Mark Cortazzo isn't one for platitudes. He tells you what he thinks (it's a Jersey thing). In interviews, at industry conferences, or just batting around ideas, his refreshing candor might have once been thought abrasive. But after what we've been through, and his success in protecting and growing his clients' retirement assets, this abrasiveness is now critical insight.
He's tutored Wall Street Journal columnists on the need for comprehensive financial planning; Worth Magazine named him one of "The 250 Best Financial Advisers in America"; Reuters AdvicePoint named him a "Top Advisor for 2008"; He was accepted into the 2003 Hall of Fame by our sister publication Research Magazine; He was chosen as one of New Jersey's "Top Forty Under 40" by NJ Biz Magazine and one of "America's Top Financial Advisors" in 2008 by Fortune Magazine.
Anything we forgot? Quite a bit, but we only have so much room.
He did the requisite stint at a wirehouse early on, but big firm politics got the better of him. A stop at Sun Life's broker/dealer followed before starting Macro Consulting Group in 1992. Today, the firm has $400 million in assets under management and he's been an individual multimillion-dollar producer every year since 2000. In the variable annuity space, he's done a little more than $100 million in production in 15 months. No wonder he's No.1 at his broker/dealer, SII Investments.
"I love math and I love people," he says, when asked about the reasons for his success. "Those are two skill sets that don't normally go together. I was fortunate early on in my career to cross paths with an exceptional attorney who was able to explain complex strategies in plain English. As a young advisor, I was so anxious to tell everybody how much I knew. I impressed them, but they didn't understand how it was going to help them. That was a really important turning point in my career. This will sound corny and it is very clich?, but I really think people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
For his dedication and no-holds barred approach to helping his clients realize a successful and affordable retirement, we're proud to announce Mark Cortazzo as our 2010 Boomer Market Advisor of the Year. (Meet the other finalists now.)
Boomer Market Advisor: Let's get right to it. Overall, how would you say you came through the market downturn?
Mark Cortazzo: 2008 was a terrific year for us.
BMA: How so?
MC: Our accounts had floors and guarantees built into them, so when our clients' account values got hit, their paychecks didn't. They didn't get out in February and March of last year, when we saw one of the largest net equity redemptions in mutual fund history. We have emerging market portfolios and real estate portfolios that are up 90 percent to 100 percent in the past 12 months. The difference between me saying "don't worry, the market should come back" versus "don't worry, even if the market doesn't come back, this is what your check will look like for the rest of your life" gave them the confidence to stick.
BMA: You're known for taking on the consumer press and industry critics over their product misconceptions, no matter what the product might be? Are there any products that you're biased against?
MC: No; not even indexed annuities, even though I'm not a fan of current designs. We try to look at everything with a fresh and objective eye. As markets change and rules change, programs that I looked at two years ago that weren't attractive are now more attractive relative to the current environment. Just because we don't like you now, doesn't mean we won't like you a year from now. It's really all about looking at the best solution relative to all of the alternatives. We had accounts from 2002 to 2007 that tripled and almost quadrupled in value, and they had the guarantees.