Getting Some Skin in the Game

One of the downsides of choosing to work in the financial services field is that many of the jobs are commissioned based. Even the ones that start salary, eventually decline that salary as the potential employee is supposed to gain clientele and then live off the corresponding fees from assets under management. The problem I had with many of the models was what is expected of new employees.

Let me start by saying I believe I know more about insurance and investments than the average person off the street, but I am far from an expert. I also knew going into this business, as much preaching goes on about helping people, ¬†that ultimately this is a sales transaction. I do believe that I am trying to help people, but If I can’t sell my products and services I ultimately don’t eat.

So as I was conducting interviews, fully knowing that this is ultimately a sales job, I was appalled with one of the offers. I was asked to, more or less, go and prospect for clients. It was sold to me as a way to find out public perception of the financial services industry. One of the last questions posed on the pre-approved prospecting script was about meeting with a representative of the potential company. That last question was the deal breaker for me. Not only was I expected to approach people about financial services without knowing anything beyond internet searches, I was expected to attract potential clients that wouldn’t ultimately be mine since I wasn’t approved by the company yet.

All of the companies I interviewed wanted me to start with insurance licensing, which is where I am at now. It is quicker and easier to obtain than the series 6, which I hope to get done soon. Getting my in insurance license will allow me to start attracting clients through the life insurance market. The company I chose to start working for at least paid for the licensing requirements and provided me with other education material before I was expected to start prospecting.

In the grand scheme of things, their investment is small, but at least it is an investment. They at least have some skin involved in my failure or success. Right now my investment is limited, a little financial, a lot of time, and a bunch of opportunity cost. However, in a couple weeks my financial stability of a salaried paycheck will be ending, and then I will have a lot of skin in the game.

Part of the reason I pursued this career is to stay in an industry that allows me to have some sort of relationship with people. I am terrified that in a couple weeks I will have too much skin in the game, and will just become another pushy salesman. I don’t need many clients to make this work, I just need to build a steady stream for a few years.

All I have right now is about two weeks of official experience and a bunch of hope.

Why Financial Services

After 12 years in education, I decided that I needed to try something different. I have thrown caution to the wind, and have jumped into the financial services industry full bore. What led me to believe that this was the right field for me? Let me explain.

First, I believe that I have a mind with an analytical bent.

I like to analyze things, especially anything that can be quantified. Record keeping, budgeting, compliance, and cash flow analysis as the local education association treasurer was strangely exciting. Using past history to make a budget and prediction to fund a class trip while running the concession stand at my school was very gratifying. Reviewing data from the insurance consortium to provide an explanation of increased insurance premiums was invigorating.

This is not me trying to facetious. The part of my mind that led me to become a MATH teacher enjoys challenging, abstract problems to solve.

Maybe I could work in an analytics department of a major corporation, or become an actuary. I have read that the large insurance firms have good training for actuaries, and will hire general math majors.

But the problem with those types of positions is the lack of interaction with people. One of the aspects I enjoyed most about teaching is cultivating relationships. I especially enjoy cultivating that relationship if it is centered around something that someone has shown genuine interest. For two years I taught a personal finance math class, which is when my interest in financial services was piqued. I liked researching the financial topics covered in class, and I really enjoyed explaining them to students. I really began to wonder if this is something I could do. Could I take my love of the abstract, and turn it into a pathway to assist people with their own finances?

This summer I decided now was the time to find out. And there were several other logistics that pushed me in the direction of financial services.

First, I have no career network. School has been my life, so the only other people I know are former students and teachers. Couple my limited network with the knowledge that many jobs that are filled are never posted to the public, spelling doom to many outside career opportunities.

Second, the jobs posted online or in newspapers often get hundreds of applications. The jobs that require online applications will typically use software to sort applications. Coming from teaching, my application experience probably didn’t contain many of the key words needed for the position. Consequently, my application could have been being tossed out by screening software.

Third, it seems like every employer out there wants someone who can step into a job and be productive immediately, without any training. Entry level positions that offer training were nearly impossible to find. It seemed like even the entry level spots expected candidates to undergo job specific training in college.

I don’t have a natural network, don’t have the right key words on my resume, and can’t find any paid training.

Luckily for me, the barrier to entrance into the financial services industry is incredibly low. Of course with a low barrier to entry, and marketing of “unlimited earning potential,” the burnout rate in the profession is even worse than the teaching I am leaving behind.

Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t. Right now I am going to give it a try. On Monday, I became an official representative. Now it is up to me to make this work.