Michael Hosford is the Founder & CEO of Synergy and its two branches – SynergyPRO & SynergyPhD. Founded in 2001, Synergy Insurance and Investment Advisery Services helps clients build and manage their wealth. SynergyPRO is the company’s branch that serves the MLB, NFL, NBA and entertainers that Michael and his company have been fortunate enough to represent.
In June 2017, with the help of Co-founders Kurt Marozas and Alex Pina, Michael launched and franchised SynergyPhD to serve pension professionals nationally. This branch is helping people who are educators, fire fighters, and police officers properly select their pension options at retirement.
Here Michael speaks to Finance Monthly about the start of his career, the motivation that drives him and his goals for the future.
Your upbringing was slightly unusual, however you founded your own company during your senior year at Southwest Texas State
University. How did you manage to achieve this and what was the motivation that was driving you?
I think when you grow up without a father and your mother moves out of state when you are 14 years old, this leaves you with two choices. You can either fold or fight back at your chance for a successful life and take advantage of the American Dream. I chose to fight back!
Early on, I learned a few things about myself – that I did not like feeling embarrassed, or not having nice clothes and having to stand in the free lunch line at school. I wanted more and I knew understanding money would be a good start. I put myself through college by working for four years at Wal-Mart, and then launched Synergy, an independent financial advisory firm, during my senior year at Southwest Texas State University.
I graduated with a BBA in Finance in 2001. In 2002, I was asked to address the advisers at a large financial services firm at their Leaders’ Conference in Hawaii. In 2002, I was also named to American General Life’s prestigious Legion of Honor.
I have spoken all over the nation to clients and advisers and I have qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), Court of the Table, and Top of the Table on numerous occasions. In addition to helping hundreds of teachers understand and improve their pension plans, I have helped many HNW individuals including NFL and MLB professional athletes, properly structure their wealth distribution plans. I believe that my success comes from treating each client the way I would personally like to be treated and giving them the care and attention they deserve.
What attracted you to the financial advisory field?
The ability to help people properly plan their future, protect what they have and take care of their families should death, disability or the need for long-term care arise.
What is Synergy’s philosophy?
Our philosophy is protection with steady growth and a complete understanding of the situation, despite what your retirement plan will look like when considering pensions, social security, other assets and net of taxes. I think the reason people are not good at retirement is simple – ‘they have no experience at it and they have never done it before’. To me, it’s important that a future retiree knows where they stand and gets properly educated on insurance and certain annuity products that can provide stabilization and growth when they need the money most. Our philosophy can be described as ‘choose not to lose’.
What would you say are the specific challenges of assisting clients with insurance?
I think one of the challenges is the name ‘insurance’ itself and what some people think about it. If I am on a plane and want to take a nap, I just tell the person next to me: “I sell insurance”, and they won’t say a word to me!
In all seriousness, the ‘fee only’ adviser, and certain talk show hosts, have denounced insurance because they simply do not or do not want to understand the leverage, strength and value these products provide. I jokingly say: ’None of my clients wanted those products prior to being educated, but once needed – they love them’.
What strategies do you implement to minimize financial burdens in regards to insurance packages?
Our strategy is education – help people understand that life is not based on a 20-year or 100-year ‘average rate of return chart’. Life happens daily and there will be both good and bad news. Both scenarios require the need for money. Don’t tie it all up until you’re 59 or when you lose your job. Be in a position to utilize your assets.
Your firm also provides investment advisory services – how are most financial investments structured in Texas?
The investment advisory service allows me to utilize fee-based accounts or charge a fee, should a client simply want an outside option. This allows us to buy low after any market corrections. Given that I am licensed in several other states, I would imagine that Texas is similar to other states and we use the wide range of products available to us.
How do you assess levels of risks for investment strategies? How can you accurately assess the level of risk that an individual is prepared to accept?
We have a unique way of planning. We utilize products that have built-in guarantees to provide a steady and somewhat, predictable income distribution plan. Clients either accept or reject this offer. With markets at all-time record highs, I am concerned that people who say they are ‘risky’ could lose and lose badly, while needing the money they’ve invested. I do not want to be a part of that – I have not forgotten 2001 and 2008.
In what ways has your company changed in recent years?
In recent years, Synergy has downsized some of the adviser affiliations and we are moving forward with a more focused group. We will focus on the franchise model of bringing people in with a high desire to be an entrepreneur, people that have the income or savings to transition into becoming a franchisee and are excited about the opportunity. We’d like to work with professionals that have a high desire to help people, individuals that have won at life previously and want to help SynergyPhD grow into the #1 recognized firm for helping pension employees properly choose their pension options at retirement.
What excites you about the future?
At age 38, married, and the father of four children, I am excited about the future. With 17 years of experience, I feel as excited about this industry as I did at age 21. I am prepared to have 100 franchisee store fronts across the nation within 10 years.