Leadership Perspectives | 07.31.19
Exit Strategies with Frank Consalo: Part 2
This is part two in our Exit Strategies interview series with Frank Consalo, head of investment sales at Citi Personal Wealth Management. Read part one.
I’m very lucky to have come to know a number of our industry’s senior executives through the interviews I conduct. For me, these conversations are typically very enjoyable and revealing. This conversation with Frank Consalo, however, touched me in an emotional way that few others have. I think you’ll be surprised by Frank’s remarkable life story. When you read about his family background and early jobs, you’ll understand how an incredible work ethic developed. I don’t know what Frank will do when he one day retires from our industry. But I do know that he won’t retire in the traditional sense. He may become the future Congressman Consalo, or a stage actor or something else interesting. Whatever that may be, I’m absolutely certain it will be a successful endeavor.
David Macchia: You know, it's gratifying to me to hear you talk about selling and use the word "sell" in such a proud fashion. I meet people from time to time, including in our industry, who look down on the notion of sales. I've always felt that it's one of the prouder pursuits anybody could engage in. I'd like to think of myself and be thought of as a good salesman. I believe sales makes the world go around. I think it's the engine that makes everything happen, in an economic sense.
Frank Consalo: Look, I think we sell all the time, and I agree that sales isn’t something that should be looked down upon. No matter what industry you’re in, you’ve got to sell something. I always tell my daughters that it’s important to sell yourself and your skillset.
On recent changes and concerns in the industry...
Macchia: Tell me, when did you get into your current role?
Consalo: I started at Citi as an advisor and worked my way up to manager. I left Citi in mid-2000 and moved to Philadelphia to take a job with First Union, which later became Wachovia. At First Union, I became the regional president and took over the Northeast market that they had recently acquired. A lot of folks I knew at Wachovia went over to Citi in 2010, and they encouraged me to join them. I returned to Citi in 2012 and have been in this role ever since.
Macchia: Since 2012, we've seen a lot of change. Let me make this a little bit more contemporary in terms of what's happening now. As you look at the bank broker-dealer industry, and you think about the next one, three to five years - what are the things that concern you most about its prospects for success and growth?
Consalo: Great question. This is what we spend our time discussing with the advisors, trying to get them to understand that the whole industry's changing so fast as fees and margins decline.
What concerns me is the ability of advisors to really understand that their role now is to be more of a coach. It's going to be about navigating a client through their different lifecycles, which transition from accumulation to distribution and transition. It’s about the ability and intelligence to have that conversation in a meaningful way, to have this background knowledge and help the clients by serving as their guide through life's challenges. That's going to require them to become better at understanding estate issues, insurance, transition and long-term care, whereas in the past they maybe just worried about the investment piece of the portfolio. Now, they've got to really take a more holistic view of a client's needs. Advisors also need to be aware of how fast the industry is changing.
We have clients that seek guidance with asset allocation, estate planning, transition, key man life insurance and small-business planning. We deal with an affluent client base, so it's really important for our advisors to have that skillset and knowledge to be able to work with a client who has a broad set of needs.
Macchia: You mentioned business continuation, life insurance, transition planning, income. If a client is experiencing multiple needs at once, is the system in place that an advisor can address all those needs? One advisor, or is there another way you think about it?
Consalo: I absolutely believe in a team-based approach. And I don't mean a team of people always doing the same thing, but rather bringing in specialists. Citi has teamed up with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to give our advisors a two-year training program that, from a finance and investments perspective, is best in class. Our advisors are put through a very strong curriculum, where they're learning more about not just the industry, but also about their craft, about having those meaningful conversations. When they’ve completed the course, they’re better positioned to team up with specialists in areas such as insurance or law to help clients go in the right direction. We also encourage folks to become Certified Financial Planners. All of these things are critical – it’s all part of the wealth planning team.
On retirement income distribution...
Macchia: I always tell advisors that the transition from work to retirement is the opportunity for you to become the last and durable advisor. But in that process, it's important for the advisor to begin to make relationships with the children of their clients, so there can be continuity.
Consalo: You know, you're 100% right — I love that, “The last and durable advisor.” I'm going to steal that from you [laughter]. But it's true, right? It takes some effort and work, and you've got to roll up your sleeves. It's different doing that than it is calling clients and making a recommendation to invest “x” amount of their assets into a particular product or solution. It's more about the emotional intelligence and how to better understand their clients and what their concerns are. At some point, it's more about legacy. How am I going to be remembered? What am I leaving for my heirs? That will be meaningful, and if you haven't had that conversation with someone, the chances are, the assets will go to a bank or some trustee that you probably don't know anything about.