I am well educated with a graduate degree from a top rated business school, I received training from one of the top wall street financial firms and spent many years with the nation's largest and most recognizable brokerage firm and then one of the largest and most recognizable banking firms. I held supervisory and sales licenses for securities (NASD series 7,24,27,63,65) and insurance license in three states.
My income has exceeded $300,000 per year. Several years ago, after 20 years as a sinancial advisor. I decided I wanted to try something different and became a university instructor at a local business school, with a salary of $75,000 which included benefits. I also have a well funded retirement plan and other investments which provide a very comfortable lifestyle for my family.
I looked at Primerica because I wanted to keep my licenses active and because I am often asked for advice and referrals to financial professionals. After all if I am going to give an opinion and listen to someone's financial situation I should be compensated for the value I provide. I went with PRimerica because I was told about the 40+ mutual fund companies they represent and offer as well as the access to the Citicorp system of products and services. There was also "no-sales production requirement", which I look at as no conflict of interest.
What I found, in reality, is a company that appears to be poorly organized at its home office. They regularly fail to process checks sent to them in a timely fashion, fail to process fees I send them in a timely and accurate manner or just mess up and send me back the money I send them for licensing and required training fees as a commission check. They even terminated me for "non-renewal" two months after they cashed my check for $400 for that purpose! By the way they didn't return that money to me, even though they apparently didn't process it correctly and use it to pay fees. So now I will be filing a complaint wiht the NASD against them.
I also found thier product offerings to lack depth, they are limited to a small list of 40 or so mutual funds offered by one ot two companies that have higher fee structures that others that are available, primarily Smith Barney's high front loaded and high admin fee fund group. Their term insurance premiums are higher than many other very good insureres in the marketplace. Term is an excellent insurance product, but not the only answer for everyone - there are reasons to use other forms of life insurance depending on each individual's unique circumstances. The PFS philospohy has its place for a certain group of potential clients. I do find the attitude of the local shop (they are more like recruiting-MLM shops to me)to vary depending on the individual you talk to from decent to absolutely repulsive in professionalism, to knowledge, to level of sophistication and people skills.
I would think for most people that this is a place to avoid, based on what I've seen here in NC, in Florida, and in several other locations. AS an employmen topportunity I think tht a person needs a place where more training and skil development are available. PFS uses an independent insurance agency approach to building business. Recruiters are other reps tht find it easier to use the contacts of others (who may be blindly providing references as sales leads to "upline" people) than actually networking and building a financial proactice of thier own. Herein lies the weakness with the system for the consumer, the system is not set up to treat you like a customer, but as a potential recruit and source of leads for someone else who can make more money off of leveraging you and your friends than providing you with ongoing sound financial advice. The system appears to lack the elements for the creation of an ongoing client-advisor relationship. The looseness of the organization appears to expose the customer to represntative actions that violate NASD rules. The small clients typically don't know when this happens and don't have the means to hire attornies when they realize that the advise they were given was nnot suitable.
Licensed financial professionals have a legal and ethical obligation to provide unbiased service, sound and relevant advise and to provide full disclosure of all fees associated with investmetn and insurance products presented and sold to a client. The rep must "know the client" and can be held responsible for unsuitable investment sales. The fact that many PFS reps are just not well supervised , or are not supervided by well trained people is a potential problem.
All of the above being said - just because someone is with PFS doesn't mean they are not reputable, professional or qualified to render professional and valuable service. The nature of the investment business and financial advisory services to individual investors is largely sales and marketing. That is after all how the rep gets paid. All of us that work provide some type of input (work hours) for a desired output or result (paychecks). I am confident tht there are many PFS reps out there that make great efforts to provide outstanding service and accompish just that for many satisfied clients. It is the unsophisticated client that may benefit the most. That person will also pay more in many cases compared to wealthier, better educated and more sophisticated people. The truth is tht many brokers and financial reps won't talk to these people so when PFS is presneted to them it may be their first and only exposure to this type of product. I don't beleive that this is the best financial services orgainzation out there and Citigroup keeps it separate for a reason, if it was such a great operation, it would be called Citigroup Financial Services, it was AL Williams and the name was changed to Primerica when the company was acquired several years back by an entity that was later part of Travelers and then Travelers and Citi merged into what exists today.
I would avoid them, but remember a firm name on a business card does not mean that that representative is hones, well educated or qualified. The top wall street firms all have had situations where personnel have been identified as dishones, unethical or just poor in general. Investment sales is a tough business at any firm. I am not a fan of MLM and that is definatley the model of PFS. At other firms reps build a book of clients busness and they work to expand and enrich those realtionhips. I have ben told by Regional Vps at PFS that is not thier model - they say you build a business through recruiting salespeople, nit satisfied customers. In the end the customer needs to win over and over again.
Before you invest in a career with this compoany or use them for financial serices, read all materisals, do some outside research and sleep on it. None of the produicts offered at PFS require immediate decisions, the offer will still be there tomorrow and next week. UNderstand what you are doing with your money, it is after all YOUR money/
Chapel HIll, North Carolina
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