How young leaders are changing financial services (and what they think everyone else needs to know)

In their own words, 7 young leaders share their ideas and experiences.

How young leaders are changing financial services (and what they think everyone else needs to know)

How old is the youngest leader on your team? How many generational peers does that person have? So much of financial services is centered around planning for the future, yet what is being done today to cultivate the next generation of leadership?

The need to develop young leaders is both perpetual, and, some would say, acute. There is a growing awareness that more young advisors and leaders are needed to revitalize the profession and carry it into the future. With that in mind, the MDRT Center for Field Leadership spoke with some of its youngest members, inviting them to share their experiences and ideas in their own words.

The individuals spotlighted below come from diverse backgrounds and possess different leadership priorities. Yet, they share a common desire to improve the lives of the people they work with, and they face similar challenges in managing teams. They also have some thoughts on how to attract more young people into the profession.

Collectively, these leaders offer a snapshot of where the financial services profession is heading, and what agency leaders must work on now.

Tim Boyle

Tim Boyle

Senior Life and Annuity Manager

Massachusetts, USA

Age: 26

Team size: 81

Every single person deserves at least some of my time.

I have been a leader for six years now. I enjoyed selling quite a bit, but in leadership, I'm able to share my knowledge with more people, and that has more impact. I'm able to help a lot more families because I have more advisors doing business the right way. I’m also helping the advisors themselves. Some of the people I brought on weren't succeeding at their previous companies, but I’ve been able to build them up. My first advisor who I hired here, he was selling about $30,000 a year before. Now, he's selling $30,000 a quarter. He’s told me that I’ve helped change his life. That is what I'm going for in leadership. I can find the raw material and shape it into a successful advisor, one that can get to MDRT.

I find the time aspect challenging. I feel like every single person deserves at least some of my time to make sure I can help them. But my calendar is booked full every single day, and it gets exhausting after a while. I just wish I had more time because you always feel like you're letting someone down if you're not there to help.

One idea for bringing more young people into the profession is to focus on what they want from their career besides money. A lot of times, the recruiting focus is about how much money you can make, or how you can be your own boss. Yeah, that's attractive. But personally, I really wanted a mentor. No matter where you are in your career, everyone has areas where they can improve, even if you can’t see them yourself. I find it incredibly important to have a mentor who can discover these new areas for growth, providing unbiased feedback and aiding in development.

It's important to have a company that backs you completely, that knows what you want to do and tries to help you grow as a person, advisor and executive. Whenever I interview someone, especially people who are younger, one of the first questions I ask is, "Where do you want to go? What's your goal in life? Why do you want to work in financial services?” If it's a good fit, I always say, "Hey, I'm going to help you get there.”


Joyce Chan

Joyce Chan

Financial Services Manager


Age: 34

Team Size: 7

I love celebrating the success of my teammates.

I was introduced to financial services by a friend of my uncle. Initially, I thought there was no way I’d do sales. But as I learned more, I realized it checked all the boxes. Recruiting and leading a team wasn't at the top of my mind when I joined, but in just a couple of months, I was sharing my excitement about financial services with other people, and my team began to form. The first person I brought in was my brother. He saw the progress I was making and realized that financial services sounded like what he wanted to do, too.

I love celebrating the success of my teammates. It's an amazing feeling. When I achieved MDRT, I don't remember being that happy, but when my first-year financial consultant achieved MDRT, that was absolute elation. I love the coaching aspect of it and bringing people to the level of success they want to see, and helping others see their worth when they doubt it themselves. That is what being a leader is about.

On my team, we have very different demographics. We have a working mother, a soon-to-be dad and a fresh college graduate without prior work experience. How do you bridge the divide and be the leader all three need? That is the biggest challenge.

There are a few things I do with my advisors weekly: training, mentoring, coaching, case preparations. This is my first generation of advisors, and there will come a point in time when they gain seniority. Then, they can help train new advisors, and my own schedule will become a lot freer. This is the grind period that I must go through. If I do this well and the structure is there, everything can be scaled and replicated.

Gen Zs are super purpose-driven. If you can show them the purpose of the profession and how it can transform the lives of others, it is an easy win. Right now, our youngest advisor is 22, and I'm confident that she understands the purpose. She has lots of passion, and will introduce lots of people to our industry, especially the younger batch. She's entering college soon, and she will be looking for potential students to join the team.


