Tier One Interview: Kim Natovitz
This month, Jay sits down with Kim Natovitz, CLU®, CLTC, Senior Associate, TriBridge Partners, LLC. Jay and Kim talk about her unusual path to the life insurance industry, how she ended up specializing in her area of focus, and some fun personal stories!
Jay: This month, I have the privilege of interviewing Kim Natovitz, a producer with specialty focuses in long-term care and life insurance disability from the Washington DC area. Kim, you and I have not known each other for very long but now that Pete and I have been spending time with you, I am enamored with your approach to working with your clients. Technically, it is a sales strategy but the way you interact with clients is a bit like a caregiver – making sure they will be in excellent financial shape and not dependent on others.
I’m anxious to dig into the specifics of your client work but, first, talk with me about your firm, TriBridge Partners and your work within the organization.
Kim: Hi Jay, I am flattered to be speaking with you today! TriBridge Partners is a special place, and their value proposition is the same as mine. “We seek to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve”. The firm has deep bench strength in helping employers with traditional benefits, retirement plans, and planning for key executives, but they really think outside the box to address helping employers inspire, engage and empower their organizations. They also have tremendous experience in helping business owners and their families build wealth in, and out of, their businesses and to transition to the next generation or a third party.
Personally, I spend most of my time working with individuals and their families with personal planning. I always say I want to make sure if something happens to you, you don’t take your family and business down with you. TriBridge is comprised of seasoned professionals with different areas of expertise, and we collaborate with one another to better serve our clients. The firm has a robust succession plan so I am confident that when I am no longer working, my philosophy around caring for clients and their families will be continued.
Jay: When we were talking about your career, you mentioned starting out in retail and I immediately asked, “Oh, what agency program did you start with?” You laughed and told me that you were actually referring to “retail”…as in clothing! Where did you grow up, go to school and how did you find your way to being a life insurance producer?
Kim : Ironically, having a retail background was excellent experience for working with clients in insurance planning. Both involve asking the right questions to provide solutions that are practical and understanding their needs. I grew up in a bedroom community of New York and went to school at Emory in Atlanta. My first job was babysitting and the father then hired me as an administrative assistant in my synagogue’s religious school.
I parlayed that experience into an after-school job at a law firm answering phones, filing, and typing. On the weekends, I worked at the local movie theater selling concessions. While at Emory, I fell in love with philosophy and that became my major. But a lovely professor told me one day that if I continued on that path and went on to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. that I would likely end up with a mountain of school debt and difficulty extinguishing it! So I decided I would take the LSAT and apply to law school.
Fast forward, I applied to law school and was accepted but decided I needed to save some money before heading to graduate school, so I deferred my acceptance. I started interviewing with the companies that came to campus and decided to take a position with a local department store chain that had a management training program. It was a fantastic experience and I started on the sales floor - first in men’s suits and later in children’s clothes. I started working with customers and it was love at first sight. It was tremendously rewarding and satisfying to listen to customers and help them find what was right for them.
In retail there are two tracks, either you are a track to become a buyer, or you find a role in corporate or the stores that doesn’t involve merchandise. It was apparent to me that I was not interested in becoming a buyer and I took another path. After a time, I ended up taking a job with an insurance carrier as a wholesaler and, a year later, decided that I wanted to be in charge of my own fate.
Jay: Early on, you learned to differentiate yourself in our industry. Although, like other top producers, you focus on obtaining referrals from other advisors, including attorneys and CPAs, you also earned a national reputation as a long-term care and disability specialist. How did this happen?
Kim: To be honest, when I moved to the DC area I didn’t have a natural market – no friends or family to contact. I attended several industry events and learned that the most successful producers developed relationships with advisors. With my limited experience, I recognized that I needed to become the subject matter expert in an area that most insurance producers were not.
