Robert Fine has not only dedicated more than four decades to serving employers and their employees through the insurance and financial services industry, but the owner of Robert Fine & Associates also strives to give back to the community as a whole that's helped him flourish in every way that he can.
In September, Fine celebrated 40 years of service as founder and chief executive of Robert Fine & Associates, based in Framingham, Mass. He was the first to be recognized for 40 years as a general agent for the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.
Fine celebrated his 69th birthday last month and has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
EBA caught up with the industry vet for his take on how employee benefits and financial services have evolved over the last four decades, what keeps clients loyal, and why longevity has taught him that being a people person has its perks.
Why did you decide to go into this business?
I started 46 years ago. I was accidentally recruited into Metropolitan Life as a 21-year-old [when I was] looking to find what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. It sort of fit me like a glove and I just kept working at it.
Do you have children who are following in your footsteps?
I have two sons; Randy is my partner and my other son, Matthew, is working into the firm, into the corporate structure, but they're both very active in promoting new accounts.
How long has the company been based at the Framingham location?
I started in Worcester, Mass., in 1971. I opened up in Framingham, [and] ran both operations for the last 20 years. Although I still maintain the office in Worcester, I've gravitated now mainly toward this current location.
What are some of the most significant changes you have seen in the last four decades?
We now have to serve a lot of different masses - encompassing all the financial planning, succession planning and estate planning; where back in the early days you'd either sell a group policy, a life policy or a disability policy.
Now it's much more professional - we bring in a team of accountants, attorneys and bankers. Everything really depends on what the client needs.
Have you had clients that have been with you since the very beginning?
How about three generations? I've paid death and disability claims on the first generation, the second and third generations are now clients of ours because of the first generation back 40 some years ago when I started.
What are a few goals that you have for yourself and your business when looking toward the future?
I would like to make sure that when it's time for me to hang it up that my sons pretty much continue the work in the way that I've done it for 46 years. I know they're going to have their own methodology but there are certain principles that you lay down.
I always like to quote a CEO that appointed me back with Guardian 40 years ago: "There's no right way to do the wrong thing," and I try to remember that everyday.
What changes would you like to see happen in the near future?
You don't have to worry about changes, change just keeps happening.
Are you a fan of social media? Do you use the platform to promote your business?
I don't know if I'm a "fan" of it. My sons are involved in it because it's part of a new generation of communications.
You created the Life Insurance Gifting Program for the Jimmy Fund, an organization that raises money for children with cancer. What was your motivation for starting the program?
Back in the day, 30 years ago, one of our clients was a member of the Boston Red Sox, a second baseman. He retired and came to visit one of my top salesman and myself and took the job as executive director of the Jimmy Fund at the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
We said, "Sure" [to working with the Jimmy Fund] because we were running golf tournaments for our clients as part of a networking process and I said, "Why don't we turn this client-building golf tournament into a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund?"
Little by little we kept raising more money for the Jimmy Fund. Now I have 100 people playing in the golf tournament, which is a whole day event with a lunch, cocktails, lobsters and steaks for dinner and entertainment is provided - we make a day of it. This past September we just gave the Jimmy Fund $45,000. It's just one of those things, when you do well you have to give back.
When did the Life Insurance Gifting Program start; how does it work?
About 15 years ago. The program allows people to leave money to the Jimmy Fund [as] part beneficiary of their policy.
Have you been recognized with industry achievement awards?
I was just recognized for 40 years [of service by] Guardian. They honored my whole family as well; my three sons, my six grandchildren and my wife. It was at a national convention two months ago in Florida.
I also threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park a couple years ago for my work with the Jimmy Fund. I was honored also as a 'Hero Among Us' by the Boston Celtics. Those are just a few of the honors from the past few years.
What are a few keys to longevity you can share with young advisers who hope to also be in the insurance business for 40-plus years?
You need to have a passion for what you do. You have to really understand that people need you, even though sometimes it takes a lot of convincing on your part for them to understand they need you. What people don't understand they push away from; the more they understand, the more we educate them, the more they want to solve the problem. Most everyone wants to take care of their family. We show them the best way to do it.
Gens X, Y worried about future
Be they young or be they old, people across America are worried about their financial prospects in retirement and the economic direction of the nation, a survey of Gen X, Gen Y and baby boomers by The Guardian Life Insurance found.
Although 92% of all respondents said they are confident in their personal financial decision making, 39% overall, 52% of Gen Y and 33% of Gen X say they don't know where to begin when it comes to planning for retirement."The survey results clearly indicate a national need for comprehensive, lifelong financial education to equip the public with the guidance and tools they need to build a sound strategy for financial security, from young adulthood to retirement, in turbulent times and calmer cycles alike," says Michael Ferik, senior vice president of individual life at Guardian.
Ferik says he hopes the findings of the survey "will serve as a springboard to a national agenda on how the public and private sectors can better serve Americans at every stage of life to feel that they have some control over their financial destiny."
The survey also found that 82% of Gen X believes the economy is headed in the wrong direction, compared with 75% of the general population. Nearly half (47%) of Gen X does not feel financially secure - the highest percentage of any group.
Gen X is also the most concerned (56%) that they will not have enough money saved for retirement - "perhaps reflecting the sequence of economic forces that have impacted the continuum of their working lives, from the 1987 stock market crash to unprecedented levels of college debt, to the current housing slump," Guardian says. -Lee Barney, Money Management Executive
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