regulations will streamline it, and the industry will figure them out. Hefren-Tillotson hasn’t been a big proponent of the IUL space but is slowly getting more comfortable with them.

Besides, we don’t just dive in when a new product comes along. We constantly have to be thinking about what’s best for the client. I continually have to be thinking about protecting our advisors and our firm.

Change brings opportunity and personal growth

We get flooded with calls and emails that make every day a new adventure for me. And I love it! I get questions reverting back to my early days and I can easily answer them from prior experience with an understanding that things changed too. I am specializing in life, disability and long-term care now more than ever and feel our insurance department is a tremendous resource for our advisors and their clients. In fact, they should use us more!

We have great people here. Most of them are primarily asset managers and not insurance people. That’s okay because that is one of the many reasons why they have us in the insurance department, and they are learning more, and becoming more involved in more insurance case situations. Our advisors and planning department do a great job of identifying when there is an insurance “need.”  They are recognizing when term insurance has its place, but not always the right fit for everyone. We are continually educating our advisors, case by case, and about other potential insurance planning opportunities that could be a client “want,” not a “need.”

I love the challenges we face. I push forward and strive to be the best that I can be as a professional and we can be as an internal department.  I tell my kids the same thing when I teach them life lessons.

My son, for example, loves baseball and tries really hard, but recently had the worst game of his short career thus far. He thought I was mad at him. “Why would I be mad at you?” I asked. “You did your best, didn’t you? It just wasn’t your night. You’ll get up tomorrow, learn from mistakes or opportunities you couldn’t take advantage of last night, then practice more and keep pushing forward.” I know my 11-year-old, he doesn’t listen to me all the time, but, eventually, it will sink in and he’ll take what he learned and apply it.  The next weekend, he had his last tournament of the travel season and they won the championship! He did listen, and that’s why I call it “being coachable.”

We, too, take what we have learned and use it. We’re making subtle changes and slowly but surely are making great strides in how we do business in the insurance space – a space that I am truly thankful to be part of – so that we can be the best and most efficient that we can be.

DISCLAIMER: Past performance does not predict future results. This report is based on data obtained from sources we believe to be reliable. Hefren-Tillotson does not, nor any other party, guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report or make any warranties regarding results obtained from its usage. All opinions and estimates included in this report constitute the firms judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell the securities herein mentioned.

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Hefren-Tillotson Inc. is a leading diversified financial services firm providing investment and retirement plan management and comprehensive, financial planning through MASTERPLAN® for individuals and businesses. The firm’s wealth management services are administered by Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professionals, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charter holders, attorneys, Chartered Life Underwriters, and CPA/PFS’s. Hefren-Tillotson offers corporate services including 401(k) retirement planning, executive financial counseling, fiduciary reviews and workplace financial planning seminars. Founded in 1948, the firm is headquartered in Pittsburgh and has offices located in Pittsburgh, Butler, Greensburg, North Hills, and South Hills. MEMBER SIPC.