Mar. 01, 2011
The doors of opportunity are open in the African-American community. African-Americans are steadily increasing their wealth and boosting their holdings in real estate, stocks and savings vehicles. In fact, the nation's African-American buying power will rise from $913 billion in 2008 to $1.2 trillion in 20131. And over the next fifty years, African-Americans are expected to transfer between $1.1. and $3.4 trillion in generational wealth2.
With that money, comes an increased awareness of the need to save, invest and plan for the future. Life insurance can play an important role in building a financial foundation, and may help create lasting legacies for generations to come.
Indeed, the industry has come a long way from "burial insurance," small policies meant to barely cover the cost of a funeral. Today, African-Americans are utilizing Life insurance, annuities and financial products such as those offered by New York Life Insurance Company and its subsidiaries as sound and savvy financial tools to fund college educations and important life events, pay off debts, provide cash for a business or down payment on a home, and/or allow a widowed spouse to maintain his/her quality of life.
Suggested Call-Out: Life insurance can play an important role in building a financial foundation, and may help create lasting legacies for generations to come.
New York Life - a Fortune 100 Company and one of the largest Life insurers in the world - is at the forefront of empowering the African-American community. For decades, New York Life has demonstrated a commitment to this community through educational initiatives, civic involvement, advertising and marketing, and financial products. And for African-American insurance agents, there isn't a better Company to work for than New York Life.
That is the result of a true passion to lead. As you read these managers' stories, take a moment to acknowledge the difference they have made - to New York Life, to individuals, and to their communities. They are true trailblazers. Professional African-American men and women who took on the challenge to go beyond themselves and make their mark in management. And, in so doing, pave the way for the successes of many others - maybe even you.
1Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth, University of Georgia (page 7)
2Source: Center for Wealth and Philanthropy, Boston College (page 5)
In the pages of this brochure, you'll meet eight New York Life agents. Although their backgrounds and expertise differ, they share a commitment to empower the African-American community. All are contributors to the New York Life African-American Market Unit-an organization that promotes financial literacy and awareness of New York Life in the African-American community. Together, these eight agents help to manage over $1 Billion of in-force Life insurance - policies that will help create generational wealth for African-American families, businesses and communities.
That is the true meaning of embracing empowerment. We hope you are inspired by them and the possibilities that come with being a New York Life agent.
As a seasoned Life Insurance agent of more than 20 years, Derrick Barnes has learned to break things down to basics. When he talks about his job, for example, the words that keep coming up are plain and simple: History, Family, and Trust.
Trust is extremely important to Derrick when working within the African-American community. "The unfortunate history is that some companies once came into the community just for the sale," he says. Since those days the industry's practices have improved immeasurably, but a legacy of suspicion persists. "African-Americans have a different thought process about insurance because of the past. People can remember their parents being ripped off. Their guard is up."
That's a big reason he's with New York Life, which has built one of the largest African-American sales forces in the business. Before signing on, he worked with several other major insurers. Compared to its competition, he says, New York Life "has a better support system in place. This Company cares about its agents and has taken a great interest in the community."
Derrick appreciates New York Life's emphasis on training and development, and its frequent classes and seminars for employees. The Company has also formed an African-American Market Unit that encourages study groups of agents to regularly talk about how best to reach and serve this community. Beyond the practical support, there's an emotional foundation uncommon in the business world. "It's a real family atmosphere," Derrick says.
Family is at the heart of this work, a truth underscored for Derrick by a Life insurance claim he handled some years back. A client with a wife and three young children was struggling with money, and wanted to cancel his policy. Knowing that was a mistake, Derrick reminded his client of the greater value and purpose of his insurance, and encouraged him to hold off cancelling until he could visit with him further and offer other options.
It was September 2001. Within a few days, the world changed. In the terrible destruction of the 9/11 attacks, the young man perished. Fortunately for the grieving family, Derrick had kept the policy in force and was able to deliver a $500,000 benefit, which allowed them to grieve with dignity and without upset or distraction over the prior money issues.
A case like that drives home the fact that, in insurance and financial services, you're not just closing deals, you're helping people plan their lives. "Agents must work to build a relationship with the client instead of just selling the product," Derrick urges.
It starts with the first meeting. Forget the hard sell; just talk about life, family and the future. If the prospect seems receptive, offer information and advice. "Share your ideas and tell your story," Derrick suggests.
