IT BEGINS AND ENDS WITH PEOPLE The Roots of Financial Architects
In some ways, it might be accurate to say that Financial Architects would not exist were it not for my little sisters. Being the eldest son in a family of nine teaches you a lot about leadership, confidence, and mentorship. This is especially true when you’ve got to convince five sisters to see things your way. It may sound like a humble beginning, but by the time I made my first step into the business world, it was clear I had a leg up on my competition. While I was getting my education I sold real estate part time. Despite my limited hours, I was outselling a lot of the full- time guys, and people were taking notice. Now, this was 55 years ago — I was 24 years old and really didn’t know much at all about the finance industry. But one day, someone looking at my real estate numbers said, “You should go into the insurance business!” So, I sent my resume to an insurance company and the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Chicago for training. I learned all I could about the insurance market, and sure enough, found that the people skills necessary for the job were second nature to me. It was in these one-on-one interactions with clients that I discovered just what the work I was doing meant to people. By age 26, I’d founded my own general agency.
Sometimes this meant driving to people’s houses, and other times, to the hospital. The first time I delivered a death claim, the experience changed me forever. Here was a family that had just lost their breadwinner. On top of the pain and hardship that comes with losing a loved one, this family was grappling with the specter of financial uncertainty. I’ll never forget the look of relief that came across their faces when I stepped into that room with the check. That moment brought it all home for me: This business is all about keeping families secure in their darkest hour. From then on, I knew I wanted to work with people who shared this perspective. A few years later, I met this long-haired kid named Kenneth Grace. On the surface, he looked like a hippie, but after a short time talking to him, I could tell he had a sharp mind for finance. I began to take him under my wing, starting with a haircut and a trip to my haberdasher. We became fast friends, laying the groundwork for greater things to come. After a brief stint in Houston, Texas, I decided it was time to return to Michigan. I’d had my fill of being a general agent, and the extra managerial minutiae it entailed. I turned to my friend Ken, asking if he would head up this new Michigan venture, assuring him that I would support him however I could. He agreed, and we created Financial Architects. We knew that to succeed, we needed a strong
commitment to our values and build a company culture we could be proud of.
Shortly thereafter, I was giving career advice to some college athletes at the request of their athletic director. I wasn’t actively recruiting — we still weren’t ready to hire — but simply sharing life advice with these soon-to-be-graduates. That’s when one of the young men, a hockey player, raised his hand and said, “Sir, I want to do what you’re doing.” You guessed it, that was Patrick Marody. After he got a few years of industry experience under his belt, we were more than happy to hire him on. Now he’s one of the principals at the company, and I couldn’t be more proud. Looking back at the history of Financial Architects, I’m struck by the fact that it all comes back to one-on-one interaction. From my days hand-delivering claims checks through my early interactions with Ken up to today, I’ve seen how personal communication makes a world of difference. Watching this firm grow from those roots has been a real joy, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
In those days, I was personally delivering checks once claims went through.
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