How financial professionals become family

Shelly Gigante

By Shelly Gigante
Shelly Gigante specializes in personal finance issues. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and news websites.
Posted on Jan 13, 2021

It was early in his career when the importance of helping his clients create a financial safety net to protect their loved ones hit home.

Nilesh Patel, a MassMutual financial professional, was working with a client — a friend he had known from his high school days in India — who was pregnant with her first child. Initially, he recalled, their conversations centered on portfolio strategy and money management.

“But she was pregnant, and I was really after her saying, ‘I don’t care what you do, but you have to convince your husband to get some coverage in place for both of you,’” he said. “It took three or four months to convince him.”

Eventually, he purchased a term life insurance policy that was large enough to provide for his growing family in the unlikely event that he should pass away prematurely. Six months after his daughter was born, he was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident.

“That was kind of the turning point for me, and it came very early on in my career,” said Patel, who was able to reassure his client during a difficult time that her finances were secure, which enabled her to focus on her emotional well-being and the needs of her daughter.

“It made me a believer. That’s why now, if you look at my practice, 95 percent of it is focused on insurance protection—life insurance, disability income insurance, and long-term care insurance.” (Calculator: How much life insurance do I need?)

Patel said he considers it his job to help his clients rest well at night. As such, much of his time is spent educating them about the variety of financial products that can help them secure their future and protect the ones they love.

It’s all about the relationship

All too often, Patel observed, would-be clients fret that their financial picture is too simplistic, or their savings insufficient, to warrant working with a financial professional. They’re forgetting that it’s all about the relationship.

The real value of working with a financial professional you trust, he said, is that they are there for you in good times and bad, when you need an unbiased advocate in your corner. They cheer you on when you achieve financial milestones. They help you avoid costly mistakes. And they help you explore your options when you’re not sure how to proceed. Often, financial professionals are the first ones their clients call after a major life event, be it a birth, marriage, divorce, or death. They become part of the family. (Related: 3 ways a financial professional adds value)

Patel said many of his clients are of Indian decent, a culture that he describes as highly focused on saving and planning. That mentality makes his job easier. Many are small-business owners, with specific needs for estate planning, investment strategies, and business succession planning.

After decades in the business, Patel is now working with the next generation as well, his clients' children who are graduating from college, getting their first jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses of their own. He sets them up for success by helping them manage competing financial priorities while paying down debt.

“I just recently sat down with the daughter of one of my clients who accepted a position with a small pharmacy, and I just said, “Okay, bring me your benefits package, and let me walk you through it all,” he explained, noting that many of his clients have purchased a life insurance policy for their children and are paying the premiums for the first few years. When their adult children become more financially secure, their children will assume those payments. “They’re just trying to protect their children and get them started,” he said. “It’s just about building that savings mentality.”

Patel said he enjoys making a positive effect on his clients' lives. In fact, it’s the relationships he has formed along the way that he values most.

“This is a delayed gratification business,” he said. “In the long run, you’re going to impact so many families, whether it’s financially or just through developing friendships. I always keep that in mind when I’m talking with a client.”

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual and its subsidiaries, employees, and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel.Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of MassMutual.