How a Financial Security Professional Built His Nearly $2 Billion Practice

Name: Vincent D’Addona

Solidify: Wealth Strategies

Location: Lido Beach, New York

Total policy value: $1.9 billion

Forbes ranking: The best financial security professionals in the United States

Context: D’Addona, 64, studied biochemistry at Cornell where he also took courses in business and economics before entering financial sales in the 1970s. It was a tough decade for markets and a market hard work for someone looking to get into financial services, so D’Addona chose to enter the insurance business as “temporary breeding ground”, but “it turned out that I’m really good at it.”

He attributes his background in science to an ability to evaluate empirical evidence. “When you study hard science, you learn to think and solve problems,” he adds. “It allows me to communicate effectively with customers.”

Investment philosophy/strategy: While his biggest practice is estate planning and life insurance, D’Addona says he enjoys making “college investments.”

“Everything we do is factor investing,” he says of his approach. “We know equities outperform fixed income, small outperform big, value outperform growth, profitable outperform unprofitable and we know the momentum is there, those are all factors.”

His portfolio composition has this philosophy built in, but also has a deep focus on rebalancing, a challenge when the market plunged last March and he had to calm down a panicked client to stop him from selling.

As for its flagship product, insurance, it views life insurance as a fixed income equivalent that behaves similarly but without volatility. That being said, he recognizes that the death benefit is an important part of life insurance as the only such product.

Competitive advantage : Cultivating respect in his industry has been a major differentiator for D’Addona, with the vast majority of his new clients coming from other professionals, such as accountants and lawyers.

“Above all, I know my job very well. I know how to communicate the concepts of estate planning and life insurance in a way that business owners and real estate investors understand,” he adds.

Best Advice: The best advice D’Addona had received and is now passing on to his younger colleagues is not to lie to managers. You can’t be coached if you’re not honest, and the industry is full of willing mentors, he adds.

Biggest Challenge: The uncertainty surrounding tax code changes has been a challenge for D’Addona and its clients. “No one knows what the estate tax law or the income tax law will look like,” he says amid competing proposals from various factions in Congress and the White House. While it’s easy to focus on the current uncertainty, he says every time there are changes to the tax code, there’s a period of uncertainty.

This uncertainty is also an advantage, according to D’Addona, because those with previous experience in these environments can draw on this knowledge to plan ahead. He is a little pessimistic about the impending tax changes as he feels many of the proposals are too burdensome for business owners as in his opinion many politicians do not know what it takes to run a business.

mentors: In a speech he gave when he was inducted into the National Association of Real Estate Planners and Consultants Hall of Fame, D’Addona preached the importance of mentorship. Early in his career at The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, William Broadbent was a mentor. More recently, he said estate planning lawyer Richard Oshins had been helpful. He also mentioned his colleagues Ron Rosbruch and Jerry Harnick as important influences.

Lessons learned: Over a four-decade career, D’Addona learned that “if you don’t keep growing and developing, you will eventually get infected and die.” This led him to spend his career learning “what’s next”, from business transition issues to managing the elderly.

“You can’t sit on your laurels and think you know it all, you have to always grow and develop in order to keep bringing value to the people you care about,” he says.

Customer’s biggest misunderstanding: Customers still find it difficult to understand the life insurance product and its application. He also thinks life expectancy is misunderstood, as many measures already take into account the shorter lifespans of past generations when current and future generations are expected to live longer.

Investment Prospects: While no one knows when the next 20% correction might hit the stock market, D’Addona points out that the next 100% move will inevitably be higher. He avoids doing market timing, investment history, or stock selections, saying these types of strategies are betting and speculation.

“It’s physically impossible to know what tomorrow will bring to the market because news changes markets and we don’t know what the news will be,” says D’Addona. “You have to be invested for the long term and manage the risk so you don’t have a heart attack if your account goes up and down, which it does.”

What keeps you up at night: D’Addona is held together by the many hats he wears as president of a business organization that is currently in the midst of a merger, also co-owner of a fintech company with his work at Strategies for Wealth.

Favorite Book/Movie: A self-proclaimed socialist straight out of college, Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” changed the way D’Addona viewed the world and led to his reverence for individualism and capitalism.

Sarah J. Greer