And when you're just starting out, he adds, take advantage of the knowledge and judgment of more experienced agents. "Look for a mentor you can relate to, and ask that agent to join you when you meet with prospects," he states. "Watch how he or she handles those encounters. This kind of knowledge is priceless as you grow your career at New York Life."
Before he was a New York Life agent, Brian Berry was a clinical counselor. Some would consider that a total career reboot, but not Brian. Both are professions that involve helping people, he notes, and as a psychologist he helped many people, one at a time. The work was enjoyable and rewarding, but after a while he found he was burning out.
Having made the move into insurance and financial services, Brian says he can be even more of a "catalyst for change" than he was in psychology. Now, while helping his clients develop long-term financial plans, he can also work a more flexible schedule and have a wide impact as a role model for others. "I love it," he declares of his work with New York Life. "I love the freedom and the chance to be a positive influence in my community."
The African-American community has been historically underserved by the insurance industry. "There's a huge need," Brian says, "and I enjoy being one of the people who can fill it." African-Americans are "thirsting for education" on financial topics to create wealth and financial security, he adds - "and they are ready to take action, especially amidst a recession."
In good times and bad, Brian explains, his work is about keeping true to his faith. "Spirituality plays a big role in my practice," he says. First, it drives him to serve others. But it has also brought about fruitful connections. Folks in faith communities tend to share "an innate desire to help people," Brian says, and that has resulted in referrals and new clients. These kinds of networks - which he's cultivated through small businesses as well as churches - are at the heart of Brian's business.
One of his best clients, as it happens, is a minister. Now in his 80s, he had built up a good-sized nest egg. But "it wasn't invested in the right places." Brian helped him make the most of his money, setting up annuities that will provide lifetime income and also take care of his family. "He feels very happy about that," Brian says. "And it made me feel I was in the right place with the right Company."
Anyone considering a sales career with New York Life should know that success comes from planning your work and working your plan, Brian advises. "Work hard. Work smart. And give it time," he counsels. Part of the plan, when it comes to marketing, should be a narrowly targeted message, aimed at those most likely to listen and respond: "Don't just throw it against the wall and hope something sticks."
Finding a mentor can also help your career in a big way. Brian found one in his client, the minister. More than a client, he's also become a friend and spiritual guide, a sounding board and a source of business referrals. He has even critiqued Brian's sales presentation, offering pointers and positive feedback. "Pastors," Brian observes, are some of the best helpers, educators, planners and business people out there. A good mentor doesn't have to be in the same profession, just understand how to advise you to be better at what you do."
It's a habit Ketler Bossé picked up back when he was playing basketball and soccer in college: "I constantly adjust my game."
For Ketler, now an agent in New York Life's New Hampshire General Office, it was a smart adjustment that got him into this business to begin with. He was holding down two full-time jobs, working too much and making too little, when a friend asked him pointedly, "Are you going to do this for the rest of your life?" At his suggestion, Ketler joined New York Life.
Nine years later, he says, it was a game-changing move. He loves the opportunity to help others, "to make a difference in people's lives." He also appreciates the independence and flexibility of a job where, he says, "I don't have someone constantly watching over me."
And he's still making adjustments to raise his game. That goes with the job, especially in hard times. For example, he observes, when money's tight, many prospective clients don't see the value of buying insurance: "All they see is money going out."
So Ketler turns the conversation to the living benefits of products like Whole Life , including the option of tapping into the policy's cash value as needed - and the idea of using insurance as a way of saving. "In a downturn," he tells clients, "you'll realize why you bought this policy." In the recent recession, he adds, "many of my clients were able to sustain their lifestyles because of their insurance."
"The very reason people go through difficult times - a bankruptcy, losing their businesses - is that they didn't stash money away. If you save in good times, you'll have money in bad times. I focus on helping clients save for the future while protecting them with life insurance."
Ketler's also become adept at adjusting his message to address the needs of different kinds of clients. Many young people, for example, have little patience for talk about retirement planning. So for them, he emphasizes the importance of building up wealth today.
For Ketler, the insurance and financial services business is not one-size-fits-all. "It's less about policies and products, and more about individuals and relationships. Don't go into it to just make money. You have to feel in your heart that you want to help people," he insists.
To help people, you have to meet people. Ketler sets out to make a new acquaintance every day, and he follows up later by phone or e-mail. "You prospect like you breathe," he says. "I'm not closed for business on weekends. When I'm going to church or the grocery store, to the park with my dog, to my kid's game, I'm looking for new people to talk to."
