Updated: Sep 28
It isn't just a career milestone. It was early 2018.
I had won my first industry award the year before – it’s a small one, but it basically puts you at around the top 30% of all planners in the country.
It might not seem like much in context – but aside from athletic achievements, I hadn’t been in the top 30% of anything in the country since primary school, and it was a mark of my first year of working in this line.
It was ‘my moment.’
All the award winners were invited to a big gala. I had no idea what would happen - but between my moment and free dinner, I decided to go.
We finally settled down after the pictures and sat down.
The MC said a bunch of amusing things before handing the mike over to the director, who talked a little bit about the overall year of 2017 before talking about MDRT.
The Million Dollar Round Table – the top 6% of Financial Consultants, not just in the country, but all around the world. It was international recognition of your ability in the profession.
And that’s when things got horrifying.
To my appalment, he proceeded to call up each and every one of the MDRT winners up to the stage to receive awards? Take pictures? Whatever.
And the rest of us non-MDRT, small-time award winners sat below clapped as the MDRT winners took the stage.
That’s right. We were the audience. The monkeys clapping for people who were deemed better than us.
…Now I have no idea how many people in my company got MDRT that year. I just know that the average time it takes for someone to get onto the stage, smile at the crowd, the CEO, take a picture, and walk off took slightly over half a minute.
I know, because I timed.
And then I decided that I wasn’t going to sit like an idiot in what I considered my moment clapping for other people for the next 2 hours when I could be working to get my own MDRT.
So I left.
(And got McDonald’s for dinner.)
The Credibility a Stage MDRT lends you
I’ve watched with some slight bemusement as for god-knows-what-reason, both DnS and Seedly decided this last week would be a cool week to write/repost about MDRT. You can read their articles here and here, where they will also tell you how Financial Consultants qualify, etc.
Maybe if I were an MDRT award winner, I would know the reason.
But I’m not. I missed it by a bit last year, by quite a lot the year before and well, who knows what will happen this year. We don’t always get what we want in life.
Yes, I’m not an MDRT member.
MDRT is a really interesting phenomenon to me. As I write this, DnS is conducting a little survey on the Personal Finance Community, and most people are saying it doesn’t matter to them.
I’ve examined this effect for myself on the ground, as a Financial Consultant. I’ve had people ask me whether I have MDRT and I’ve watched their reaction when I’ve said no. I’ve had people who were surprised I didn’t have it (I’m flattered, thank you.).
My conclusion is that the question: ‘Does your agent having MDRT matter to you?’
Tends to get the exact same reaction as the question: ‘Would you date someone who is not physically attractive?’
The politically correct answer in this case is that it doesn’t matter.
Personality is more important. Being funny. The quality of service. Or something like that.
The reality… Isn’t quite so true.
We wouldn’t want our doctors showing up in a singlet and slippers no matter how good they were. And similarly, we tend to care more about someone’s individual achievements than we’d like to admit.
The proof? Billions of dollars have been put to good use because this statement is true in every industry. For a resume that doesn’t have any volume on character. There’s a endless line of examples.
Much like a good-looking person, our psychology makes it that the majority of us will think well of them when it comes right down to it.
But what if I really don’t care?
The common reasons I could tell for genuinely not caring are listed below, and I felt the need to address them because it applies for the common agent, let alone an MDRT member.
1) Lack of Fiduciary Duty
This is fair, but it doesn’t magically discount your servicing agent from doing their job.
I spoke last week about the approach to business, using banks as an example. There is absolutely no long-term business that can survive on job incompetence, which includes misselling.
A scammer can flee the country, but if you think it’s that simple you haven’t gotten creative enough. There are ways to pursue him, his family and loved ones, his overseas assets [evil laughter].
And to get back on point, did you know you can sue someone for misselling years after they’ve left the industry?
If you’re worried about the above, MDRT or not, get creative.
But having MDRT certainly lowers the probability of poor service.
