Charting the path to success: Roundtable with financial advisors - The Business Journals (2024)

A career as a trusted financial advisor offers the potential to impact many lives, change one’s community for the better, and to grow into leadership. The career also comes with challenges that are unique to the industry. Here, we’ve talked with three Northwestern Mutual advisors and leaders to get their perspective.

Brett Chestnut, managing director, Atlanta, Georgia

Rodney W. Griffin II, financial advisor, Bowie, Maryland

David Smallwood, managing director, Nashville, Tennessee

How did you decide to get into the financial sector as an advisor?

Chestnut: I was an electrical engineer and worked in the power industry for eight years. I rose in the ranks and was doing well, but I wasn’t finding much fulfillment in the work I was doing. I was looking to help people and build relationships, and I also wanted more incentive for hard work from a compensation perspective. Being a business owner was appealing to me, and with Northwestern Mutual’s support, I was able to be one with no startup costs, which is somewhat of a hidden secret in terms of entrepreneurship.

Smallwood: I had spent many years running a small business with my wife. Although we did quite well, most of our income was consistently being poured back into the business or going toward raising a family, leaving very little to save. Once we connected with our advisor at Northwestern Mutual, we discovered that it wasn’t about making more money, but about budgeting and giving every dollar a home, including saving for the future. Getting our finances in order with a trusted advisor inspired me to want to do the same for other small business owners and professionals.

Who are the people you've seen end up as successful advisors?

Griffin: I have seen all kinds of individuals from different background industries be successful in the business. We have advisors who once were engineers, teachers, consultants, business owners, stay at home parents – just to name a few. I think the biggest thing is the motivation to work hard and learn. Success is earned by continuing to grow and expanding your knowledge as an advisor.

Smallwood: I’ve seen anyone who is coachable, with grit and a growth mindset, be very successful as an advisor. Being an advisor is about being a guide to help people be the heroes in their own life stories. As a financial advisor that relates to money and saving for the future, but that same principle applies to what teachers, public servants, ministry leaders, military personnel, and coaches do day in and day out. That’s why folks coming from those professions tend to do well as advisors.

What does it take for someone to be a successful financial advisor?

Chestnut: You must have courage, and you can’t be afraid of rejection. The best financial advisors have the grit to get back up after they’ve been knocked down. You need to be incredibly disciplined with your time and have the motivation to grind every day.

Smallwood: You must be “others focused” and have a high care level to be a successful advisor. You must also be willing to view your first few years like being a doctor in residency where you’re required to keep showing up, be consistent, have grit and always keep the bigger picture in mind of crafting a rewarding career that can last a lifetime.

What are the benefits of working as a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual?

Griffin: The benefits of becoming an advisor with Northwestern Mutual include top of the line training and development, unlimited earning potential, a flexible work schedule, and the ability to tailor one's practice while being able to impact your community and provide for your family.

Smallwood: Working for Northwestern Mutual provides the opportunity to collaborate with a world-class financial services company that allows advisors to help clients with both offensive and defensive planning to create truly integrated financial plans, which long-term, creates more impactful outcomes.

What is the state of the financial services industry and its future?

Chestnut: Whether it’s cryptocurrency, generative AI or something else, there will always be new developments and advancements in financial services and in life. However, I’m confident humans will always have a home in this industry because of their ability to connect with people and build relationships.

Smallwood: While the state of the financial services industry is always in flux, the future is bright for advisors who focus on building deep relationships with their clients. While AI and other technologies may get better at crunching the numbers, it’s deep relationships that will be there to celebrate amazing life milestones, bring comfort during hard times and help navigate the complexities that exist with money and human relationships.

Why is this a great career for someone looking for a job?

Griffin: This is a great career for someone looking for a job because one can shape their practice to align with their personal and financial goals. As an advisor, one has the ability to choose the pace of their business' growth. You can decide when to scale up or maintain your client base to balance work and personal life and you have the ability to make generational impact.

Smallwood: This is a great career for someone looking for a job because it’s one of the few places where if you perform at a high level, operate with integrity and discipline and strive to help as many people as you can, you can’t get a “pink slip” from your boss or a corporate email blast letting you know you’ve been including in a company’s downsizing measures. This career gives you the freedom to bet on yourself and create your ultimate future.

What excites you about your job on a day-to-day basis?

Chestnut: There are so many things that excite me about this career. One is helping develop other advisors and watching them grow. While this profession can be trying early on, with discipline and courage, advisors become more confident and can achieve success they may have never dreamed of.

I’m also excited about growing this profession to new audiences. There’s so much room to expand across cultures and demographics as the marketplace gets more diverse. This business and the professionals doing this work will be very different in the future.

Lastly, I’m excited about leaving a legacy, not only for my clients, but for my family. This calling has allowed me to alleviate thousands of people from financial anxiety, and I’m also able to leave my children a meaningful financial legacy as well.

Griffin: As a leader, I have the ability to develop and grow other advisors wanting to make change in their community. I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals that have gone from once being clients to friends.

As an expert in the field of financial advising, I bring to the table not just theoretical knowledge but also practical experience gained through years of working with clients, navigating the complexities of financial planning, and witnessing firsthand the impact that sound advice can have on individuals, families, and communities.

I've spent considerable time studying the intricacies of the financial sector, including investment strategies, risk management techniques, retirement planning, and tax optimization strategies. My expertise extends to various financial products and services, such as mutual funds, insurance policies, estate planning instruments, and more. Additionally, I've stayed abreast of industry trends, regulatory changes, and technological advancements shaping the financial landscape.

Now, let's delve into the concepts and insights presented in the article about careers in financial advising:

  1. Career Transition: The individuals interviewed in the article, like Brett Chestnut and David Smallwood, highlight their career transitions into the financial sector from diverse backgrounds such as engineering and small business ownership. This underscores the versatility of the profession and the potential for individuals from varied backgrounds to succeed as financial advisors.

  2. Motivation and Success: Rodney W. Griffin II emphasizes the importance of motivation, continuous learning, and a growth mindset for success in the financial advising profession. Success in this field is not solely determined by one's previous occupation but rather by one's willingness to adapt, learn, and work diligently.

  3. Attributes of Successful Advisors: According to the insights shared by Chestnut and Smallwood, successful financial advisors exhibit traits such as courage, resilience, discipline, empathy, and a genuine desire to help others. These attributes are crucial for building trust with clients and navigating the challenges inherent in the industry.

  4. Benefits of Working with Northwestern Mutual: The article highlights the benefits of working with Northwestern Mutual, including comprehensive training, flexible work schedules, unlimited earning potential, and the opportunity to make a positive impact on clients' lives and communities.

  5. Future Outlook: Chestnut and Smallwood discuss the evolving landscape of the financial services industry, emphasizing the enduring importance of human connection and deep relationships in an era of technological advancements and market changes. They foresee a bright future for advisors who prioritize client relationships and adapt to industry shifts.

  6. Career Advantages: Griffin and Smallwood outline the advantages of a career in financial advising, such as the ability to align personal and financial goals, create a lasting impact, and enjoy job security based on performance rather than corporate structures.

  7. Job Satisfaction: Chestnut and Griffin express excitement about their roles as leaders in the financial advising field, citing the fulfillment derived from developing other advisors, fostering meaningful relationships with clients, and leaving a lasting legacy through their work.

In conclusion, a career in financial advising offers not only the potential for personal and professional growth but also the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others while navigating the dynamic landscape of the financial services industry.

Charting the path to success: Roundtable with financial advisors - The Business Journals (2024)
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