Naomi Chua Yi-shyan

Naomi Chua Yi-shyan, ChFC

Associate Director


Age: 37

Team size: 7

I felt ready for new challenges.

Initially, I only wanted to be a producer. I didn’t want to manage people. People are very complicated. But in my sixth year of being an advisor, I felt ready for new challenges. Leadership is not fun all the time, but I don’t regret it. I found the growth I wanted. When you do leadership right, you are literally changing lives.

I have quite a mind of my own, and I'm pretty sure my leader had a lot of trouble trying to guide me. But I’m grateful he did, and now I feel like I’m paying that forward. One of the most challenging things, though, is not losing my temper. I'm not a very patient person by nature.

My ideal candidate is a fresh graduate with less than two years of professional experience. I have had some success with this profile, though I still have a natural affinity for mid-career switchers like I was. But when we recruit someone in their early 30s or older, they can be more disciplined and mature, with all the makings of a future MDRT advisor. However, if they have existing responsibilities prior to joining, they may not be able to prioritize organizational building efforts or venture into leadership as easily as the younger teammates. It's the young people who have the runway to make mistakes, to dare to dream and to become leaders.


Diana Cu

Unit Manager

Makati City, Philippines

Age: 35

Team size: 55

We have another 40 prospects in the pipeline.

After one year as an advisor, I decided to become an agency leader. That was in July 2021. Now, I am promoting two agency leaders, and my goal is to promote more. In addition to our team of 55 advisors, we have another 40 prospects in the pipeline waiting to be certified as financial advisors.

In our district, we have so many training courses. Every week, we have one training meeting for leaders. Then every quarter, we have training in our head office. I’ve decided to enroll in personal training as well to enhance my leadership skills and add value to my teammates. One thing I like about leadership is influencing other people and the ability to serve others. If you want to be the greatest leader of all, you must be the greatest servant.

One of the biggest challenges in being a leader is disciplining myself. Because if you are a leader and you have followers, it's a double-edged sword. Whatever you tell them, you must model it yourself. When you say something, it also reflects on you. It's very important that you have self-discipline, and when you tell others to do this, you are also doing it yourself.

My team members come from different professions. I have elementary schoolmates on my team. I have high school and college friends, too. I also have former co-workers, and I have family members. They're all professional. Most of our team members are couples. We try to recruit couples intentionally. Our strategy is to recruit younger generations as well, like Gen Z and fresh college graduates. At the moment, 80% of our recruits are fresh graduates between the ages of 23 and 26. We aim to develop some into leaders because Gen Z is very powerful. When you invite one Gen Z person, they will give you 10. They can multiply easily, and they're very aggressive in business. They want to become managers. They want to fast-track their careers, their dreams and their goals in life. They're very open, humble and teachable.

Being a young leader in this profession, my vision has become very, very big. I am excited for what the future may bring in financial services, and I am looking forward to building a lot of agency leaders here in the Philippines. This country has almost 7,700 islands. My vision is to have branches in all of them.


Michael Knipe

Michael Knipe

Regional Director

Pennsylvania, USA

Age: 35

Team size: 180 (among 4 regional directors)

You have to change your style depending on the person.

I was an advisor for about five years. I always liked the idea of being a team leader. Five years ago, I moved into what's now the regional director position.

A couple of advisors who I knew through sports were considering financial services. I told them that if they wanted to try out the profession, this company is the best there is. They signed up, and they're doing exceptionally well. That gives me a lot of pride when you can say, “Hey, I brought these people in.” They're making incomes they didn't see as possible.

The hardest thing anybody in a leadership position must deal with is personality differences from one person to another. You have to change your style depending on the person, and that's not always the easiest thing to figure out. But the longer you do it, the more you seem to attract people you can easily work with.

If you're trying to recruit younger people, you have to play to what they want. And what they want these days is flexibility, the ability to earn a high income and control of their career. Financial services provides all those things. Yes, it's scary to come into a role where you're paid based on the business you bring in. I get that. But if you can get past that, there's no better career. It provides you with everything you would ever want if you work hard enough.

If this path takes me into a leadership position managing a whole firm, as opposed to managing the people within ours, that would be great. I don't really have a plan around that. I always found that just doing a good job at what you're currently doing will lead to opportunities.


Adam Maddox

Adam Maddox

Regional Director

Kansas, USA

Age: 34

Team size: 103 (among 4 regional directors)

They’re going to trust you, because you trust them.

