At Finaeo, we believe the future of financial advice is “Bionic” — a combination of automated technology and the required human touch to provide an unmatched client experience. In our “Bionic Advisor” interview series, we are highlighting the personal stories of financial advisor heroes, and how they leverage technology to make insurance more accessible to their clients.
In the first interview of this series, we will be speaking with Brett Fulmer, Finaeo Ambassador and financial advisor. In his role, Brett is assisting with licensing, partnership outreach, sales coaching, as well as generating brand awareness for Finaeo outside of Canada. Brett plays a critical role in gleaning the similarities and differences of various markets, and helping the Finaeo team apply a “global lens” to product development and advisor support.
Q1: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small house on a hill on the edge of LA County, in a city called Diamond Bar. You could see the Downtown Los Angeles skyline when it was clear. It was a very multicultural city, which I loved!
Q2: As a child, what profession did you want to get into?
I wanted to be an architect, but I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t wired to sit still in a classroom. Being active and playing sports were much better at getting my attention than studying. Sales felt more like a natural fit to me down the line.
Q3: What was your path to becoming an insurance advisor?
My road to insurance was a little roundabout (like most). I graduated from college in 2009, right after the financial crash. I was looking at nursing as a potential career path, but sales started to sound more and more appealing to me.
I got into insurance because I ended up working with my Dad in commercial (office and industrial) relocation sales, and I thought if I could insure the spaces I would know where the projects were going to be, I could create a viable business opportunity. Insurance looked like a better industry for me long-term so I made the move.
Once I was P&C licensed I worked for a few shops part-time for 4 years, until I got into a Personal Lines insurance job where I could still network for commercial insurance sales. A year later I found myself helping with an HR/benefits spin-off company, which got me licensed in Life & Health. I missed insurance so I decided to start my own brokerage. I thought this was a good time, as I was married, but didn’t have kids or a mortgage yet.
I never saw it coming, but getting into insurance has easily been the most fulfilling thing I have done or could imagine doing professionally (outside of actually saving lives)! Protecting people, even if that means financially, matters.
Q4: What inspired you to become an advisor?
In my opinion, insurance is one of the few professions that allows you to have a positive impact and increase your income potential as an entrepreneur. I tend to lean towards less saturated opportunities, and nobody my age was getting into insurance a few years back. I am 34 now.
The more I dug into my own personal finances, the more I wanted to share what I have learned with others. It’s amazing what compound interest can do — both positively and negatively. I don’t think people often consider how much liability surrounds them every day, and how easily they can mitigate the risk of a lot of it. Being a Financial Planner isn’t just about promising high returns, but also making sure we can mitigate the risk of potential losses through the right insurance products.
I have realized at the core of what we’re doing is trying to protect people. That mission really spoke to me and I found myself investing more time in helping people become financially secure.
Q5: What do you think the biggest barriers are in obtaining insurance?
Lethargy and the paramedical (paperwork). People don’t want to go through the process, and people don’t like dwelling on death. Unless there has been a major milestone — i.e a business partnership, a marriage, a baby — it’s really hard to get people to want to go through the process.
Q6: Why is it important to you, personally, to see people are covered for life insurance?
Especially when it is my own network, I fear seeing somebody I know and care about (or their family) go through a tragic event and not have the proper coverage in place. You don’t want an hour of time and a few hundred dollars a year to prevent someone from avoiding mourning and undergoing and financial hardship.
Q7: Can you tell us about one specific customer experience or interaction that stands out to you?
Sometimes you really have to stand by your guns and aim to insure a client with a product that you think is the right fit, even if that means not selling a policy. Sometimes clients will want policies that you don’t think are the right coverage, and you have to walk away.
Q8: How has the insurance industry changed in the last 5–10 years?
I can only speak to the last five years, but when I started out, the insurance industry didn’t seem to be thinking about technology. Industry leaders were still afraid of technology, but now I see them embracing it. The proverbial “haves” are still a little scared of the change, but it’s an exciting time to be building in the space.
Q9: Even superheroes take time off! What do you like to do in your downtime?
Chilling and grilling is my bread and butter these days. I have a Weber charcoal grill that I love firing up on a slower evening. It’s a good excuse to sit outside for a while, and more often than not, we end up with some delicious food.
I also record a podcast every other Saturday for Insurance Nerds. It’s a passion project, so you make the time. I have met some of the smartest, nicest people in my life through the insurance community, more specifically through Insurance Nerds. You can learn so much by talking with peers.
Q10: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I have been bad and mainly listen to audiobooks lately. Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog” was awesome. Hearing of the victories and tragedies that almost ended a company as iconic as Nike put me at ease when it comes to my own business misadventures.
Q11: What is one piece of advice you would give someone entering the advisory business today?
If you see a problem, solve a problem. Don’t kick yourself too hard when you make mistakes. Just learn, own the mistake, and keep moving forward. It also helps to network and get involved in the community. The industry is very welcoming and supportive of new advisors. You can learn a lot by speaking with other advisors, learning from their experiences, attending local meetups and building your network.
The right Independent Marketing Organization (IMO) will make it easy to get connected with carriers and provide helpful tools for financial advisors. It’s also helpful to note that the California Department of Insurance website and their helpline were solid resources to use when I was getting started.
Q12: What are your personal goals? What’s next for you?
I enjoy working on cool projects and working with cool people. I am excited, humbled, and a little daunted by the task of helping Finaeo expand beyond Canada, where they are already doing great work in the insurance space.
Q13: What does the term “bionic advisor” mean to you?
Somebody needs to push the policy forward. People don’t like contracts, they don’t like giving bodily fluids, and they don’t like parting with money. Being a Bionic Advisor to me means partnering with a company like Finaeo to help handle all of the tech and paperwork needs, so I am spending time focusing on the human connection side of the business.