Interview of Joseph Lazerson with the publication «This is money» in December 2015
Step by step, the path to a dream…
Do you believe in chance? Or randomness is a well-planned pattern. As you know, the path begins with the first step, and sometimes, looking back, we understand how much we have done…
On a visit at “ED” Joseph Lazerson (Joseph Lazerson). Founder Logic Planning Group, Inc., General Manager of NWL, a leading insurance specialist in financial planning and life and health insurance since 1991. Experience of cooperation with national and international insurance corporations Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (New York, USA), CNA (USA), Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (USA), ABIC (USA), CMI (GB), and others.
– Joseph, can you please tell us how you started your career in financial consulting?
– We can say that I got lucky in the world of finance. When I moved to America, I started looking for work. A newly-born resident of another country cannot be particularly chosen – you take up any legitimate business that brings income. I tried many unskilled classes, and six months later I got an ad – the insurance company recruited employees. I decided to try my luck.
When I came to the interview, I learned many interesting new terms … “financial planning-insurance …” – in the Soviet Union there were no such concepts. But the work was needed, and to work “for a penny” all my life did not allow ambitions, so I decided to take a chance. I began to study the subject, gradually began to understand the nuances and subtleties … And the more I learned, the more interesting I became. First I passed the exam for two licenses: “Life Insurance” and “Health Insurance”, and then decided to go further and become the first Russian to obtain all kinds of licenses in this field.
– I understand that you did it?
– Yes. And this became not only my competitive advantage, but also a way to increase my income well.
In two years, the company in which I worked, set the task – to expand the Russian-speaking financial services market. I was appointed manager, and now I began to take people to work and teach the subtleties of the profession.
– Did you like the new position?
– It was an interesting experience. You see, the mentality of the agent and the mentality of the manager are fundamentally different. The agent enjoys his personal success, and the manager must be able to rejoice in the successes of others. That is, a person comes to you, you share with him the experience that he accumulated over the years, he “grows up” and leaves. This is not a very psychologically comfortable moment. Not all managers are adequately responsive to such situations, and not everyone is able to overcome this barrier.
– How did you cope with this discomfort?
– I, probably, concern to those few people who manage to combine both work of the agent, and work of the manager. Actively work with clients, deal with organizational issues, train new agents, etc. – it’s on the verge of a possible, but for a while that’s how I lived. And it is possible due to this experience, at one point I realized that I am ready to go to “free swimming”. Opened the office and began working with brokers.
– And when did you have clients in Russia?
– The very first – in 1993. Then there was a period when clients appeared from time to time. Seriously to work in the Russian market, we started about 14 years ago. Around the same time, we had the first Russian partner – a company that deals with international business. Now there is a whole network of providers through which we work with Russian clients. In addition, we train consultants, hold seminars and conferences. In particular, in our Finance Academy, absolutely anyone can learn, no matter in which part of the world he is.
– Have you been working in the Russian market for a long time, how do you assess the situation in the sphere of financial consulting?
– When we entered the market in the 90s, people, in the majority, treated insurance and financial consulting, to put it mildly, cautiously. I attribute this primarily to the elementary lack of financial literacy and unwillingness to think. Practically there were no financial consultants on the market who “carried knowledge and culture of money management to the masses”. Now, as you know, the situation is changing. Including at the state level. Work has become easier and more interesting. But there are still some pitfalls.
– What kind of stones?
– With the development of financial consulting in the information field, a lot of garbage has appeared – unreliable information, unqualified consultants. This situation puts consumers in a quandary. They do not know who to listen to and who to believe.
There is also the fault of the financial consultants themselves. Often they conduct sales quite harshly, thus forming a negative attitude and negative sentiment among people. And as you know, it takes quite a couple of minutes to spoil the impression, but it takes much more time to correct the situation. I call Russia a country of investors, because I have often come across the fact that people invest for nothing – without thinking, without asking themselves basic, but very important questions: “For what purpose do I invest money? Where? What for? For how long?”. From the outside it often looks like this: some people sell services to others, and neither of them thinks about the aims of this whole event.