2) Their Achievement, Not Mine
Contrary to popular belief, it’s a lot more than a career milestone. There are two particular things that it symbolizes:
a) Weight of Trust: If you look at MDRT by Premiums, it means that a whole bunch of clients collectively handed over $400,000 to the MDRT Achiever that year and likely agreed to keep doing this between 5 to 20 years, which is just insane.
It would be incredibly wrong to say that it was earned even if you were a scammer, because it would take a serious ability to inspire trust to do this.
b) A Double-Edged Sword: As I wrote briefly in the Matthew Principle – more power, more responsibility.
You know what’s worse than not having MDRT? Having MDRT and losing it.
3) Too Popular or Busy
Unless you’re a fee-based advisor like Christopher Tan (clickbait namedrop complete), do you know what advisors spend most of their time doing?
It’s prospecting. Looking for new clients.
As a consumer, you have to think big picture.
If they’re popular, they actually have more time to concentrate on the primary job they’re supposed to be doing, which is to offer high quality advice.
If they’re financially stable, they’re more likely to offer you impartial advice rather than missell the highest commission.
If they’re rich (which they can be), they’re more likely to have more resources and support to give you the best service available.
For context, the median agent makes $50,000 a year. An MDRT agent makes about 3 times that, while half of the industry makes a tiny fraction of that.
And they end up leaving.
Them being popular or busy? It’s a good thing, for everyone involved.
In theory, anyway.
The Epitome of a Financial Consultant – (in theory anyway)
There are many reasons agents hit MDRT. I’ve boiled it down to a couple of factors:
1) Astounding Lead Generation System – strong at generating leads, maintaining leads, referrals and high conversion rates
2) Initial Connections and Subsequent Connections – a strong and support ‘warm’ market. Older and Mid-Career Switch people tend to have more of this.
That being said, it’s not a given – many of them attribute their success to how they behaved as an employee. If you are responsible as an employee, you’re likely to be far more responsible as a business owner who I can trust my money to.
3) Sales Skills, Soft Skills – The ability to present ideas well, concise, and simple. Body language, warmth and daring to step out of your comfort zone can all come other this category as well.
4) Technical Expertise – The ability to process and apply the things that you have studied: products, the context around those products [e.g. investing] and how the various products complement each other in order to provide a holistic financial planning experience.
5) Overall Quality of Service – a combination of the skills.
Between the most common ‘objections’ that I’ve addressed from an agent’s point of view, imagine having a servicing Financial Consultant who possesses all the above qualities. Imagine the kind of benefit they could provide to you.
While this is technically an endorsement of MDRT, I’m not saying non-achievers are bad. I really can’t, because I’m not an achiever.
Context is important, which is why it’s easier to say that its nothing more than a career milestone.
Because you never know – you could get the bad apple who missells his/her way to the top and runs from the industry before you can blink twice.
But even that takes serious talent.
Personally, I am rarely impressed by someone who gets MDRT in their first year. It is not too different from my 32.7% annualized return in 2017 – it’s impressive, but there are too many factors to suggest that it will be future performance.
It’s too early to say that they’re good, and frankly speaking a year is way too short to have paid your dues on being especially competent in a job.
But like I said, I do think that it reflects well on the potential of a person for the reasons listed above.
And that's why I would like to have it - because I do believe it will be a gain to my clients and not a boon.
If there was one lesson, one takeaway that you could have from reading this article – especially since very few here are Financial Consultants or care about Financial Consultancy – the lesson would be this.
The way you conduct yourself as an employee, as a person – matters.
People watch. People read. People listen. And they make judgement that they keep to themselves, with every right to do so.
There may come a time, even if you are not a business owner or a franchisee (like us Financial Consultants) where you will have to learn who your real friends are. It can be something difficult and drastic and you have to ask for support, like retrenchment or trying to start your own business.
And people will consolidate all their judgments of you and decide whether your friendship is worth the risk.
So, you could end up being the kind of ‘insurance agent’ that faces disdain from the general public, to the point that some people even believe they are entitled to demand your service.
Or you could be successful on virtually nothing but the merit of your character, before actually becoming good at the action you’ve decided to take.
Trust me, I know.
I hope you won’t have to.