Industry Trends

Is compliance a priority for you? (Hint: It should be!)


When I spend time with registered reps, it’s not uncommon to hear the lackluster response they have when the topic of compliance is brought up. Heavy Sigh … Come on – it’s not THAT bad … right? Unfortunately, it can be for some, but for a variety of reasons on both sides of the subject. Let’s discuss.

Advisors, what can you do to be more compliant?

The answer, in a nutshell, is: A LOT. Compliance is a very serious topic, whether you are a registered rep or not.

Joanne Belbey of Actiance recently wrote an article in Forbes magazine that discussed certain areas where advisors need to better understand compliance needs:

  • Senior Markets:  Beware and Be Aware! We’ve all heard about this in our industry news, but we just need to beware in general when working with the senior market and be aware of ways you can be more compliant. Period.

  • Cybersecurity and High Standards:  I love the insight Bebley provided when she quoted Susan Axelrod of FINRA, “… You should hold your third-party vendors to your own high standards, or you will open your firm to venerability.” Amen to this statement! We all need to be thinking this way!

  • Best Practices:  Your clients’ data IS your most important priority each day. Be sure only the right people are accessing data on an as-needed basis. Your clients will not only appreciate you more, but also trust you.

  • Lead by Example:  Setting a precedence of compliance in your office makes everyone feel it’s an important topic. In my world of social media, for example, be sure all registered reps are doing what compliance has asked and all questions about certain requirements are discussed as a group. One person may be reading a guideline one way, while another interprets it completely different.


Compliance – what can you do to help advisors?

  • Listen to the full question. Advisors are lost in the language of compliance. Be patient with their questions and use layman terms and examples when they want a better understanding of why you want something a certain way. I don’t think advisors (as a majority) want to be non-compliant. They want to understand “why” and I’m finding that the proverbial answer of, “ Because I said so,” is not well-received.

  • Review guidelines more often. Social networking platforms change … and they change a lot (it’s the bane of my existence!). Be open to the possibility that certain platforms allow an advisor greater exposure (in a good way – don’t go right into the negative risk aspect) to potential clients. Too many other industries are leaps and bounds ahead of those who are trying to make a difference and bring peace of mind through financial planning. Be sure you are giving them a chance to shine in their community.

  • Be expeditious in your reviews. If you take too long to review profiles or articles, the advisor loses trust in the compliance process. Have an expeditious review process that takes into consideration that you’ve given the advisor the platform ability to use, and they are likely paying for it through dashboards that monitor, so please be respectful in the review process. I believe this process has come a LONG way from where it once was, but I am still seeing some reviews take two to four weeks. Whether you want to hear this or not, that’s not acceptable.

  • Accept mediation. There are social media consultants out there (yes, like me) who are wonderful advocates (like an ad litem) who want the best for both advisors and compliance. Allow these specialized individuals to help mediate the process to cut back on the frustration for both parties and assist in making sure the lines of communication are open and clearly understood.

Compliance is a necessary part of working well and being mindful of consumers and advisors’ best interests. I’m definitely not a compliance poo-pooer by any means. I believe there is still a breakdown between the two worlds though, and if I can do anything to help, please let me know.



Random Thoughts: Be Prepared


My daughter graduated from the University of Connecticut recently, on Mother’s Day to be exact. After the ceremonies, most graduates headed home for a much deserved break before starting a first job or matriculating to graduate school. But Dani headed back to her sorority house room (sparsely appointed since we took most of her stuff back to Virginia) to prepare for the final baseball road trip of season.

You’re probably thinking, “Women don’t play baseball,” and you’re correct. For three seasons, Dani has been a student manager for UConn’s baseball team. During this, her final season, she traveled with the team for all of their away games (11 series in all). 

Even though Dani spent all those weekends away from campus, missing time with her friends and sorority sisters, this opportunity was one she’d prepared for going back almost a year. Growing up in a baseball family, she’s loved her three years with the team – managing the office, coordinating recruiting, etc. When the opportunity came up to be the traveling manager, she re-arranged her class schedule (taking a heavier load in the fall) so she could handle the time commitment. 

I was a bit skeptical when thinking about her fall workload, but seeing how happy she’s been this spring was all worth it. She was definitely prepared for the challenge. 

Never being a Boy Scout, I didn’t have their motto, “Be Prepared,” driven in to me at an early age, but I do believe in its meaning. Dani’s experience (and the natural self-reflection brought on by an event like graduation) had me thinking of times when being prepared made a difference. 

