Justin Cowell is a financial strategist with ACT Financial Services, Inc., which is part of the Penn Mutual Premier Advisors Group in Tulsa. Justin graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration from John Brown University in 2007. He resides in Owasso, Oklahoma, with his wife, Breanne, and their two daughters, Lylah and Penelope “Jojo”.
How can the next generation of advisers follow in the footsteps of those who paved the way before them — while setting themselves apart to build new business? Justin Cowell, of ACT Financial Services, Inc., in Tulsa, Oklahoma, discusses the journey that led him to financial services, the challenges of building a client base when your family is already in the business and how financial education can be key to reaching new clients.
Fast Facts about Justin:
You started your career in church ministry. Why did you make the switch to financial services?When my wife and I started a family, it felt like the right time to go a different direction with my career. I had a lot of different ideas about what I wanted to do next, but the decision to dive into financial services was in large part due to how I’ve watched my dad help his clients over the years. In a way, I’ve been exposed to the industry all my life and have learned a lot from my father, Randy Cowell, who is long-time HTK and Penn Mutual adviser. I’ve formally been in the business for five years now. I knew it would be tough starting out, but having his support and encouragement has been a tremendous blessing.
"When I first started, other advisers would ask me, ‘Do you want me to go to a meeting with you? You don’t have to do it alone.’ That meant a lot.”
What did those first few years look like?When you start out in financial services, it’s all about your network. But since my dad was already in the business, my family, as a natural market, was already taken care of. I had my former church network, but the results were mixed with tapping into that market. They see you in this one light and now you’re asking them to trust you with their life savings. I had relationships built and it was a natural market to tap into, but it wasn’t as easy as I anticipated. Looking back, I believe that being in ministry equipped me for what I’m doing now, because both roles are about helping people and serving others. How did you bridge that gap?I figured out rather quickly that people who knew me from ministry might not feel comfortable sitting down to discuss their financial goals, fears and objectives with me. But, they trusted and believed in me enough to introduce me to their friends. This opened up doors to have meetings over coffee with people to share what I did, but not ask for their business. Instead, I was able to ask for an introduction or two to other people they love and care about. This helped me get out of the comfort zone of my natural market. Hat tip to Mickey Butler at Premier Advisors Group in Tulsa for this strategy.
I had some initial success with people that were my age, but for those who were older than me, it was difficult. It’s tough to make it as a standalone adviser in today’s world. I’m grateful that I have always been part of a team and had support. When I first started, other advisers would ask me, ‘Do you want me to go to a meeting with you? You don't have to do it alone.’ That meant a lot. Beyond prospecting, there is a learning curve with the amount of paperwork, even how to fill out a form correctly. A lot of that can be intimidating when you are starting out, too. HTK has always been really helpful, as well as the staff at our offices.
Let’s talk about today. What’s your approach for tapping into new clients?We are firm believers in education around here. Once someone is informed and educated, they can make better decisions. That being said, we conduct educational courses at a local college right across the street from our offices. We have had a lot of success, and it has opened up doors with new clients we may not have otherwise met through referrals. Because it’s in a university setting and free of charge, we are leading with an educational slant, so there is a rapport and inherent trust that builds when you are learning from a teacher. They are also committing to six hours of learning, so that lets us know they are serious about bettering their financial world.
“There is a rapport and inherent trust that builds when you are learning from a teacher.”
As a second-generation financial adviser, how are you looking to retain or attract the families of clients who work with your father?The biggest challenge that we are starting to see is that many of the clients who my father has worked with for 30+ years have kids that are old enough to make their own financial decisions. And at some point, they will be the beneficiaries to inherit the wealth. We need to be proactive. Multigenerational planning is something we are doing — working together so that we can get to know the kids of those my father has worked with over the years. Any opportunity we get to involve the families of our clients, whether it be inviting to an event, including in appointments, and so forth, we try to. For many advisers, the holidays and end of year can be a prime time for reconnecting with clients. Is there anything special you do for clients this time of year?We started a pie giveaway last year, led by Stephanie Dixon, our client relations manager, as a way to show our clients how much we appreciate them. We order dozens of pies and ask clients to come pick one up at our office. It’s just a meet and greet — no presentation, nothing formal. The idea, beyond showing our appreciation, is that when they put it out at a party or when they’re eating it with relatives or friends, they will tell the guests they received the pie from their financial adviser. It opens the door for referrals as a conversation piece.
“HTK has always been helpful. I’ve never had a question go unanswered and can reach someone right away.”
At HTK, we believe that one of the hallmarks of doing business with us is the independence and flexibility we offer our advisers. This extends to the way they do business and the technology they select to support their practice. Do you have any business tools that have been particularly useful, or investment partners that have helped you and your clients?We utilize third-party asset managers, including Brinker Capital, Mariner Wealth Advisors, and asset managers through the HTK Advisory Series (Envestnet) platform. We’ve recently started using SmartJourney (Betterment for Advisors) for those that are just starting out. HTK has always been helpful, and I’ve never had a question go unanswered and can reach someone right away. The support from our third-party asset managers is unparalleled as well – they all provide a lot of support and will meet with us to discuss account performance, strategy changes on investments or portfolios, and more. It's comforting knowing that our clients are monitored 24/7. For technology tools, we use Redtail as our CRM and WealthView for client reporting. There isn’t one tool that’s been instrumental, but we are using pretty much everything that HTK allows us to use and that we are given as part of our affiliation. 2860102AL_DEC21