“People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care:” The Importance of Empathy in Life Insurance Planning
In the life insurance and financial planning fields, several measures are used when considering what makes a good advisor. Advanced degrees and professional certifications can go a long way toward demonstrating an advisor’s expertise. But while credentials and accomplishments are important, at Texas Financial Partners, we believe there is one quality that makes the difference between a good advisor and an exceptional one: empathy. This belief is at the core of our professional philosophy, and it is deeply influenced by one of our principals and co-founders, Todd S. Healy.
Otis Baskin, a consultant who specializes in family business succession (and a previous TFP Consume & Converse speaker), reached out to Todd after reading a Wall Street Journal feature which noted that financial advisors who hold degrees in social work are rare and better positioned to understand and serve their clients’ needs. Otis expressed his admiration for Todd’s empathy-centered approach to client service. He remarked that it was “truly unique” to hold a Master of Social Work degree in the life insurance and estate planning worlds, citing “perhaps the field would benefit if more did!”
Todd’s emphasis on personal relationships is the result of his unconventional background. His parents met while working for the Red Cross in Germany during World War II. Todd was born there, but his family soon moved to Karachi, Pakistan, where his father was the Executive Director of the YMCA. “My grandfather was a Methodist minister, and my parents were both social workers,” he says. “My father went to work for the YMCA and Goodwill Industries and my mom worked for Camp Fire (formerly Camp Fire Girls). My mom, born in 1915, was a very progressive woman. She graduated with a master’s degree from DePaul University at a very young age. She traveled the world and devoted most of her life to working with non-profit organizations.”
Todd attended the University of California at Berkeley on an athletic scholarship for water polo, where he was co-captain, and was named an All-American. He earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and, following in his parents’ footsteps, a Master of Social Work degree. Out of graduate school, he began working for the United Way of the Coastal Bend located in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Seeking to provide options and choices for his family, Todd eventually transitioned into the life insurance business and brought with him the values learned from his family and his experiences as a social worker. He knew the importance of getting families to talk about their: objectives; needs; shortcomings; challenges; family situation; and business situation. As noted by TFP Director, Celeste C. Moya, “Todd’s approach has absolutely shaped how I work with and advise clients. Each relationship is very important to him, and he prides himself on building and maintaining the relationships across present and future generations.”
“Todd doesn’t shy away from the tough topics of death and taxes. He acknowledges what a client may have experienced in their family” says TFP Senior Director, Carolyn J. Smith. In a life insurance firm, success and security depend on confronting sensitive and difficult issues. This often leads to end-of-life discussions, where a culture of empathy is especially important. It has been crucial to our success and will always be central to our mission and professional approach.
Todd and his team don’t focus on the ‘how’ until they have focused on the ‘why’ with their clients. They work to gain clarity of a client’s vision and goals – the “why.” Then, they coordinate with the other advisors on strategies and tools to meet the client’s objectives – the “how.” TFP Director, Jay F. Wheless, notes, “Todd really listens to and hears what others are saying. This ability, this gift, provides a strong foundation for a healthy and effective advisor-client relationship.”
Texas Financial Partners’ culture of empathy doesn’t merely apply to its client relationships, but also to its team of advisors. Todd has shown a respect for diversity that has traditionally been lacking in the life insurance industry. “Unfortunately, in our industry, there are still a lot of individuals that do not believe women advisors are capable or suited for these roles. Todd not only partners with women, he encourages the development and growth of women advisors,” says Celeste. Todd believes great women are essential players on his team. He has always had strong women in his life.”
We make sure our clients have clarity in their goals and objectives, confidence in the planning they have done or been advised to do, and coordination to ensure that their goals and objectives are being met. Paraphrasing a line commonly attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, Todd explains, “One of the things I learned early in this business is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”