This month, Brian Heckert became the 90th president of the Million Dollar Round Table. Heckert’s one-year term began Sept. 1.

In a recent interview with EBA, Heckert shared what he hopes to accomplish, top priorities for MDRT, as well as insight about other issues the retirement industry faces.

How did you come to work in the financial industry?

I have been in the financial industry for more than 30 years. This profession is more than just an occupation, it is a way to think bigger, act bigger and to control my own destiny. It is one of the few occupations in the world where you can help people.

My journey in the financial industry began when I went into an agent’s office to buy life insurance to protect my newborn son. When I returned to increase coverage after my child’s first birthday, I encountered an interesting proposition from my adviser, Allen L. Schmale, CLU, ChFC, a former Million Dollar Round Table member. He knew I was working two jobs — milking cows and toiling in a meat-packing plant to support my family — and suggested I start a career in financial services.

I entered Schmale’s agency when I was 21 years old. The combination of training, self-study and exposure to others and their ideas was the right mix to push me to my first MDRT qualification. My MDRT membership and the resources the organization provided helped me to overcome my lack of formal education. I was able to pick up tips and exchange insights with top, worldwide life insurance and financial services professionals. It felt like I was getting a doctorate in prospecting, presenting and problem solving. MDRT, as well as the core values I brought from my childhood, helped me build a practice from the ground up, one client at a time.

My business, Financial Solutions Midwest, began as one small office focusing only on life insurance. Today, it is a full-service financial planning firm that specializes in 401(k) plans and I own a third-party administrator. To grow my business, I merged with six other producers that I met through MDRT. 

What do you hope to accomplish as president of MDRT?

A core mission of MDRT is to deliver vital, cutting-edge resources we need to better serve our clients and take our business to the next level. MDRT is built upon three pillars, which are education, ethicsand professionalism.

Working in conjunction with the MDRT executive committee, our goal is to help motivate and positively shape members by delivering exceptional resources across all aspects of their business and lives. We will create and inspire global leaders through educational materials and opportunities, as well as through our annual meetings, Resource Zone and communications on the total financial planning approach.

MDRT will continue to promote success and achievement through connecting people and ideas, and inspire both new and experienced financial advisers to provide clients valuable and honest advice.

What are the top issues for you and your organization?

MDRT is always looking for ways to serve a diverse membership at different career stages and in different market environments around the world. At every career stage, a member may be faced with new challenges and questions about how to manage a growing practice, how to best divide office responsibilities and functions, and how to transition their business.

Many MDRT members are facing the challenge of succession planning. While succession planning varies significantly from one country to another, MDRT has done extensive work to develop resources to help address this issue for members. For example, MDRT developed a mentoring program that connects a young adviser with an older and more experienced mentor. This program helps a new adviser learn about the business while paving the way for the mentor’s smooth exit from the practice.

Solutions to members’ challenges are addressed during MDRT’s annual meetings and through the resources the organization provides, which includes educational Web seminars, podcasts, articles, MDRTV, Round The Table magazine and much more. MDRT also provides business development and transition planning resources, and helps members maintain a balanced life through their whole person concept.

How will the DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule impact advisers and/or the retirement industry?

My concerns about DOL is that it is meant to eliminate through regulation what the marketplace has determined as acceptable. If you provide ethical service and continuously educate agents on ethics, clients should be the arbiter of what products and services they want to engage from advisers. Ethical advisers put the best interest of the clients first. This is what makes MDRT members trusted advisers — we constantly re-affirm this approach and dedication to an ethical practice.

What impact will robo firms have on human advisers?

Robo adviser is a useful tool and idea, but as any adviser and almost every client will tell you, there is no simple matrix that will solve the life-changing advice and solutions financial professionals provide. If developing a financial plan was so easy, there would be one simple solution for everyone to best invest their money and make changes to their portfolio based upon whichever model or metric says.

However, everyone has a different need for cash. A client’s need for investment philosophy varies month-to-month, and the robo adviser method does not help keep up with changes for those types of clients. For clients that simply need an allocation, it can be an option and it is probably close to what most advisers use as a financial assessment.

For example, similar to a doctor administering medicine, they cannot just take a textbook and apply the same dose of medicine to everyone. They really need the face-to-face contact to make sure the medicine matches what they actually see with their own eyes, and use a human touch to apply the correct medicine.

In my practice, I have not observed any big shifts in people using a robo adviser, or practices impacted by the robo adviser at this point. We do, however, continue to monitor the tools, like we do any other resource, to ensure we’re continually improving what we offer clients.

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