Erdal Elmas
NASA Federal C.U./CUSO Financial Services

Rob Sharps
First United Bank & Trust/Primevest

Tom Turner
Signal Financial Federal C.U./CUNA

BIC: What opportunities exist in your territory?
Elmas: We're tied to NASA and there are a lot of workers-literally rocket scientists-whose contracts are expiring and renewing, which creates tremendous rollover opportunities.

Sharps: I've been a broker for 29 years. At this stage, I'm focused on retirement income projections. That's been a valuable service for my clients and a strong source of my business.

Turner: I focus on retirement planning, accumulation and distribution. My younger clients need to save more. They are listening to their older colleagues who realize they should have done a better job saving as they are about to retire.

BIC: What practice management technique has helped you the most?
Elmas: At first, I tried to get anyone who would talk to me, but real clients are interested in relationships not transactions, so I've learned to focus on the top 20% of people I talk to.

Sharps: Having a highly competent administrative assistant lets me maximize my time with clients. I'd rather have a good administrative assistant than a registered person.

Turner: Handing over control of my schedule to my coordinator. I used to find it hard to schedule when I needed to return phone calls and hold meetings, and I was working 10 hour days, which is tough when you have a family.

BIC: How does your client mix affect your demographic?
Elmas: It's a mix of different age ranges and ethnicities. Clients closer to retirement are looking for income and younger clients are looking to grow, so I'm probably 60:40 toward annuities instead of 90:10 toward mutual funds. Sharps: Ten years ago, I had just a handful of clients in the RMD phase. Now, over 70 clients are in that phase, so I use VAs with living benefits and income withdrawal benefits.

Turner: My younger clients buy mutual funds. My older clients look for income-producing products, such as bonds, annuities and conservative funds.

BIC: What's your biggest challenge?
Elmas: Any time a headline comes out, there's sheer panic. A lot of people will make emotional decisions. So a lot of the time I'm acting as a psychologist.

Sharps: Deciding what to do with proceeds from CDs and bonds. With maturing clients needing income and the rates being low, it can be challenging to maintain maturity ladders and generate income for retirement.

Turner: Retirees receive a lot of money up-front, but it's not enough to support their current spending levels. Their income is actually often cut by two-thirds. They don't like hearing that, but it's my duty to tell them.

BIC: What advice would you give an industry newcomer?
Elmas: Build a relationship with a client before you try to sell a product or service. I spend an hour and a half at a first appointment just gathering information and I only close a sale 10% of the time on a first appointment.

Sharps: Try to come in under a mentor with an established book. Don't go into a cold-call, sink-or-swim environment. Mentorship is a much better model. My son is part of my succession plan, and to the bank's credit, it has allowed me to mentor him. Having him here has allowed us to increase our service level, and it has also helped him learn what he needs to be a successful advisor.

Turner: Meet with as many potential clients as possible, do thorough reviews to identify their needs and then be persistent and consistent in asking for their business.

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