I moved into a leadership role in 2019. I had some concerns with my age, to be candid. You just don't know how a veteran advisor is going to react to a young leader. What I discovered is, if you truly want to do good by people and help them, then they're going to trust you, because you trust them. I also found that there was no shortage of other leaders and even advisors who were willing to help me learn. This is a business of giving back and sharing ideas.

I like when advisors win. People become advisors to help people, and they become business owners as a byproduct. They've focused so much on helping people that structuring their business in a way that can create a good quality of life sometimes gets put on the back burner. A lot of people think, if I want to do more production, I have to work 20 extra hours a week. Not if you build it right. That's what I enjoy, when advisors can see their practices and revenues growing, but it's not pulling away from their personal lives or their hobbies.

When I was looking to move into a leadership role, I asked my grandpa, who was also a financial services leader, what the hardest part of leadership was, and he didn't skip a beat. He said wanting it more than that person wants it for themselves. There have been some situations where I’ve felt like I care more than the person I was trying to mentor. And that's difficult.

When you look at our industry, there's an opportunity for the younger generation to step in. Something we've done well in our region is find some great young talent, and we have avoided putting them on an island. Instead, we partner young advisors with someone experienced who can help accelerate their development.

Recruiting young advisors is different now than when my grandpa started his business. The marketplace is more competitive. The span of product knowledge and tax laws is larger. Putting younger advisors in good situations early on is critical. We've seen them grow in team situations. We've seen retention become higher. We’ve also seen that veteran advisors love it, too. It rejuvenates them and their practices.

Some of our advisors are some of our strongest leaders. They're team leads with their own practices, and they provide us with feedback, input and strategies. And we treat them as partners. You have to have a deep leadership bench and empower those experienced advisors to help you grow because, at the end of the day, we're all one team. It's more fun to do it with other people.


Jeffrey Yen

Jeffrey Yen

Associate Financial Services Manager


Age: 38

Team size: 5

I’m excited to meet every candidate.

I became a leader in 2018. I always had this vision of leading my own organization. My director shared with me the steps toward building my own team — how to add people and slowly cultivate the culture I want. I went through internal training to learn how to manage people and how to coach our advisors. The training was set up well, but I still wasn’t prepared in terms of dealing with the relationships between me and my advisors. I’ve had to teach myself how to get them over some emotional hurdles and how to get them technical skills. Sometimes they face problems in other areas of their life, too, which affects their performance. I sought out additional courses outside of the company, like Neuro-Linguistic Programming behavioral technology and the Enneagram system of classifying personality types.

Coming to this career, I realized a lot of advisors aren’t just looking for money. There's a whole meaning behind their career choice. Helping my advisors achieve their various goals, not only in their careers but also in their personal lives, and witnessing the breakthroughs they have, is more satisfying to me than conquering my own challenges. It's not easy for someone to be able to trust me and allow me to guide and mentor them. Whenever someone has a success that I have played a part in, I feel very fulfilled. In leadership, we meet a lot of different types of people when we’re recruiting. I’m excited to meet every candidate. What I want to see most is the ability for me to build a rapport and trust.

I find it quite difficult to delegate. I understand that it’s important. I’ve spoken to a lot of very successful leaders and entrepreneurs. They say always, if possible, try to delegate, so you can focus on more productive activities and have more time for yourself. But to me, it’s not so easy because sometimes I delegate to others, and they don't meet the standards I want.

Two of my advisors are still college students. From what I’ve seen of the newer generation of advisors, they look to make an impact more than make money. Of course, you must be paid for the work you do, but it's about how they can find fulfillment in this career and how they can value-add to people around them. Most of my advisors are dealing with the people they know best — their friends and families. It all boils down to they wanted to do something to help their families and give something valuable to someone they love.

A lot of times, in Singapore at least, when we talk about financial services, there's a lot of social stigma. It's very salesy. People come here and think that all their friends will run away because they know that the advisor is going to ask them to buy some investment products. We need to change that mentality to one where recruits see themselves as providing value to their friends instead. Everybody will need some financial products and advice. We have to show young people case studies about how people have benefited from estate planning, retirement planning or insurance protections.

Over time, I'm going to grow my team to where I just take care of my junior leaders, and they take care of the advisors. Then, if I’m able, I want to give back more. I have always wanted to do more charitable acts, but because of the pace of my career and my inability to delegate, which is on me, I’m not that fulfilled in terms of my social contribution. I want to do more of that.