After earning his undergraduate degree in business and economics, Jason Jenkins, partner and co-founder of Denver, Co.-based Jenkins Wealth Management Group, got started by selling mortgage leads before moving into the fixed annuity space. After hosting a few seminars, he says he quickly realized, “Hey, I really like this.” “You can help people in a significant way. This is really important. People get divorced over money problems; people have heart attacks because of financial crises.”
His desire to help comes with a feeling of responsibility, especially to the senior clients who make up the majority of his business. “I’m a huge fan of history,” he says. “The senior generation deserves the best, because they’ve earned it and they’ve worked hard for their money. So, I’m passionate about doing what I believe is best for our clients. That motivation to serve them is what drives me.”
“We gotta do this”
In 2005, his passion and enthusiasm led Jenkins somewhere unexpected: the Republic of Ghana. Shortly after earning his MBA from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., he picked up a book by his former economics professor, Dr. Senyo Adjibolosoo, titled “The Human Factor in Leadership Effectiveness.” The more he read, the more excited he became as he highlighted and dog-eared the pages. “I said to myself, ‘Holy cow! How is this message not getting out there?'”
Jenkins set up a meeting with Adjibolosoo, and told him “These ideas can’t die on the bookshelf. People need to be exposed to this. What can we do about it?'” Adjibolosoo explained that he dreamed of one day starting a school based on the principles of leadership and compassion discussed in the book. “I said, ‘We gotta do this,” Jenkins recalls. “I have no idea how, but we’ll figure it out.”
In 2007, they purchased 100 acres in the Volta region of Ghana and begin laying the groundwork for a school. They also converted a former British tobacco factory into a library of more than 80,000 books, the largest in the region. Today, the Human Factor Leadership Academy has more than 250 preschool and elementary-age students, and discussions are underway to expand a portion of the tobacco factory into a high school. The Academy’s website describes the school as “committed to producing honest and compassionate leaders who will one day bring monumental positive changes to the continent of Africa.”
During his time in Ghana, Jenkins says he learned valuable lessons that he now shares with his own children. “If you ask my kids, ‘Where are the best ideas in the whole world?’ they’ll say, ‘ My dad told me they’re in the graveyard, because people didn’t take the risks to make things happen,'” he says. The stories he heard from the village chief and other elders in the community have given him a different perspective on life. “And now I get to turn around and share them with others as life lessons that can spark the most beautiful conversations.”
Like many in the industry, Jenkins expects major changes for advisors in the coming years due to shifts in technology and distribution. But rather than fearing the unknown, Jenkins says he’s confident about his future. Why? “It’s all about value,” he says. The distribution of financial products over the Internet or through big box stores like Walmart and Costco will undoubtedly grab market share, he predicts. “And who will that affect? The products pusher,” he says. “Consumers are changing and that’s forcing the advisors and products to change. The consumers’ voice and their power of choice is going to continue to grow. If an advisor is focusing exclusively on product, rather than process and providing a unique value proposition, then he’s going to have a very tough time. ”
Jenkins says foresight and desire will be key for advisors in the coming years. The successful advisors of the future “are going to invest in themselves. They’re going to invest in their knowledge, their process and their branding so that they are naturally referable and clients will say, ‘This is somebody who cares.'”
The keys to trust
In the past, the financial industry has too often relied on a” slap on the back, ‘Hey, trust me’ mentality,” Jenkins says. “But trust can be a very empty word.” He believes two key components must be present before trust can exist: knowledge and understanding. Jenkins and his brother and business partner Brad, co-founder of the practice, strive to “make deposits” in both areas on a daily basis.
“I’m always asking questions and I always want to be better,” he says. “When I get my car worked on, I want the mechanic to educate me. I want to see where the hose is broken before they start working. And I expect our clients to have that same mentality.”
This focus on knowledge and transparency inspired Jenkins to create a tracking software program that monitors the performance and growth of clients’ portfolios on a daily basis and offers a pre-determined downside that adjusts every day. When clients’ portfolios reach high water values, they are notified electronically. They also have 24/7 access to a dashboard where they can view the portfolio’s current value, high water value, possible downside and other information.
Jenkins says the software has taken the company’s success to a whole new level. And there’s plenty of evidence to support his claim. Jenkins Wealth Management Group brought in over $44 million in new business last year in just eight months, and on a budget of only $65,000. And the firm will soon be upgrading from their current 1,000 square foot office to a 3,200 square foot space, complete with a built-in sound room where the brothers will produce a new radio show that will be broadcast across the Denver metropolitan area.
When Jenkins meets with clients, he hopes to change the way they think about their money. While many advisors emphasize the importance of not running out of money, Jenkins looks at it differently. “Yes, it’s about not running out of money, but it’s also about having a plan that allows them to spend their money with confidence. I want them to be able to give to their favorite charities and do other things to make an impact now. That’s what I believe my clients deserve.” This philosophy was heavily influenced by a recent event in Jenkins’ own life.
In January of 2012, as he and his family prepared to move to Colorado from San Diego, he noticed a strange lump under his left collarbone. His doctor assured him that everything was fine, but when the bump continued to grow, he went back for a second opinion. The next day, Jenkins got a call back from the doctor, who informed him that he had cancer.
Jenkins says he hung up the phone and told himself, ‘OK Jason, you have two choices. You can be angry and scared, or you can run at this with all your strength and you can focus on what you can control.”
In the following days, further tests revealed that he had an extremely rare cancer known as dendritic sarcoma. After conducting his own research, Jenkins discovered that traditional treatment methods like chemotherapy and radiation were often ineffective for his type of cancer. So in August, he made his way to the Envita Medical Center in Scottsdale, AZ, a facility that offers cancer patients customized treatments to boost the immune system, including high doses of Vitamin C and oxygen treatment.
For the following three months, Jenkins lived at the center and underwent intensive therapy five days a week, traveling home on weekends to see his family while his brother Brad ran their practice. In October, a final scan found he was cancer-free.
Jenkins says the experience changed his views on life and his daily conversations with clients. “I realized I had to stop worrying so much and start enjoying today. I need to be present in each moment. Because that’s all we really have. Who says we’re promised tomorrow?”
While he still stresses the importance of saving and planning for tomorrow when he meets with clients, Jenkins says he now also discusses the importance of enjoying the present. “It’s about being responsible for tomorrow but still making sure you enjoy each day. There are moments where you have to stop and say, ‘You can. You can do that.’ When you’re at the fair with your kids, buy them another ice cream cone. Take your wife out to dinner, because you can.”
And the job comes with plenty of rewards. Jenkins says one of his favorite moments is when he can look a client in the eye and say, “You have done a great job.” I’ve watched clients break down in my office; I’ve watched them come around the conference table to hug me. It’s the most beautiful thing.”