“What we’ve built is that open architecture, so that clients are getting invested advice.”
Christine Cox-West is a Partner, Director of Insurance Brokerage and Marketing at The Fortis Agency.The Fortis Agency provides unique financial strategies for physicians, executives and business owners. They also help other advisors bring these strategies to their clients in a partnering or wholesale capacity.
What changes did you want to make in this industry?
Christine: “What I found is that a lot of firms sometimes have proprietary products or insurance carriers have their own insurance products that they want to sell. Certain firms are sometimes incentivizing their advisors and agents to sell specific products. So what I wanted to change was have more of an open architecture for advisors, so that their clients really are getting the best advice and not being pigeonholed into a specific product.”
Christine: “That’s really what we’ve built is that open architecture, so that clients are getting invested advice. That’s really what I wanted to change for not only the clients but also the advisors.”
What did the transition look like from a highly regulated corporate world into your own firm?
Christine: “Coming from a large insurance carrier, we had a lot of compliance and for the right reasons, it protects the clients and the consumers. Being attached to an RIA, registered investment advisory, they’re reporting to the SEC. There are a lot of regulations behind that, but that being said, the handcuffs are taken off when you go into an independent model.”
Christine: “Like I said, you aren’t forced to sell proprietary products. You’re held to a higher standard of fiduciary standard when you’re with an RIA. We’re able to really do what’s best for the client. The advisers are able to actually manage the money that they’re working on for clients and do their job the best way that they can. As opposed to some other models where it’s a really another adviser up in New York city managing the money.”
Christine: “At some firms that are much more strict than I even came from, the advisors are just taking in orders and they’re not able to do what they’re really good at. So that’s really the model that we built. Advisors can do what they love and what they’re really good at.”
Where do you see financial advice and insurance in the next 3 to 5 years?
Christine: “On the investment side of things, I think people are going to move away from the broker-dealer model and move to a similar model to what we have; the RIA model. The way that advisors are paid is changing and clients want more transparency. In the broker-dealer model there may not be as much transparency, but when you move to an RA model, it’s more fee only planning. There aren’t commissions hidden in the accounts. So I think that’s where the industry’s going on the investment side.”
Christine: “On the insurance side, I think for the most part, things are going to stay the same. But there will be products that we’ll see disappear or be pulled back. For example, long-term care insurance. Years ago, it was mis-priced, so people got these great policies, but in actuality we have a huge population of individuals that are coming into retirement.”
Christine: “I think that’s definitely changing because of the way that people are living longer and having more health issues. In that area, we’re moving towards more hybrid products. So attaching a long-term care rider to a life insurance policy. If you have good cash flow for it, that’s going to be a better solution than a product that could change like a long-term care traditional policy.”