And that doesn't mean talking like a salesman, not with folks he's just getting to know. "It's just conversations," Ketler says. "I don't just focus on insurance. I focus on life."
As a Manager/ Director in a non-profit health care sector for more than 10 years, Euletta Gordon-Campbell experienced job satisfaction by making a difference in peoples' lives. But making a difference meant dealing with a high level of frustration associated with being tied to a pager 24/7 and having a cap on her salary, regardless of the hours worked.
While working on her Master's degree, she asked her father, a managing partner at New York Life, for names of people she could interview about leadership. He suggested Mass Bailey, a partner in his office. As their interview concluded, Mass asked Euletta if she had ever considered a New York Life career.
"I was at a point in my life where I had three young children in school, hours frequently dictated by when my pager sounded, and my compensation was fixed. With New York Life I saw opportunity to change all that: to have greater flexibility, to control my hours and to influence my compensation."
Equally important, Euletta knew she could continue to positively impact peoples' lives. "In my prior job I made a difference every single day, even if it was small. As an agent, I have the opportunity to put my clients in a better financial position than when we first met. It gives me tremendous satisfaction."
A few months into her new career, Euletta's father passed away and she learned first-hand just how important life insurance can be and the impact it can have on a family. "When my dad died, his life insurance provided financial security and ensured that she could remain in her home, while allowing her time to make decisions about her future. This experience solidified my belief that I was in a great industry and with the best company."
During her first year, Euletta realized the quality of New York Life's training program when, after completing a public seminar on life insurance planning an experienced agent from another company asked if he could work with her and share some of her ideas with his clients. "He was surprised I had only been in the industry for one year and was so knowledgeable."
"New York Life is the premier Company on so many levels: financial strength, investment philosophy, training," she notes. Euletta especially enjoys telling potential clients that, as policyowners in a mutual company, they own a piece of the company. "Most people have heard of New York Life," she says, "but some of my clients thought it was out of their reach. One woman told me, 'I shop at Target. New York Life is like Saks 5th Avenue. I could never afford it.' When I delivered her policy she said," Who would have thought Saks 5th Avenue would walk into my house?' Comments like that let me know I made a great career choice with a greatly admired Company. I have been proud to say who I represent and never had to apologize for being with New York Life."
When the financial crisis hit in late 2008, Peter Goudeau knew one thing: he had made the right choice when he decided to join New York Life in 2002.
"When I signed my contract I was looking for stability," recalls the Houston-based agent. "I wanted to be in a situation where if I was doing my job correctly, I could count on the Company to do the right thing as well." And New York Life has played its part. "Both New York Life and I have been there for my clients. The Company does what is says it will do," he notes. "From its commitment to act prudently on behalf of its policyowners, to training its agents, it delivers."
A former software training sales rep who had also run his own real estate firm for more than 16 years, Peter is a natural entrepreneur who was looking for a Company that would let him leverage his self-starter skills with ongoing support and training. "Being a New York Life agent is like having your own business with a world-class organization behind you," he says.
When he began to consider a financial services sales career, Peter interviewed with several companies. He ultimately selected New York Life for two reasons: quality of training and breadth of product offerings.
"The sales system here is time-tested. And I believe if you follow the company's system, you will be successful." Additionally, Peter felt other companies did not have the same variety of products as New York Life. Today, Peter not only sells traditional life insurance, annuities and long-term care, but is also a Registered Representative and Eagle Strategies advisor, which enables him to offer clients investment products and assist with financial planning. A President's Council agent, Peter has a growing roster of more than 300 clients.
After years of working for himself, Peter was also attracted to the career's compensation structure, which provides renewal commissions on sales. "It's a hidden gem in this career. That steady stream of income gives you the ability to build a business and grow." Peter also enjoys the ability to make his own schedule. "Once you become established, you have complete control over your time, which is good, if you know how to manage it," he says. A few summers ago, Peter used his time management skills to take time to travel with his son while he played summer baseball at various colleges and universities throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri. "With the use of today's modern communication capabilities, I was able to keep in touch with my clients and keep my operation running smoothly," he says. "There are so many reasons I really enjoy this career," Peter concludes. "I only wish I had discovered it a long time ago."
For ten years, Pamela Jackson, now an agent in the Greater Chicago General Office, served as an administrative assistant to Kenneth Lewis, another highly successful New York Life agent. Lewis originally hired her because he liked the sound of her voice and her pleasant phone manner. As she watched Lewis interact with his clients, educating them and helping them achieve financial security, Pamela thought to herself, "I can do this and be good at it."
