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The Importance of Risk Management

An expert can come in handy when it comes to insurance issues.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 05/28/2009

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we have taken in building our financial advisory business, Garnet Group LLC. Currently, Garnet has eight staff members, more than 90 clients, more than $200 million in client net worth under advisement, and offices in Bethesda, Md., and Boston. Veena Kutler, CFA, and Annette Simon, CFP, are the managing principals in the Garnet office in Bethesda.

If you are anything like us, dealing with insurance issues is often the most vexing piece of the financial planning process in your practice. Insurance products are complex and confusing, some by design. Understanding them and helping clients sort through what they do and don't need can be challenging and sometimes frustrating.

Enter John Ryan, CFP, of Ryan Insurance Strategy Consultants in Greenwood Village, Colo. Ryan, a 30-plus-year veteran of the insurance industry, has been helping fee-only financial advisors analyze existing policies, determine clients' insurance needs and obtain appropriate coverage since the earliest days of the NAPFA revolution. He is licensed in all 50 states and since 1978 sells life, disability and long-term care policies as well as low-load annuities and trust-owned life insurance exclusively through advisors.

We recently interviewed him to learn more about how he works with advisors, the changes he has seen in the industry over the years, and what he sees in the future.

Garnet: John, tell us a little about your background and how you got your start?

Ryan: I grew up in Boston, where my dad was a cop. I attended Holy Cross College on a baseball scholarship. I hoped to find a job as a teacher/coach, but those positions were tough to come by. So in 1978 I took a job as a group disability representative working for Union Mutual Insurance Company in Portland, Maine. (Union Mutual later became UNUM).

I was given a choice between relocating to Atlanta or Denver. I chose Denver and have been there ever since. Initially I specialized only in disability insurance, selling primarily to physicians and dentists; later I branched out to life and long-term care products.

Around 1982 I met Jim Schwartz, a Denver advisor who was one of the founders of NAPFA. Through Jim I met other fee-only advisors and recognized that there was a growing pool of advisors who didn't sell insurance products and were looking for an agent they could trust to help them meet their clients' insurance needs. My business began to grow rapidly by word of mouth and I soon reduced my local marketing and focused my consulting efforts on serving NAPFA members and their clients.

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