Ian Green, Dip PFS, was delighted when he received the following message from a client: “I quit.”
The client wanted to retire from a job they didn’t like, but figured they’d have to work for at least another 18 months to be in the right financial situation. The client dreamed of moving away from the hubbub of London and buying a smaller place where they could spend their days fishing and enjoying family.
“Since they wanted to sell their house in London, we told them that, as long as you get the amount of money you’re thinking of for your home and buy one for less, we can take that difference and you can invest it, so you could retire now,” said Green, a 22-year MDRT member from London, England.
“So they sold the house, and sent me a message saying, ‘I quit my job.’ How good is that?
“The whole point of what I’m doing is for it to be meaningful,” Green said. “Contrast that with when I started off, and it was really ‘Just keep doing a lot of work.’”
Green, who said it took him 997 phone calls when he started to secure his first appointment, understands the challenges that go into building a career in financial services. When he learned about MDRT, he looked to the organization to find a way out of the relentless activity that yielded less-than-satisfying results. What he found was other members willing to share their strategies and advice, and a way of life that would serve him well for the next 22 years.
“I joined MDRT because I wanted to increase my production and become a better businessperson. And that’s happened every single year I’ve been a member,” Green said. “What was unexpected was the benefit the Whole Person concept brought to me, because that helped me understand I could be a business success without messing up the rest of my life.”
As Green assumes the role of 2021 MDRT President, he wants to help other members find a way to make their work in financial services productive, meaningful and satisfying, while also focusing on caring for themselves and their families.
Green has been in financial services since 1995, starting out in life insurance sales after an injury left him unable to continue his job in computer graphics. He began his career working for others, but ultimately decided a large company wasn’t the right fit. He also saw the need to provide comprehensive financial advice to clients.
In 2000, he founded Green Financial, a boutique firm tucked into a quiet, leafy area of southwest London. The fee-based business works with a limited number of clients on lifetime financial planning, including wealth management, tax efficiency, retirement income and estate planning.
What was unexpected was the benefit the Whole Person concept brought to me, because that helped me understand I could be a business success without messing up the rest of my life.
During the past 20 years, Green has put in long hours to make his business a success. But with the success came an overwhelming workload, even with the help of his wife and business partner, Melissa.
To address this challenge, Green made a list of everything he was doing. He then went through the list, noting the things he should continue doing and the things he could have someone else handle. Melissa carried out the same exercise.
“We realized the primary consideration needed to be a practice manager, who in turn could hire people to do the other things on the list,” Green said.
Hiring a practice manager enabled Green to concentrate more on clients. It has enabled Melissa to concentrate more on running the business. “And it has enabled us to not have to handle the recruitment, because we identified that as a skill we don’t have,” Green said.
In addition to hiring a practice manager, this year Green Financial also created an internship-to-staff position. The newest intern recently completed university and joined the company to learn from the ground up.
“Because we’re a small company, the graduate trainee we’ve brought on can really shape their own destiny,” Green said. “If they decide they might like to move into being an advisor, they can. If they decide they would like to be more front stage, more backstage, more technical, more client facing, those are all a possibility.”
Green also has two additional staff members, one who handles the client support and one who handles the technical and administrative tasks. Within the past few years, he has also outsourced the paraplanner role and hired a virtual assistant, who works remotely and handles things like scheduling and emails.
“Diary management is a huge issue for me. With all the things I do for my business, my MDRT commitments and my family life, all the time I have available is filled. All the other tasks that are not uniquely me have to go elsewhere,” Green said. “That has left me free to concentrate on the client work and to focus on the strategic direction of the company.”
Green has also made changes in his customer base, reducing the number of clients he has and increasing the quality of service provided. “With the time and effort we have available, it meant delivering a better service to fewer families.”
This necessitated pinpointing what an ideal client looked like: business owner or senior executive, time-poor, easy to get on with, able to make decisions and delegate, and usually local. They’re also normally five to 10 years on either side of retirement.
Identifying the right clients also required “elegantly disengaging” with those who didn’t fit the criteria. If a client’s financial needs were simple and they didn’t need the level of service Green offered, he assisted them in finding an alternative method to planning. This might mean self-service on the internet, encouraging them to do things directly or suggesting they find a new advisor.
“What we did not do was just quit on people. We did not sell a client list to a broker, and we did not recommend another financial advisor. We chose not to because we wanted it to be completely clear that we would not financially gain in any way, shape or form by discontinuing to work with someone,” Green said. “We’ve been as fair and equitable as possible to each and every one of those clients.”
