The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, they say. Whether through heredity or exposure, there’s a strong tendency for people to follow in their parents’ footsteps, especially among those whose parents are exceptional role models.
That was certainly the case for Dan Noonan. “My father spent over 30 years in the insurance industry working his way up the ranks with Prudential of America,” said Noonan, investment advisor at Argosy Securities. “He retired as one of three regional vice presidents with the firm. Even as a youngster I was determined to follow his lead, although I trended more towards investments and financial planning.”
His father’s success in the insurance industry planted a valuable seed in Noonan; the seed of passion, which he sees as the driver of his success. “My passion and love for what I do let me work hard without becoming burnt out or having negative feelings created by long hours.”
Many people might think of insurance and financial planning as complex and strict fields; couple that with long hours, and burnout becomes a clear and present danger. Noonan is raising a family of his own, and their support is important especially when he has to work overtime, including on Saturdays and often Sundays. But aside from that, he’s motivated because he sees every day as a chance to succeed – not by making money, but by making a difference.
“I feel most fulfilled when I can make a difference through planning that positively impacts the client,” he said. “My passion has grown over time as my work continues to have a positive effect on a growing number of families.”
Noonan employs several approaches to help people financially, including investment allocation, savings strategies, and reduction of annual tax liabilities. In the case of retiring clients, he works with them to determine what cash flow they need to sustain their desired lifestyle. With that settled, a target rate of return can be determined, as well as the appropriate allocation to achieve that return.
Following in his father’s footsteps has left him with another invaluable tool: an insurance license, which he has maintained for over thirty years. With that qualification, he helps clients deal with aspects of risk management including asset protection, disability coverage, loss of life, and estate planning.
Like many advisors, Noonan can’t afford to be formulaic with his planning methodology; regulatory and market conditions will always play a role. “I am focusing on reducing cost of ownership for clients, which is partially led by regulatory issues but just as much by were we find ourselves with interest rates,” he said. “Paying standard mutual fund fees to often own bonds with a yield to maturity lower than the cost of ownership is forcing a change in how I advise clients.”
Many mutual fund providers are already shifting accordingly with moves such as management-fee reductions, automatic price-switching for investors who hit certain asset levels, and elimination of certain high-priced series. But in Noonan’s mind, that’s not enough; advisors also have to take a hit for the investors’ sake. “The combination of fee reduction at the advisor level and then fund-provider level is more substantial and needed.”
At his firm, he’s making such changes happen. “Over the last two years, I have suggested to clients that we will be driving down cost of ownership by 20% or more,” he said, explaining that he can make up for lost potential earnings by adding clients. “This allows the office to remain revenue-neutral so infrastructure (support staff) and service levels can be maintained.”
Noonan also believes that strategic investments in staff and office infrastructure are important. With the right additions, he has been able to focus on meeting with clients and potential clients. “We now have three support staff, with an extra two from February to end of April to support our charitable tax initiative,” he said.
Under the charitable tax program, Noonan’s firm does close to 2,000 returns; last year, it resulted in $100,000 being contributed to mental health. Aside from being a worthy philanthropic endeavour, the program has helped Noonan expand his network. “It has allowed me to meet new people each year, some of whom have become clients,” he said.
Seeing how Noonan has benefited from having an insurance license, one would think that his best advice to others would be to get credentials — but that isn’t the case. Instead, he stresses the need for something much more fundamental.
“Credentials are probably more important today than when I started 30 years ago, but credentials without effort would be wasted,” he said. “I believe that we will all be making less per million dollars of assets, so we need to grow our business if we expect to have similar revenue. In order to do this, there is no substitute for hard work.”
For more of Wealth Professional's latest industry news, click here.
A firsthand view of success
How Robert Luft built a practice on 10,000-flier bets