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Managing Partner of Stonebriar Financial, Shea Swenson, Tells Us Why Empathy Is An Essential Trait For Remarkable Financial Professionals

Shea Swenson may only be 28, but he speaks with a wisdom beyond his years. With a passion for helping people plan and prepare for their retirement, he is a Registered Financial Consultant (RFC) with the heart to make a difference in his industry, his community, and, most importantly, the lives of his clients.

Shea Swenson’s passion for what he does is infectious. As I chatted with this young entrepreneur and financial consultant, his determination to build a thriving business is evident. But even more obvious is his desire to serve and care for those he works with.

Swenson is the Founder and Managing Partner of Stonebriar Financial based in Utah. After working in Orlando as a Partner in the Florida-based financial Oxford Advisory Group for six years, Swenson decided to return to his Utah roots and started his business with his partners, Gary Preisser and William Perkins. In Orlando, being “retirement central” as he calls it, he built an understanding of the needs of retirees and how to assist people to retire confidently. By giving seminars, talking to people about financial planning, answering questions about 401(k)s, IRA and social security benefits, creating income plans, and managing investments, he saw firsthand the gap between the haves and have nots in the financial world.  The wealthy had access to the best advice, the best products, the best investments.  Everyone else was left to fend for themselves.  “The system may be fair,” says Swenson, “but the access to it is not.  The people that needed the most help understanding their options were not getting any help at all.”

These experiences set the 28-year-old man on a mission to build a path for himself and assist others create effective plans for their own financial security. While most financial consultants tend to be older than he is, Swenson believes he has youth on his side. “When I got into the industry six years ago, I was 22 years old. I was nervous because I was so young,” he says. “I wondered if retirement-aged people would want to talk to me. I found that, especially in this industry, clients are more worried about their financial planner retiring before they retire or before they die. What I thought was my weakness has become my strength. My clients want an advisor who will be able to take care of them through a 30-year retirement.”  

Swenson is determined to be with his clients for the long haul and to oversee their retirement plan by their side with their best interests at heart. His fervour for caring for people in their old age can possibly be attributed to his upbringing. He was cared for by his grandparents from the age of 10 and developed a real understanding of their world and the challenges they faced as they got older. 

His grandparents were hard-working but not particularly wealthy. They lived paycheck to paycheck, and he often witnessed their struggle to provide for themselves and him. They were revered in their small town of Blanding, and very committed to being a part of, and contributing to, their community. The support they offered him, and those around him, was life-changing and heavily influential in his choice to care for people as they got to retirement age. 

Swenson explains how his upbringing shaped his current career aspirations: “I started to go down the business route in high school and not just because I liked it. It was more of a survival instinct of, I have got to learn it. I have got to learn these things because I didn’t get taught it. I actually saw the opposite of success most of my life. I needed to figure out how to make sure I could survive. I think once I realised it, my natural reaction was that I wanted to go share this and serve people that have felt the same things. Everyone’s got their own trials and trauma. Mine happened young, so I had to grow with it.”

It’s Not Just About The Money

There is no denying that assisting others in their financial aspirations can be lucrative for a Registered Financial Consultant. For Swenson though, it is not about chasing money. He believes in not only serving his clients that are on the verge of retirement but also educating young people about finances. 

“In the financial world, there’s no money in helping a 20-year-old,” he says. “You get paid more when you’re helping people that already have money. So advisors and financial consultants gravitate to the higher net worth. It leaves these 20-to 40-year-olds with advisors that are not always the best. Working with a 20-year-old is not going to bring revenue to this business but it can help you as a brand, and as a person.”

“One of the most common responses we get from the clients we help is – I wish I had met you 20 years ago, before I made so many mistakes with my finances.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  We can’t go back in time and help these clients earlier.  But we can reach out to help the younger generations make better decisions with their money now and avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that cause so much suffering for American families”

One of Swenson’s dreams is to develop a full financial literacy platform for 18-to 21- year-olds. “We’ve all heard it – why don’t we get taught this in high school? It needs to start earlier and needs to be ingrained in the system, not just a, hey, now you’re in senior year we’re going to have you go do financial literacy,” he says.  

“That is why we started the Stonebriar Foundation – in order to provide as much education as we can to improve the financial literacy of the communities we serve”.

Empathy Should Be A Consultant’s Superpower

When asked what makes him different as a business person, Swenson is quick to answer. “Empathy,” he says. “That is the thing that comes easiest to me as I sit in front of a retiree, as I sit in front of a young man, or young woman. Because of my own personal trauma or my personal experiences, I gained a lot of empathy.”

Serving your client and having their best interests at heart should be the biggest driver when meeting with someone who wants to invest their money and plan for their retirement. This is the heart of Swenson’s business model. He says, “How can I be able to understand somebody even though I may not know where they have been? Instead of just giving them advice, I need to know where they’re coming from before I give that advice, and I think that’s something that’s very important to me.”

“In my process with clients I ask a lot of questions, and it isn’t just to get them talking. It is so that I can understand where they are coming from because I may need to change my communication style for this person. If I have a person that’s a widow, or somebody that’s been abused, there are so many scenarios out there, you need to know how to communicate with those people and have empathy for them, not just move to the next thing, and not just put them in a process,” he adds. 

Swenson believes empathy is often the missing ingredient in his industry and is not spoken about often enough, especially amongst those considering leaders. For this young leader, empathy is the cornerstone not only of his business but who he is. He is a financial consultant with a heart and a passion to serve, and this, he believes, sets him and Stonebriar Financial apart from the rest.

Talking to this extraordinary young man is refreshing. He is resolute in his ability and decision to make a difference in the world and the people he works with and is determined to inspire hope in all he encounters. In fact, if he had to write a book it would be about giving people hope. “People need hope,” says Swenson. “Hope would be the narrative because that’s what has got me to where I am. There were a few people in my life that said, ‘Hey, you’re great. You can be something,’ and for me that gave me hope.  Through my business, my goal is to help provide hope for my clients – hope that they can improve their financial situation, hope that they can afford to live the life that they want to live, hope that they can leave a true legacy for their family and community.  It is not about the money.  It is about being able to live the life that you want without being burdened by the problems inherent with not having enough money.”

To find out more about Swenson and his financial services, go to Stonebriar Financial.

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