by Carolyn Ellis, Features EditorIn September, the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) appointed Michelle Hoesly to serve as president for a one year term. She is president of Resource 1, Inc., in Roanoke, VA., and is a 34-year veteran of the MDRT, rising to Court of the Table and Top of the Table. We talked with Micki about how MDRT contributes to its members’ professional and personal success.
L&HA: Everyone seems very pleased that you have agreed to serve as MDRT president.
MH: I’m eager to give back to this organization from which I have received so much. Having served on the Executive Committee for 3 ½ years, I thought being president would be pretty much the same. Since taking office, I have been amazed by the huge respect the Round Table carries and that the president represents. I feel it wherever I go, and it’s a tribute to our organization.
L&HA: Describe your practice for our readers.
MH: We work on retirement plans and wealth management as well as risk management using insurance and annuities. We help our clients visualize their financial situation. Visualization is key to having people understand where they are and where they are trying to go.
L&HA: Is visualization a process or methodology?
MH: It’s a process aided by a program we use. On a really big screen we project the client’s cash flows in retirement in different colors, including sources of income. With a key stroke we can do a what-if. What if you retired three years earlier? What if you get this return instead of that return? We go through all these what-if scenarios and because it’s a picture in colors, they get it. They can see what a huge impact certain assumptions have and what little impact other assumptions have. They look forward to next meetings to see what progress they have made.
L&HA: Do you target any particular age range with this approach?
MH: We use this process with all ages. Retirees and pre-retirees want to see where they are and how the income is going to flow. Young people need to see a path. With this program we can show what your spouse’s income from all sources would look like if you died too early, and if the money might run out. It’s a huge impact for younger clients to see how much difference it makes to save 2 percent more of your pay, starting now and over many years. The graphic images projected on a large screen help everyone grasp the concepts. Just talking numbers doesn’t have the same impact.
L&HA: Is this something that you developed for your exclusive use?
MH: There are many very good financial planning programs, but key for us was is to have one with good visuals and to spend most of our meeting time with clients, once we’ve understood their goals, interactively changing the parameters so they can see the impact.
L&HA: How did you get started in financial services?
MH: I stumbled into it. I was fresh out of college with a degree in business. However, my heart was in the sciences and I planned to go back for a master’s degree in bio-tech or a science-related field. I stumbled upon MONY, and through my discussions with the manager I understood that they did what I thought I wanted to do for the short term, so I gave it a try.
L&HA: And the rest is history…?
MH: I wish it had been that easy. Like many, I quit multiple times in my first three years. I didn’t know if what I was doing was valuable to anyone, and I wasn’t sure of the professionalism of the career. However, my manager’s strategy was to tell me the minimum requirement was to make the Round Table! I believed him, and I qualified my first full year in the business. At my first meeting I realized we play an important role in people’s lives and this is an amazingly professional occupation.
L&HA: So MDRT has been an important formative experience for you, from the beginning.
MH: Every year before I went to the meeting I would have something I needed help with, like gaining technical background about retirement planning or how to improve my prospecting, and the answers were there. One year we had a presentation for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It just grabbed me and many others. We went back to our communities and began chapters, more than 30 altogether.
L&HA: What takeaways still guide you from these earlier experiences?
MH: We need to frame the expectations of our clients. They don’t know what financial planning is. We need to discuss with them our role and their role, what things we expect from them and what they can expect from us. I learned that at the Round Table and I live it now. Also, focus on what you do best. As I was trying to grow my business to Top of the Table, people kept saying, “Specialize, specialize,” but the thought of giving up half my business to make it grow made no sense to me. When I embraced the idea, a year and a half later I made it to Top of the Table and have stayed there.
L&HA: You were at least ten years into your practice when you narrowed your focus.
MH: I was doing qualified plans, money management, life insurance, health insurance, long term care. Once I focused on retirement plans and the investment side I became an expert in those areas. I started being known for that in the community, and I got referred more. We hear a lot about team practices but team members don’t have to be in your office (as long as you find team members who are respectful of your areas of expertise).
L&HA: What initiatives are important to MDRT today, and which will you promote?
MH: Rather than presidential initiatives, our Executive Committee initiatives carry over to new leadership. Networking is one. One huge strength of the Round Table is the willingness of our members, globally, to share their best ideas and to mentor. Mentoring takes place on many levels: from a senior advisor working with a junior on a daily basis to a phone call twice a year from a top advisor to say, are you doing the things we talked about, and how are they working out? I hope younger people realize that people who have been in the business a while like me still call others for guidance.
L&HA: Do you think the future is bright for today’s college graduates to have a career in financial services?
MH: We went through a period when many career companies stopped doing a lot of recruiting and training. That left a void of new people coming into the business to replace or assist our advisors in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Some of that has turned around. The first few years in the business are more difficult now than when I came into the business. That makes this business all the more valuable for those who can get through the first three years; they are in a phenomenal field where the opportunity is truly unlimited.
L&HA: What recommendations do you have for prospective agents and advisors?
MH: It’s hard to understand what this career entails. It helps to have had another job first even just for a year because some of the wonderful things about this career you might not appreciate like the opportunity to schedule your own time, choose your specialty, and really make a difference in someone’s life every day.
L&HA: What else makes you optimistic?
MH: Young people today are entrepreneurial, hard-working, and creative, and they have an inside knowledge of technology. I would tell them, don’t be fearful. We are not in this profession by accident. Each of us ended up here because there are people who desperately need our advice and we are here to fill that role through important times in their lives. This career is about advising. I help people visualize where they are on their financial path and what changes they need to make to protect themselves and get where they’re trying to go.