Michael Dutra is the President of Michael Dutra Estate Planning & Insurance – a firm that distinguishes itself by offering a family office approach with modern solutions to help people protect their assets and minimize their taxes.
In this edition of Advisor Spotlight, we speak with Michael to learn more about him and his approach to financial planning.
What inspired you to become an advisor?
I’ve been described as a human calculator, I can compute some pretty interesting math in my head. But on top of that, I have also been described as a people person, someone with a big heart.
I majored in finance in university, and in my very last semester, my professor turned out to be a financial advisor. When he explained what he did on a daily basis and how much help he provided to families and business owners, I absolutely fell in love with the idea of being a financial advisor myself. I began my career as a financial advisor, focusing on insurance, tax and estate planning. After a very successful 8 year career working with Canada’s largest financial firm, I decided it was time to start my own firm.
What do you feel is Michael Dutra Estate Planning & Insurance’s greatest competitive advantage?
I have two ears and 1 mouth and have been trying to use them in proportion for the past 12 years. I’ve been listening to what people need and have reverse engineered the most effective and impactful solutions to help solve these problems. My ability to take the complex and transform it into a simple concept is something I pride myself on. In some of the biggest cases I worked on, I literally drew on a blank piece of paper to explain the idea, and I cannot tell you the number of compliments I have gotten for doing things like this.
PS: for anyone reading this, make sure you can write and draw upside down….I’m not joking. It’s a skill that I guarantee will help you in any career when you’re sitting across the table from someone and have to write something down. They might be more impressed with the fact that you can write upside down than what you were even writing.
What is the biggest misconception clients have about the process of getting insured?
I half-joke about this a lot, but I wish I could rename ‘life insurance.’ The words life insurance do not bring it the justice it deserves. It doesn’t explain all the benefits it brings to you, your family, your company and your estate. It’s not just about dying. It can help you keep your cottage and rental properties in your family for future generations, protect the ownership and value of your business, provide tax-efficient retirement income, pay for the taxes owed in your estate, guarantee you have access to tax-free capital and the laundry list continues.
How do you think digitization will affect the future of the industry?
Anyone who has been in the industry for over 10 years remembers the good old days of bringing what felt like a 100-page booklet over to someone’s house to fill out line by line. 1 booklet for each policy and for each person, so if I was filling out multiple policies for multiple people in the home, I would be there until the candle was completely melted. The fact that we can do apps online, either with the person or over the phone, is amazing, and the questions have been simplified. The limits of how much insurance people can get without doing blood work have also increased. Kudos to the insurance companies for doing all of this.
How do you stay up to date with industry trends?
Read, go to networking events, listen to podcasts, self-research, watch YouTube videos…I am addicted to learning. My ‘Netflix’ series is watching lawyers and tax experts talk on YouTube. I also take part in the associations. I am a Trust and Estate Practitioner, a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Certified Financial Planner – all designations and governing bodies provide excellent resources. You can’t stop learning. Learning is cool.
What’s something about being an advisor you wish you knew earlier in your career?
Take part in charitable causes right away. Donate your time. Do good things. Everyone should start immediately in their career. I would also suggest trying to form a networking group and being the president of it. New advisors are going to blink and ten years will have passed by. The exponential growth you can get by doing this early is a massive advantage to anyone starting out.
What is the major takeaway you’d like to leave your clients with when choosing you for their insurance needs?
I want them to not only remember the practical advice I told them because that’s obviously crucial, but I want them to remember the feeling they had when speaking to me. There is a quote by Maya Angelou and it says:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. – Maya Angelou
I really try to hold true to this. I have people call me out of the blue from years and years ago, and it’s a good feeling because I know they don’t exactly remember the detailed tax and insurance strategy I told them, but they remember how I made them feel, so they call me back when the time is right for them.
What are some personality traits that make for a great Advisor?
Patience, perseverance, eagerness to learn and the ability to push yourself. You have to want to make a difference in people’s lives. I share this with people from time to time, but so far in my career, I have unfortunately had 4 clients pass away. That means 4 times I have sat at the kitchen table and hand-delivered the life insurance cheque to the surviving spouse and been in deep discussions with the family. I am literally in it until the end. You want to pick your advisor not only their knowledge and personality but for who you want meeting with your family if you were to pass away.
What was one of the most meaningful moments of your career?
I’ve had some pretty big, monumental stepping stones throughout my career. At the beginning of my career, I remember I won Insurance Planner of the Year for 3 years in a row, amongst people who had been there for 20+ years and that was a really exciting time. I was also promoted to management at the age of 25 and had a team of almost 20 advisors reporting to me.
Most recently, I was given the role of overseeing the insurance division of the Canadian Physician’s Pension Plan (CPPP). I will be advising all medical professionals and business owners who take part in the CPPP. This is the first time in Canadian history that medical professionals can take part in a pension plan and I am extremely proud to be involved.
What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for Michael Dutra Estate Planning & Insurance and the industry as a whole in the next 10 years?
I think the survivors in the industry are going to be the people who market themselves and self-brand. I think people are going to remember you as a person and not necessarily what your company is called. You have to stay on top of standing out, hosting events, thinking big, videos, content, networking, it really doesn’t stop, which is one of the reasons I love doing this so much. I get to be so creative with my marketing. I have always drawn since a kid, so the creative side of me comes out in my marketing which makes it that much more fun.
In addition to providing excellent service to his clients, Michael has also launched a podcast, Mike Check 1,2,1,2 (available on Spotify and YouTube) where he gives insurance and estate planning advice to his viewers. His ability to combine knowledge with marketing skills and a desire to modernize his client’s experience makes Michael Dutra the kind of advisor who represents the future of financial planning.