But, of course, I am glad that everything I said above I began to observe less and less. However, there are more qualified specialists on the market. There are a number of reliable investment companies that you can work with. And the people themselves are changing. A new generation of investors brought up in the post-Soviet country is coming. These are people with a different mindset, an attitude toward money and life in general. Therefore, I am sure that the Russian financial consulting market has good prospects. And the difficulties are natural. All these stages passed both in Europe and in America, when the market was being formed.
– Joseph, you are called the financial planning guru. Can you share the secrets of skill? How to become a successful financial adviser?
– The first secret is knowledge. Training for a financial consultant is a permanent process. Life changes every day, legislation too often. If you want to be a professional in your business – be «on the wave.»
The second secret is the balance between what you can earn, doing something for the client, and what benefits you, as a financial adviser. Not all customers who come to us understand the topic. This situation can be used with the benefit for yourself – to sell to a person something that he objectively does not need, and earn more here and now. But!
If your goal is development of the company or personal professional growth – such an action will absolutely cost you very dearly. In pursuit of immediate benefits, you will simply lose customers. Therefore, if you plan to work in the field of financial consulting successfully and for a long time, do not be tempted and remember that the client’s interests should always be in the first place.
The third secret is understanding that in our business, customers are forever. Relationships are built on trust and respect, so it is very important that you are always honest and respectful towards your clients, who could listen and hear them. This is a guarantee of your successful mutually beneficial cooperation for many years to come.
The fourth secret is enlightenment. If you want to be a good financial adviser – learn to train your clients, increase their level of financial literacy, give them new, up-to-date information. It’s a big mistake to think that the best client is someone who does not understand the topic at all.
Well, and, of course, one should not forget about elementary rules of good tone. Because you can be a super professional, do your job brilliantly, but if you do not remember how your client’s name is, he, most likely, will leave.
– It is clear with the consultants. And what, in your opinion, is the ideal customer?
– I always work with those people with whom I feel comfortable.
This applies to customers. It is enough to talk with a person for 3 minutes on the phone, and it becomes clear that you are «in different orbits», and so in work, most likely, there will be difficulties. In this case, it is better to abandon the client and «not to spoil the life neither to himself, nor to people».
– You know, many of our businessmen would not have agreed with you now …
– This is the wisdom that comes with experience. As practice shows, if you are not comfortable working with a person, you can lose much more than you can get. But you are right. Often it is human greed that is the decisive factor in business.
– What do you think about money?
– For me, money is a resource that is necessary to live well and comfortably. But the notes themselves are not an end in themselves. There are much more valuable and important components in life.
– What is valuable and important for you?
– A family. This does not mean that everything is always smooth and easy, but this is what really matters. When I came to America, I did not have a single relative. Today we are already 8 people. They are children, their wives, grandchildren … And I will tell you more: I think that 8 is still far from the limit. And I like this idea! The family is the greatest value. And I am glad that my daughter’s husband took our name from the desire to belong to our family.
In addition to family values that inspire and motivate me, I try to learn all the time. Food for the mind makes it possible to find new solutions and to creatively approach your business. I really do not like routine, I look for non-standard approaches and interesting solutions, including in working with clients. Customers make me think, and that’s right. Because when I manage to do something unusual, bring out a non-standard solution or create something new, there is an amazing feeling of euphoria, like a fisherman who finally caught a huge fish.
– Usually, after the euphoria, emptiness sets in. Do not you depress this feeling?
– There is such a metaphor: «behind the fence there is always the next fence». You look behind the fence and you see a house that is prettier and better than yours, and you want to live in this house. But if you look behind the next fence, then the house there will be even more luxurious. So indefinitely. This is normal. But if, for some reason, there comes a time when you no longer want to «look behind the fence», you should seriously be wary and change something in your life. Unfortunately, I met quite a lot of wealthy people who achieved everything they wanted, but at some point, stopped, fell into this state of «emotional failure». Permit such a stop in any case impossible. It’s deadly dangerous.
– Joseph, are you a risky person?
– I always thought I did not». But now, looking back, I begin to suspect that I was wrong. I went to America, because there was a very strong desire not only to survive, but to live and live well. This desire burned in me like a flame, and I walked into this bright light. If I were now offered to repeat this path knowing what would happen in the future – I’m not sure that I would agree. But then, I knew for sure that I could overcome any «mountain», because I have a goal. And I really could…
– Thank you very much for an interesting conversation.