Interview with Gray Mills
IdeaTransfer interviews Gray Mills on founding and growing his firm, learning the life insurance business and his future with Texas Financial Partners.
Founder, Texas Financial Partners
Founder, Mills Financial Group
IT. Tell us how you founded and grew your firm. Over the years, what do you think your clients have appreciated most from your work?
Gray. I was just out of college—no family business and no capital to feed my entrepreneurial ambition. However, I was interested in learning the life insurance business, thinking it would give me independence and build a business from nothing more than my own motivation and education. I found it very rewarding work, which in turn challenged me to steadily grow my business by finding ambitious and committed people who wanted to grow together.
I shouldn’t presume to know what it has meant to my clients, but many of my relationships go back decades. I hear the words trust and confidence a lot, and I am happy to have contributed to those feelings. I guess trust has to be a big factor—trust that the recommendations I make are in their best interests and the financial products I provide them pass the tests of objectivity and suitability.
IT. You talk of learning the life insurance business. How demanding was it to achieve your expertise in estate and business planning?
Gray. If you go back to the early days of my firm, the knowledge I needed was how to survive in a very competitive environment. But at the same time the life insurance industry is populated by knowledgeable and dedicated people who share with their colleagues. I was fortunate to know and learn from them, continually adding new knowledge as the industry evolved. I also earned my CLU designation from the American College.
Also there are numerous associations dedicated to spreading new ideas that I have been part of year after year. PartnersFinancial is a membership company I am part of—a subsidiary of National Financial Partners. My access to experts, analysts, institutions, and products is hard to match.
IT. Your planning process also integrates client advisors in numerous professions. How does that collaboration work?
Gray. Collaboration is absolutely necessary for our clients planning decisions. There are legal, tax, accounting, trust, and financial components to every sophisticated estate plan. All the representatives from these disciplines have to respect each other’s expertise and trust each other’s judgment. It comes down to credibility. If another professional advisor brings me into a client matter, I regard him as a partner. He knows I will be straight up with his client. The planning process is a gentleman’s calling in the best sense of the word.
IT. Where does Texas Financial Partners fit into your history and your future?
Gray. Life insurance industry is a service-based industry, and life insurance policies are designed to be serviced over several decades and across generations. There is a financial impact on the next generation of course but also a stewardship impact. Sadly, the traditional level of personal service offered by life insurance institutions has given way to technology and efficiencies, and I’m concerned about that direction.
Estate and business planning involve difficult personal and family decisions. Clients want to come away with that comfort and confidence I spoke of. Plus they want it to extend surviving spouses, children, grandchildren, and philanthropic interests. Texas Financial Partners is a merger on behalf of client continuity to preserve that higher standard of client care.
The relationships that come out of that process can be very personal, and I want to know a personal relationship will outlive me. That’s where Texas Financial Partners is focused. As partners we will share that permanent commitment to provide the services and advice our clients require.
IdeaTransfer is an independent firm with three decades of experience consulting with advisors, advisors groups, and financial institutions.
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