A teacher by training, Pamela told Lewis and his manager that she was interested in a career with New York Life. They both encouraged her and before she knew it she was signing her New York Life contract in February 1985. Her transition was fairly smooth. "The training was excellent," she notes. "Additionally, having been around the Company for ten years I was familiar with the culture."
"You can watch someone be an agent, but it's not the same, as being one yourself," she notes, "With my background, I knew I could educate people, but I had to go out and do it." She did. Throughout her career, Pamela has achieved the Company's Executive Council status, consistently selling over 100 life cases a year.
Pamela knew she made the right career choice when, early on, she delivered her first death claim check to a family whose young son died in an accident. The death benefit allowed the parents to pay his funeral expenses. "When I delivered that check, I knew right then my job made sense. I wasn't just selling a product. This career means something and you are actually making a difference in people's lives."
Asked why she would join New York Life today, she doesn't hesitate. "The rewards are never ending," she says. "The main reason is helping people solve their financial problems. It's what has kept me in the business."
There's also the flexibility the career offers. Soon after Pamela joined the Company, her mother became ill and passed away, leaving her to raise her then 14-year-old brother alone. "It wasn't easy, but the flexibility of being an agent really helped. I knew I could work hard and then take care of my other responsibilities," she says.
"Finally, one of the best things about this Company is the family atmosphere," she concludes. "Throughout my New York Life career, both at our General Office and Council meetings, I've met so many wonderful people."
Entering her 26th year as an agent, Pamela is reaping the rewards of years of good service. Many of her clients' children are calling, seeking to build their financial foundations. "I always try to connect with my clients' kids, sending birthday cards, etc. Now they are calling me, saying, 'We have to talk about tomorrow.' That's just wonderful."
"I love this career because I can see my efforts extend from generation to generation," says Kenny Johnson, a New York Life agent, based in St. Louis, Missouri. For the past 22 years, Kenny has been helping families and businesses, secure their financial futures. "This career is for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who has the desire to build a business and a passion for making a difference in the lives of others," he says.
Like many, Johnson was unaware of the potential for the career to be both emotionally and financially rewarding. In 1988, a 33-year old Kenny moved his wife and son from Los Angeles, where he had been a very successful district manager for a financial services firm, back to the St. Louis area to be closer to family. At the time, Johnson had no life insurance of his own. His wife persuaded him to meet with a New York Life agent, the late John Hendrix, who sold him his first significant life insurance policy and encouraged him to consider a career with New York Life. "I had no personal experience to draw from. Throughout my career, I was determined to give African-Americans the same opportunities to build, sustain and grow their assets and to stop passing the tendency to turn a blind eye toward taking financial control of their lives I communicate a passion for creating wealth with the clients that I am entrusted to serve."
As a Registered Representative with NYLIFE Securities, LLC and Financial Adviser with Eagle Strategies, LLC, Kenny is positioned to assist his client's in achieving financial peace of mind. Today, this Premier President's Council agent has over 1300 clients in various cities throughout the country.
Johnson's first death claim was delivered during his first year with the Company and the client was a close family friend. Since the policy was within the "contestability period," worried if the claim would be paid. "I wondered," he says "what if he misrepresented his answers on the application? Is it possible that he didn't know that he had the confirmed illness that caused his death?" New York Life, after due diligence, paid the $100,000 claim, which was a significant amount at that time. "When our family friend's widow and surviving children met me at their home to receive the death claim check with tears of hope flowing down their cheeks, I knew at that very moment that I was in the career that manifested impact," Johnson recalls.
What separates New York Life from its peers, Johnson believes, is the sense of family. "Our value is not defined in our products and services, rather in the genuine compassion we have, day in and day out, for those families that have said, "I trust you!" When Johnson's son, Justin, signed his own NYLIC contract in Sept. 2009, Johnson saw his potential legacy through a different lens. "There is no more humbling, proud moment than to have your child say, 'I want to be like you.'
Entering his third year as a New York Life agent, Eszylfie Taylor of Pasadena, CA had heard all the speeches and read all the articles. It was time for concept to meet reality. To address a financial situation in his family, Eszylfie set a goal of tripling his income in one year. Channeling the discipline and drive that made him a standout college basketball player, he committed himself to the task, and finished the year with commissions in excess of his goal, and qualified for Chairman's Council, New York Life's highest production level. "I had heard all about how the sky is the limit in this career," he says. "Well, I went out and proved it to myself. What other career offers you the opportunity to, without changing positions, to triple your income in one year? If you want to be rewarded and recognized for your skill set and aptitude, you want a career with a Company that affords you that possibility . For me, being a New York Life agent is that career and New York Life is that Company."
