This week we’re getting to know Amar Munjal of Capri CMW.
What inspired you to join the benefits industry?
I was originally working at Freedom 55 Financial; it was my first job out of university and I learned six to nine months into it that you’re basically on your own – you have to eat what you kill. Being 21 years old and not having much of a natural market, that was short-lived. I started to apply for other jobs and landed at Great West Life Group Retirement Services. So it was really a need more than anything else and I had absolutely no idea what a group RRSP or a pension plan really was. Through working there, I learned about the industry and was really interested and worked my way up through the ranks. That’s really how I joined the benefits industry; it was out of a need more than anything else but looking back, it was the best decision I ever made.
Who is your mentor?
I have a couple of mentors. My dad is definitely a mentor of mine just because he always stays even-keel, which is something that I always aspire to do.
When it comes to business and when it comes to benefits, it’s folks that are within my team. Steve Hesketh, who’s my managing partner, is definitely a mentor of mine. He’s someone that I lean on for advice on a regular basis. Jeff Cox as well. Jeff has had tremendous success within our organization from the time that he started right up to today with Simply Benefits.
Those are two people that I lean on and two people that have mentored me throughout my career. I’ve known them as long as I’ve been in the business – not only now as an advisor, but also prior to that when I was at Great West Life. I go to them anytime I’m stuck or need some inspiration.
What is something that people do not know about you?
Something that people don’t know about me is that I went to Harvard between my first year and second year at UBC. A friend of ours told us that Havard has a summer scholars program, so my good friend and I applied and we both got in. Luckily wasn’t based on our first-year UBC grades! It was based on our high school grades.
We flew down to Boston and found this one-bedroom apartment, right around the corner from Harvard Square. It was a heck of an experience, going out there and being around all these Ivy League kids only four hours from New York, which is a little dangerous when you’re 19-20 years old.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the business to date?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in business to date is that a profit is not a profit until it’s in your pocket. Don’t count your chickens until they hatch.
Earlier in my career, I’d get too excited about a prospect or an opportunity. I’d then learn the hard way that a deal is not a deal until the client signs on the dotted line. I don’t get ahead of myself anymore and try to stay in the moment. It’s helped me a lot – that really comes from my dad. I didn’t really put it into action until I burned myself a few times, but now I try to stay in the moment and as engaged as I can until we get the business.
Do you have insights about the industry that you’d like to share?
In group retirement services, for a long time, we’ve complicated what the group retirement marketplace looks like. In the future, I think that using technology to simplify the decision-making for plan members is going to be really important.
Folks want access to information at their fingertips. If you have a stock portfolio, as an example, you can take a look at how your funds are performing second-by-second when the markets are open. I think having access to that level of information on your smartphone is going to be incredibly important, making the decision-making process for plan members simple and easy. Going forward, I think trying to drive engagement through technology is going to be more and more important as time goes on.
Is there anything else that you want to share? Maybe some advice that you’d give to someone entering the industry or something about how you’re looking at the future. Any final shot you want to leave behind?
There’s a lot of advisors that are retiring now or in the near future. For up-and-coming advisors, there’s a ton of opportunity if you’re passionate and you’re dedicated to the work that you’re going to do. If this is something that you’re truly passionate about, you can be successful at it. It can be scary as an advisor to go out there and eat what you killed, but there’s a ton of opportunity.
The other thing about the industry is that I hope that there’s some sort of specialization that occurs from the licensing process all the way through to being an advisor. Right now you can get a life insurance license and be a group benefits and group retirement advisor. I believe there should be a specialization that’s required in order for an advisor to represent clients for both group benefits and group retirement, and I believe that’s something BA is working on and advocating for as well.
I personally have trouble believing that somebody who primarily sells life insurance and then they’ll have one or two group benefits plans can give the proper level of service. They’re not really serving their clients well and I think that we’re moving towards a world of specialization, and generalists are going to get left behind. It might have worked 30 years ago, but it’s not going to work now going forward.
Shawn Kanungo gave a great example at our conference. He mentioned the Avengers and that they all have different specializations to deal with different situations. That’s the same thing that I think is going to happen in our industry; everyone is going to specialize. If you take a look at accountants or lawyers, they all have a specialization in one particular field. You don’t really find generalist. A person is either a family lawyer, or litigation, or real estate. I think the same thing will naturally happen for our industry as well.
How do you find people are getting information and trying to better understand what their GRS actually is?
It’s through the employer. That’s really the only way. The better job their employer does of engaging their staff, the more information people have. It’s interesting, you’ll have some employers that look at people joining the plan or being engaged as a cost and some employers look at it as a retention tool. I have some clients that don’t want me to do education because if more people join the plan, it’s going to cost them more. That is backwards for me. If you don’t have people join the plan, you’re not using the tool to retain and that could lead to more turnover, which is going to lead to lower profitability because you’re going to have to recruit more and train more, and the cycle continues.
Some people don’t even realize they have this benefit if you’re not pushing it right. 30% of businesses don’t even have a group retirement plan! For the 70% that do, the information the employees are going to get is as good as what the employer is pushing out.
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