By reducing the number of clients, Green was able to focus on more in-depth financial planning with his remaining clients. He takes a three-step approach. The first, most important step is discovering what the client really wants from life and financial planning to understand their story and purpose.
The next step is lifetime cash-flow planning and uncovering how much is enough. “What needs to happen with what you already have in place, and does anything else need to be done to ensure you reach your goals,” Green explained.
The last step is the financial advice. Where and how should your money be invested, and what needs to happen over time?
“So we’ve focused far more on making it about the client’s story and the purpose of financial planning, and not just the products.”
Green brings his desire to understand, prioritize and focus on strategic planning to his role on MDRT’s Executive Committee. “People often say to me, ‘What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started out in this business?’ and my answers to that are, ‘I wish I’d learned to not try to be all things to all people, and to say no more often and sooner,’” Green said.
“MDRT can be excellent and do anything, but we can’t be excellent and do everything. We have to make sure that we focus on what our members want and deliver that — and deliver that better — instead of saying yes to almost everything,” Green said. “That means revisiting MDRT’s business plan to make sure we’re focusing on the things we should be doing and not being distracted by things we really shouldn’t be doing.”
Green also sees the entire organization continuing to support MDRT members through the current health and economic crisis. “The Executive Committee is very aware that people are hurting around the world, and our focus has been helping members get through this,” Green said.
MDRT created a productivity action plan and increased its online resources, while also making its mobile app available in other languages, Green noted.
“Additionally, to enable members to focus on serving their clients, all 2019 and 2020 MDRT members can rejoin in 2021 with no proof of production, and we have adjusted the production requirement for new 2021 members. These changes acknowledge the socioeconomic impact the coronavirus has had on all advisors and their clients globally,” Green said.
“We’re committed to supporting our members during this challenging time, so they not only survive but come out the other side stronger and better.”
During his presidential year, Green is also committed to seeing MDRT continue to operate more sustainably for the good of the planet, and build on its long tradition of embracing an organizational culture where everyone is valued, respected and treated fairly without bias or discrimination.
Learning from MDRT
Green has learned the ins and outs of MDRT through the many volunteer roles he has held throughout the years including, most recently, Top of Table Divisional Vice President, Annual Meeting Main Platform/Special Sessions Chair and Membership Communications Chair. He credits the friendships and knowledge he has cultivated through the organization with the healthy changes he has made in his business and his personal life.
“So much of what I do I learned from MDRT. I like the phrase ‘adopt and adapt.’ It’s kind of taking a shortcut, for instance with new technology that another MDRT member has used,” Green said. “My time management, my diary structure and using a virtual assistant, that all came from MDRT.”
His online client meeting booking system came from having access to another MDRT member who had already done the research on new technology and was happy to share their insights with Green. “I wanted to increase my use of technology, but doing the due diligence on it is time consuming, and you might get it wrong. By having an MDRT member share it with you, you can adopt it, which I did. And then adapt it to work best for you.”
Green has also used MDRT’s Whole Person philosophy to balance his work and family life. As the parent of a young child (Mia, age 9) and a young adult (Max, age 20), the owner of a small business and a member of the Executive Committee, Green has a lot of demands for his attention to juggle.
One way he has learned to manage his time is to schedule everything — from his time playing soccer with Mia to his MDRT conference calls. Nothing is left to chance.
The second key to his work-life balance is making sure he’s fully present in each thing he does. When he’s meeting with a client, he focuses completely on the task at hand rather than thinking about everything else he has to do that day. If he’s running around at the park with Mia or having dinner with Melissa, he gives his attention 100%. That means no checking his phone for messages or taking a work call.
“The challenge of continually being present in whatever it is you’re doing is not easy, but I think it’s important,” Green said. “And it’s something I would encourage people to practice.”
In the year ahead, MDRT has big developments planned for existing and aspiring members, Green said.
- Mentoring program. This program has already rolled out in Simplified and Traditional Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean and Spanish, with more languages to follow.
- The MDRT Academy. This is a digital association for aspiring members. Membership is open to advisors in the United States; Canada; the United Kingdom; Australia; Hong Kong, China; India; Singapore; Malaysia; Jamaica and the Philippines. This new association has been in a two-year pilot phase and will be available November 1. It will open in additional markets, including China, in 2022.
- Professional development. MDRT is working on a strategy to provide additional learning beyond live events and drive engagement throughout a member’s career by delivering online, on-demand educational content.
- Additional opportunities. New initiatives for field leaders, general agents and managers, home office executives, bancassurance managers and other affiliated professionals who influence the careers of advisors.