Additionally, I had family experience with long term care by then. My paternal grandmother had dementia and lived for almost a decade in a nursing home. My maternal grandfather was diabetic and had dementia and after living with our family also had to move to a nursing home. I understood firsthand the costs associated with long term care and that most clients were unprepared for this expense and that some families are bankrupted financially as well as physically and emotionally.
Long term care insurance policies were just starting to be manufactured by carriers and I started talking to any CPA, estate planning attorney, and financial advisor about planning for long term care. As I started working with local advisors, they would refer me to colleagues in other cities. Washington is a very transient area and as advisors moved to new cities, I would become licensed in their state and continue the relationship.
Jay: I want to stay on the topic of your practice a bit longer. Earlier, I mentioned how impressed I am with the way you interact with your clients. You make sure they are taken care of financially. Share how you work with clients and why you think they respond so well to you.
Kim: Thank you. I pride myself on helping clients with the financial and non-financial aspects of planning for premature death, disability or the need for long term care. I firmly believe that the active guidance provided to clients is just as important as the insurance policy they purchase – sometimes even more so. I explain to clients that I need to learn everything about them - not to be a nosy, but so that I can help them with their planning.
Frequently, this advice leads to referrals to allied professionals, etc. And discussions about other family members yields as much peace of mind to clients as finalizing their insurance planning. I always say I have a “no cherry-picking rule”- if I am your advisor, you should pick up the phone anytime you think I can help. As a matter of fact, I want clients to say to themselves, “I don’t know if Kim can help with this problem, but if she can’t, she will go out of her way to find someone who can.” I think of how I would want someone to help me or my family and try to put myself in the client’s position.
Jay: As you know, I am disappointed our industry doesn’t have more women and minorities in producer roles. You have some thoughts on women, specifically, that I thought gave you a unique perspective. Talk about this and if you think things will change and we will welcome more women to direct selling jobs.
Kim: I also am disappointed that our industry isn’t as diverse as it could and should be. Part of the problem is finding a mentor. I always say, “Be the mentor you wish that you had found!” Personally, I think that women are less comfortable flying by the seat of their pants, which is often what happens when you are a new advisor. To avoid that, I think new producers need to try and become the subject matter expert in a few areas and do joint work. There are many people like me who are interested in seeing the next generation of producers succeed. I think that things are changing already with many firms providing a track to becoming a producer, but not necessarily starting as a producer.
Jay: You have a lot going on at home, including 15-year-old twins. They are going through a rite of passage I know you want to tell us about. Also, I don’t think I’ve stopped laughing since you shared the story of how you met your husband. Fill us in!
Kim: Ok, yes, that is a great story! I met my husband when I came to his firm to provide continuing education about planning for long term care. Did I mention that I ran into him the next day at the grocery store, and he didn’t remember who I was? I chalk that up to being out of context and him just finishing a tough workout at the gym next door. We ultimately became great friends and later married.
I then proceeded to turn his life upside down – we got a dog, moved and had boy/girl twins. My mother once said I must be the greatest salesperson alive to have convinced him to make so many changes. And yes, we are poised to undertake the only thing I feared when I found out I was pregnant with twins – teaching them to drive – so scary. They are taking a 30-hour course the last two weeks of school and then, shortly after, can obtain their learners permits . They each need an enormous number of hours behind the wheel to be ready to take the driving test which means every time I get into the car, one of them will be behind the wheel. I still can’t believe this is really about to happen – it seems like yesterday they were born.
Jay: This has been so much fun, Kim. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you better and I’m thrilled you participated in our Tier One series. It is time for our restaurant question, and I know you’re prepared. Without naming a steakhouse or a steak dish, tell me where I should eat and what I should order?
Kim: This is a no brainer! You have to go to Rasika in DC and have the black cod. It is one of the best meals I have every had and one of their signature dishes. You won’t be sorry!
Since its inception, Life Insurance Strategies Group has solely focused on the individual high net worth life insurance market. We do not sell products. This allows us to offer unbiased, pragmatic advice. Visit us at www.lifeinsurancestrategiesgroup.com.