Leadership Perspectives | 08.07.19
Exit Strategies with Frank Consalo: Part 3
This is part three in our Exit Strategies interview series with Frank Consalo, head of investment sales at Citi Personal Wealth Management. Read parts one and two.
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: How important are annuities in your operation?
Frank Consalo: Well, it's one of the many solutions we offer our clients. I personally own annuities, and I think they are fantastic. I think if you purchase them for the right purpose, which is potentially guaranteed income, tax-deferred growth and transition at death without going through an estate, there is nothing better. For the right clients, it’s a solution that will provide vital, long-term income. I saw it with my father. Had he not had that annuity, he would not have been able to pay his Medicare premium every month. His annuity gave him independence and confidence in his ability to pay his bills - all the way up to, and including, his death. You can't put a price tag on guaranteed income. That's why people find that Social Security is such a vital part of their retirement planning, because it's guaranteed. And they know that it will last all the way through to the end of their life. There are only two products that do that, in addition to Social Security: a pension and an annuity. Since the pension is really a thing of the past, it’s good to look at what you have in your portfolio and see if you can provide that lifelong income, at a certain level and point in time, when you’re going to need it.
The next piece of it is – and I've done this for my wife and me – is long-term care. I saw it firsthand with my mom and dad. They were both able to die at home. But it required a lot of care from me and my siblings. Long-term care insurance is so critical, and yet it gets overlooked by many people because they don't understand it, or they don't want to take the time to actually dig into the details required. Also, clients often don't want to consider it, because they think they've got plenty of time, and that they’ll do it at some point in the future. Annuities also have riders for long-term care. They've never been cheaper and more affordable, giving clients the opportunity to plan for the future. We probably have to do a better job as an industry in taking about that. Too often, you hear the word annuity and the context is negative. There are things that annuities provide that no other product can provide - I'm a huge advocate, a big fan.
On the future...
Macchia: As you think about the future, what's exciting for you in your operation? I mean, to the extent that you can disclose it publicly, what's exciting? What developments do you see coming up that make you really happy about the future?
Consalo: You know what, I love the branch network. Our advisors are one of our best assets to come through that door every day. They make the conscious decision to choose Citi as their place to call home, and I feel so fortunate that I get to lead a group of people that are very talented and tenured. Anybody will tell you that culture means everything to me. I think culture trumps strategy every day of the week and for me, it means having an open-door policy where I'm willing to engage with advisors. They can also engage with John Cummings, who oversees U.S. wealth management. We want our advisors to have a seat at the table when we are making decisions. We're listening to our people and trying to find best practices. I might have a good idea, but the advisors are meeting with clients every single day and they know what our clients want, what they need, what they deserve and what they're willing to pay for it. So, I'm excited every day that I have the opportunity to go out and work with people like that. They take their craft incredibly seriously, show up and work hard every day. They want to win, and do it with integrity and in a way that helps people. We forget sometimes that every day we help people plan for the future. I've delivered checks when people have died unexpectedly. You see how it makes a difference in a kid's life. You see somebody retire with the ability to live a lifestyle with which they have become accustomed.
On client relationships in investing...
Consalo: It’s really striking that when you're dealing with people’s money, they will open up to you and tell you things they won't tell their family. They will consider you their point of contact for many things, such as buying a car, sending a kid to college or they may even ask your advice about where their kid should go to college. I realize that clients take a personal, vested interest, so I never lose sight of that when I pair an advisor with a client. We sometimes don't recognize the level to which they put their faith, trust and confidence in us. There's no better industry. I was fortunate enough that I chose an industry that allows me to be entrepreneurial and at the same time, help people. To have a really big impact not just on their lives, but also on their children’s lives. There are not many things that you can do that are better than that.
Macchia: I love your appreciation for the power of relationships, the importance of relationships, the human quality and the value of culture. It concerns me sometimes that the more society becomes mechanized and technological, too many people are losing appreciation of these dimensions. But this is the core of our existence. Whether it's because of social media and the distancing of personal relationships, or people like my kids, who are college freshmen, twins - who never talk on the phone. It’s all through the text or Instagram. The way to absolutely assure that we have viable and successful futures is by concentrating on the things that can't be commoditized.
Consalo: In our value proposition for Citigold, the first line offers clients “a dedicated wealth management team.” It's about a dedicated team centered on relationship management. A financial advisor helping you plan according to your goals. The critical part is to make sure that we have that relationship with the team; it means the client is at the table with an advisor and those other specialists.
Macchia: If I handed you a magic wand and gave you the power to affect any change in the industry you'd like to, instantly, what would you change?
Consalo: Well, I guess the biggest thing I would say is that as an industry, I think we've done a poor job of communicating to the broad public about what we do. I think the National Association of Realtors has done a good job doing this for the real estate industry. They've lobbied effectively to be able to remain a positive force in the home buying industry, and that’s what I’d like to see happen in the financial industry.