  • Picking a college – I was a strong student and a good athlete at small Catholic high school in suburban Philly. When it was time to look for colleges, I went on a half-dozen recruiting trips to Division II & III schools, intent on playing both football and baseball. I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for, but I quickly realized things I didn’t like, such as the frat scene, which just wasn’t for me. In the end, I chose Swarthmore, not for its sterling academic reputation, but because it was a place where being me was OK. If I didn’t take those recruiting trips, I probably wouldn’t have figured that out. If your kids are searching for the right college, I suggest getting them on campus to see how it fits before making a final decision.

  • Moving to Virginia – When I left the CIGNA home office to open the brokerage shop in the D.C. area, we could have chosen to live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. At that time, the kids were only 4 and 2, but Suzanne insisted we think about the quality of high schools and universities in the area. Eighteen years later, we are proud to say we still enjoy the northern Virginia area and have two college grads, both of whom benefited from the terrific public schools and one of whom chose a great state university (William & Mary).

  • Joining Ash Brokerage – With 30 years in the insurance business, I view my career as a series of rotations, each of which has prepared me for the next opportunity and allowed me to cultivate some strong relationship. I’ve also been able to use external coaching to understand what I love to do best and which activities ignite my passions. Of all the opportunities I considered when I chose to go back to sales, it was the role with Ash that allowed me maximize the positives and minimize the negatives (I actually wrote out a Ben Franklin T-chart for decision making). But, without my diverse corporate experiences and nurtured relationships, I wouldn’t have been able to find nor be as prepared for this wonderful opportunity.


So, as you think about what you’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis, how can YOU come to the table more prepared to take advantage of opportunities?

  • Understand your WHY – Before any goal-setting, self-reflection, or task list can make sense for you or be effective, it helps to have a good handle on WHY you want to do what you do. Whether you’re working on one goal or a view of your existence, you might first try spending time on why you want to do it or why you are here. Some of these answers may be static for your whole life (i.e. “I am here to serve others”), while some may be specific to the task at hand (i.e., “I want to lose this weight so I can look better in my wedding dress”). Not only will the why help you set better goals, it can also provide motivation along the way.

  • Take advantage of the night before or the morning of – How many times did you hear your mom or someone else say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? If this is a well-established social moray, what gets in our way of making it happen? I believe it’s lack of preparation. Ask yourself, “What am I going to eat tomorrow morning? Do I have the right food in the house?” I think the same holds true for your next day’s meeting schedule. “What do I have ahead of me tomorrow? Am I prepared to make the most of that meeting? If not, what can I do to make the most of it?” Over the years, I’ve found that just a few minutes of review in advance of your day can make a huge difference in your productivity.

  • Practice – In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he explains the concept of the 10,000 hours rule of mastery. He uses examples of Brazilian soccer players, Canadian hockey players, and classical music “virtuosos” to explain how practicing your skill is the key element to being great at anything. What are you doing on a daily basis to be a success? Did you practice your presentation, take a class, read a book on a key subject or listen to a few “on point” TED Talks? Living in the information age allows us so much access to data, it’s easier than ever to fit practice into your schedule.

Whether or you grew up as a Girl Scout, Boy Scout or neither, preparing yourself to perform at your best when opportunities arise is a healthy habit. Know your why, make the most of your time and build up the skills that allow you to be qualified for many more opportunities. Challenge yourself to be prepared for whatever comes your way!


Random Thoughts

Protecting a Legacy


June 18 – Go Fishing Day – is a day that really hits home for me. Growing up, I was always on the water and figuring out how to catch those little green giants. I remember countless days waking up to the sounds of birds chirping, knowing I’d be going fishing with my grandfather. To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the sunrise over a smooth, glass lake. And, there’s no replacement for the meaningful life lessons I learned while on the water those cool, summer mornings. 

Fast forward 20 years. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer and shortly after, he passed away. But he left a powerful gift – he purchased a small whole life insurance policy with specific guidelines. Rather than just passing money to the next generation, the benefit was to be used to fund a once-a-year fishing trip with my father and uncle. 

This has been the most meaningful thing I’ve ever received from my grandfather. He found a way to protect the legacy that he learned from his father. Now every year when we go on our annual trip, we remember how important family and fishing were to him and how much of an impact they’ve made on our lives. 

Many times, people look to life insurance for a way to keep the same standard of living for their family and forget that it can be used as tool to start a tradition, or to solidify the values and morals of your own legacy. Thanks to my grandfather, I’ll be out on the water today, thinking of him and the memories we had together. And, of course, I’ll be praying to the fish gods so I come home with a bountiful catch.