Tim Flanagan knows that the only thing that’s certain about the future is that it will come. But his firm helps individuals and organizations plan so that whatever else the future may hold, it will also bring them closer to their dreams.
No one ever doubted what Tim Flanagan Jr. would do when he grew up. His father was a financial advisor, like his father before him, and Flanagan himself seemed destined to run the family business some day. He graduated in 1988 in finance and business from Cabrini College. In 1989 he joined the ranks of associates at his father’s company in Philadelphia, and received his Chartered Life Underwriter certification in 1993.
There was one snag: Flanagan wasn’t as sure as everyone else that running a business was what he wanted out of the future. He had taken, at the age of 23, to writing down his goals and dreams, and ten years ago – the same year he received his Chartered Financial Consultant certification – at the age of 28 he decided to try his wings in the corporate world.
He left the family business and headed south to Atlanta to work for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (“MassMutual”). In 1999 he became a Certified Financial Planner professional, and by 2000 Flanagan had become regional director for the Southeast.
But it turned out that his blood was true to the entrepreneurial spirit his father and grandfather had possessed after all. In early 2000 he presented a business plan for a new venture to MassMutual. Although his superiors at MassMutual liked the plan, they wanted Flanagan in Springfield, Massachusetts, to assume the position of agency vice president. While the new position was a significant promotion and Flanagan enjoyed his work, his heart stayed in the South where the climate suited him and his wife, Jeanine, and where he longed to own his own venture.
One of his responsibilities in Springfield involved traveling to independent affiliates and helping them with issues involving their relationship with MassMutual. In 2001, while completing the Executive Development program at the Darden Business School, University of Virginia, Flanagan was called to Charlotte to work with Ivan Hinrichs. Hinrichs needed help implementing his succession plan for Hinrichs Financial so he could spend the balance of his career with his benefits company, HFCB, LLC.
Although not part of the original plan, Flanagan became Hinrichs successor in 2004. The match was perfect. Flanagan recalls, “What Ivan saw in me at the time is a guy who would gain the respect of the people quickly, and allow us to continue serving our clients and helping the community.”
The organization has succeeded in the past because of its associates and staff. As Flanagan says, “This isn’t about me; it is about our people, our staff, and our clients.” My role is to build on our legacy and help our people succeed and grow.”
Stocking Up on Values
One of the things Flanagan did early on was to craft a set of five core values; “My five point mantra,” he says with a smile.
The first point is integrity and honesty. “One of the things that has struck me over and over again,” says Flanagan, “is how many people come to me and say, ‘Your firm is one of the most respected organizations in Charlotte.’” That respect is based on the foundation of integrity and honesty that has been at the core of the company for 70 years. Philip Howerton established the firm in 1935 with a strong tradition and built an excellent reputation which was continued by Cal Dings and Ivan Hinrichs, who each led the firm for more than 20 years.
The second point is passion. “We are passionate about what we do,” says Flanagan. “We are passionate about the people we serve and the communities we serve.”
Accountability forms the third. “A lot of what we do is help people plan for events, some of which will definitely happen – like death – and others that might happen,” explains Flanagan. He insists that, as financial planners and advisors, they must be accountable for ensuring for their clients that “the financial trauma of those events is reduced or eliminated altogether.”
After accountability, the fourth point is service to others. “I believe you’re either in it for yourself or you’re in it for others, there’s no in between,” states Flanagan. “And we’ve got to be in it for others.” Service begins with the company’s commitment to clients, and extends to the greater community where associates have built fourteen Habitat for Humanity houses in the past several years.
The fifth and final core value is professionalism. “How you conduct yourself in the community, and present yourself to your clients and your associates matters,” explains Flanagan. “Are you somebody who is serious about what you do, not only in your words, but in your actions?”
Flanagan’s five core values are the foundation of what sets Hinrichs Flanagan apart. Building upon that foundation, Flanagan is in process of reorganizing the company to better serve its clients and the community.
Overall, Flanagan has divided the company into four divisions: risk management, wealth management, financial planning1, and corporate benefits. Risk management encompasses traditional insurance coverage – life, disability, and other income-protection plans.
Wealth management includes everything having to do with the accumulation and distribution of assets, from investments to estate management.
The financial planning division involves the pure act of “helping people plan a creative vision for their own future and their life,” because, as Flanagan adds, “finances are the engine that makes a lot of that happen, and we help them see how that all comes together.”
The fourth division, HFCB, LLC, headed by Ivan Hinrichs, his son, Greg Hinrichs, and Bill Deuink, handles corporate benefits planning for large companies nationally – including income replacement and compensation planning.
The divisions allow the company flexibility and focused expertise to handle client needs at any level. Having established them, Flanagan has gone one step further in beginning to develop within each division teams that will address specific client profiles and more narrowly focus on specialized needs.
The teams include one designed to target executives in professional services companies, one working with physicians, one that serves the North Carolina Association of REALTORS, one designed to help caregivers of elderly family members handle the financial aspects of their difficult situation, and another targeting the families of special needs children.
Bonding with the Community
The special needs planning team underscores the importance to Flanagan of service to community. Families with disabled children are hardly a popular target for financial services salespeople. The financial drains of their challenging condition often leave these families with few resources and little wealth that needs managing.
Is there money in this market? Sometimes, Flanagan admits, the answer is no. “But if we can provide some advice, provide some direction on some resources, then that's what we'll do,” he adds. “And no, there may not be money in that.”
This commitment to community is not completely selfless. “If we serve others well, I believe the law of reciprocity says we will do well. But,” Flanagan adds, “our intentions and actions have to be on serving others first.”
The kick-off for this team is planned for this month on August 28th, when in partnership with Exceptional Parent magazine, Hinrichs Flanagan will host a disability awareness event at Knights Stadium. Children and families of children with disabilities are invited to see the game, participate in the activities, and witness the giving of community service awards by Hinrichs Flanagan.
With the twists and turns in Flanagan’s career, he’s never failed to plan for the future. One technique he implemented early on was writing down his goals. “I’ve got all my documents going back to when I was 23,” says Flanagan. “Some things I wrote down and forgot about, and they happened anyway. I didn’t always have a plan, but I always wrote down my goals.”
This is Flanagan’s first advice for individuals and businesses who seek his financial expertise. It is also something he has done for the company.
To remain competitive and relevant in this challenging climate, Flanagan’s divisions and teams are poised to better serve their clientele. And Flanagan’s goals are clear. He wants his company to continue to be recognized as the most honest, trustworthy firm in Charlotte, and for his client-base and revenues to reflect the value of that. More importantly, he wants to see his company continue to add value to the Charlotte community, and for underserved markets to begin to get the attention they need.
But whatever the future may hold, you can be sure Flanagan has a plan.