After more than 46 years in the business, working in several different incarnations, including stints as training director, insurance company vice president, regional manager and managing general agent, Randy Reynolds has become an extremely well-known name and figure in the industry.
Over the years, the ranks of advisors doing business with his managing general agency have grown and contracted – quite naturally, he says – as businesses like his have transitioned from the sales volume and target-driven shops of the past to today where focus is placed on gathering clients, building relationships and creating written plans for those clients he’d like to keep for the long-term.
“For the last 30 years Canadians have been purchasing financial products outside of the context of their own financial objectives or written financial plans. That’s what I’m trying to stop,” he says. “I wanted to associate with those advisors who agreed with that vision.”
His strong beliefs about professionalism have also compelled him over the years to participate as past chair and director at Advocis and as a director for the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC). His commitment to industry professionalism has earned him accolades too – Mr. Reynolds is the most recent winner of the FPSC’s Donald J. Johnston award “for outstanding contribution to the profession of financial planning in Canada.”
Mr. Reynolds is able to talk about product development: He pioneered the use of back to back annuities when it made sense to do so, and worked with AGF Funds to help reengineer their segregated funds. He’s also able to talk about how to work well with insurance companies to get things done and how underwriting has changed over time.
Today though, he would prefer to talk about other things, saying he feels strongest about advancing the cause of professionalism in the industry.
“We have too many advisors in Canada holding themselves out as financial advisors, financial planners or life insurance agents who are not members of a professional body. I believe it’s high time for regulators in this country to insist that if you’re going to be licensed to sell financial products, you must be a member of an appropriate financial body,” he says. “It’s embarrassing that the regulators allow people with very little training or background to come in, be licensed and sell products to the public in Canada.”
Even though the words are strong, when he says them, there isn’t the sense or feeling of pulpit-pounding that usually comes with such statements.
He points out that some can hurt their own reputations but also the reputations of others in the industry by failing to participate and keep abreast of developments. He says even the most consummate professional can be shortchanged if they harbour the notion that they don’t need to participate or be affiliated with some professional group.
“You never know what you don’t know. The only way to be on top of what’s going on in this complex financial world is to be part of an organization that has a code of conduct, continuing education and the networking you need to stay current,” he says. “It’s important for the Canadian consumer to be served by the highest level of professional advice givers. To achieve that level of professionalism, organizations and institutions (and individuals) need to be focused.”
To that end, he personally operates a fee-for service planning practice where all staff work for salary, not commission.
Some of Mr. Reynolds’ advice for building and maintaining a successful business is as relevant today as it was 10 years ago. His first suggestion: Invest in yourself.
As part of his transition to a fee-for-service practice, Mr. Reynolds retained a personal coach back in 2000. He also believes strongly in advertising and promotion, “even if it is self-serving, as long as the consumer benefits from it.”
He says life insurance companies rely heavily on their advisors and representatives, meanwhile, to carry out this marketing effort. “Frankly, they (the companies) lack the talent,” he says. “Life insurance companies are driven by actuarial science, logic and probability. That’s a long way from developing relationships with clients and getting to know them. Without the relationships (companies) have with advisors, they wouldn’t have these customers.
For those interested in developing better relationships with the companies they work with, he suggests picking one or two key executives at the right company, and make an effort to get to know them better. “Be proactive without being a pest,” he adds.
Finally, he says the important part of business building, is to make a point of doing it every day. Although seminars and client appreciation events are popular suggestions, he says having “a heart of earnest” and clear communication is far more important to focus on.
“I haven’t had particular success grouping clients or advisors together in seminars or client appreciation nights. I’ve done a lot of that. I think, at the end of the day, it’s (about) how well you communicate in e-mail and letter form and over the telephone with your prospects and clients,” he says.
“I think to have a successful career as a financial advisor or planner is to focus on having the best possible relationships you can with your clients. Be friendly, do what you say you’re going to do, stay in contact and treat them like family.”