As a magna cum laude graduate of Concordia College in Portland, OR, Eszylfie joined New York Life in 2000. Before graduation, a college professor introduced him to the local manager of another insurance company. Wanting to give Eszylfie a good feel for the career, the manager suggested he talk to other companies around town. When Eszylfie met with New York Life and discussed the potential offered by the Company's compensation package, the decision was easy. "The other company offered a higher guaranteed income for new agents, but that meant sacrificing commissions," he notes. Under the New York Life contract, agents keep all the commissions they earn from day one. "I was confident I was going to do well," Eszylfie says, "and wanted to be in an environment where I would receive 100% of the fruits of my labor."
Eszylfie also wanted a career that would help him make an impact on people's lives and be a positive force in his community. Eszylfie sells primarily life insurance and annuities to families and business in the Pasadena area. He is also a Registered Representative and Eagle Strategies advisor, enabling him to sell investments and assist clients with financial planning. His income, as well as his influence in the community, grows every year. Not surprisingly, Eszylfie has set some significant goals for himself over the next few years, including becoming New York Life's Council President (the top agent in the Company). "No one has ever had to tell me to go out and work," he says. "And no one ever set a goal that has exceeded my own goals for myself. There are no limits."
Kyle Youngblood graduated from college with a degree in business administration. That's when his practical business education really began.
Scrambling to run his own real estate venture, he also took a job with a drugstore chain, looking for a more dependable income. He became a manager, putting in long days bracketed by long commutes. Pretty soon, his life was all work, all the time.
A conversation with his dad pointed Kyle in a more promising direction. He put his son in touch with his own New York Life agent, who already knew the family well. They had a frank talk, and Kyle liked what he heard. Ten years later, as an agent in the Chicago North Shore General Office, he's grateful he made that career leap.
For Kyle, who had always wanted his own business, one appealing aspect of working in insurance is the flexible schedule. He also enjoys meeting people and appreciates the opportunity to help them with important matters. "I make an impact in people's lives," he says. "It's very rewarding."
The depth of that impact was brought home for Kyle a couple of years ago, when a life insurance claim he handled paid $400,000 to a client's daughters. The older daughter was soon to turn 18, and would receive a windfall that many young people might find an irresistible temptation.
Kyle was there to step in with some pragmatic advice and a reminder of her father's wishes for her and her sister. "This is a nest egg, something to help you get started," he told her. She wisely decided to apply the benefit toward her college tuition without any squandering. "It felt really good to see her set up for her future," Kyle reflects.
"Unfortunately, many people don't understand that the purpose of a life insurance policy is create wealth and empowerment for their family - they see insurance only as a way to make sure they've got enough to be buried properly," he observes. In his practice, Kyle emphasizes the broad range of benefits offered by a Company like New York Life, which can include a mortgage protection, money for college, and/or a lifetime income for policyholders or beneficiaries.
Getting that message out means getting out into the community. "I'm always out there," Kyle says, "whether it's social events, on the golf course, wherever. At places I visit regularly, everyone knows what I do. You've got to talk to people. A closed mouth doesn't get fed."
He also counsels agents to have confidence in New York Life - its products, services and training - and to do things the Company way. There's a reason for its longevity and reputation, he emphasizes. "A lot of people think they can go off and do it their way. That's why they fail," he warns.
Finally, Kyle advises new agents to be ready to work hard, just as he has. "This isn't an easy business. It has its ups and downs. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it," he says. "But if you put 100 percent into it, you'll be rewarded."
Join the New York Life African-American Market Unit and do more to empower the community.
If you are a licensed New York Life agent who wants to do more to financially educate the African-American community, we invite you to join the New York Life African-American Market Unit.
To become an agent with the African-American Market Unit, or for information about advertising, sponsorships, marketing materials, sales campaigns, mentoring, and regional meetings, please contact us at:
Agency Portal> Sales & Marketing> Target Markets> African American Market
Toll-Free: (877) 695-4AAM (4226)
Or contact direct:
CVP, Market Management
Director, Market Management
About New York Life
New York life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States and one of the largest life insurers in the world. Headquartered in New York City, New York Life's family of companies offers life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance. New York Life Investment Management LLC provides institutional asset management, retirement planning and trust services. Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products and services, as well as institutional and retail mutual funds