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Business Profile: J. Patty Financial Group

Internship, father-in-law help guide financial services exec on fast track to success

Jeremy Patty was studying computer science at the University of Missouri when he began craving a career that dealt more with people and less with machines.

So with the support a mentor, Patty applied for the college internship program at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.

For the past decade, the program at Northwestern Mutual has ranked as one of the top ten college internship programs in the entire country, keeping company with such heavy-hitters as Apple Computer, Proctor & Gamble and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of the 25,000 or so college students who apply for an internship into the Northwestern program, only 1,500 are selected. In 2002, Patty became one of those college interns.

Patty found a home at Northwestern, and by November 2005, he had become the youngest managing director in the history of the nearly 150-year-old company.

He’s also district owner of the J.Patty Financial Group on Cherry Hill Drive in Columbia.
In four years, Patty’s resume is already crowded with honors, awards and accolades. But Patty credits one man with helping him get on the fast track to success.

“Really, my whole life turned around in college when I met my future father-in-law, Dan McNerny,” Patty says.

According to Patty, McNerney introduced him to books about successful business practices and encouraged him to set goals and achieve them.

“I never knew my real Dad. He left when I was born — just basically signed the marriage license then left,” Patty says. “Dan has become that father kind of role model for me and made me realize that I can achieve anything.”

The admiration is mutual.

McNerny says, “I was very impressed the first time I met him. Jeremy has a good attitude, great personality and a thirst for knowledge.”

The romance between McNerney’s daughter, Mindi, and Patty eventually led to marriage and three children. Although McNerny and Patty both work in the insurance/financial planning field, they are not competitors.

As managing director, Patty says he spends 60 percent of his time working with clients on their financial security programs and about 40 percent of his time selecting and developing new financial representatives for his firm. Patty also oversees the very successful college intern program. In fact, the Mizzou Internship Team is a consistent winner of the number one ranking in the country.

“We have established ourselves as the top internship team in the nation,” Patty says. “Mizzou is like the New York Yankees of intern teams.”

For Northwestern, the college intern teams provide a well-stocked qualified pool of potential employees. In turn, those that participate in the program receive hands-on experience, a salary, and a head start on obtaining licenses necessary to sell securities and insurance.

The program, which began in 1967, has grown from 36 college teams to more than 200, and more than 25,000 collegians have participated in the program. For Northwestern, one in three eligible interns becomes a full-time representative upon graduation. Nineteen of the top 100 financial representatives were previous college interns. Patty finished second in the nation individually in 2002, and the Mizzou team finished first. Patty also graduated magna cum laude that year.

Cameron Dunafon, vice president of Dunafon Enterprises, has both a personal and professional relationship with Jeremy. “I’m his client and his friend,” Dunafon says.

Patty originally helped Dunafon with life insurance and is now looking into health insurance and employee benefits for Dunafon’s chain of Taco Bell restaurants.

“Jeremy has personality and dedication. Plus he has a genuine interest in people,” Dunafon says. “From what I watch, Jeremy sets goals and then completes them.”

Patty says that relying on Northwestern’s vast experience in the business is crucial for a new financial representative. Ranked in the Fortune 500 listing, Northwestern Mutual boasts an award-winning fiscally sound business model.

“We can give new recruits all the tools they need to succeed,” he says. “We know what works; the Northwest Mutual way works. They just have to act to make it work.”
Patty’s job is to give new financial representatives both the tools and the desire to use those tools.

“My role is helping others articulate and achieve what they desire,” Patty says. Encouraged to enlist the help of professional “coaches” Patty says most of his team, including himself, rely on this outside support system.

Jan Tracy Mokwa is Patty’s coach, as well as the leadership advisor for Patty’s managing partner, John Qualy of St. Louis. Mokwa works with the Qualy group annually to facilitate a strategic plan, reviews the plan quarterly, and meets monthly with each team member. In addition, she speaks or e-mails Patty a few times a month, depending on the challenges he’s facing.

“My ability to help someone depends on their ability to follow through.” Mokwa says. “We discuss a lot of issues that we’ve planned, but we also discuss the unplanned.”

With numerous clients throughout the Midwest, Mokwa ranks Jeremy at the top of his class. “Jeremy is exceptional, because of his desire to grow, his follow-through and commitment,” she says.

Patty agrees that setting and meeting goals is essential. “I don’t have a waiting room full of clients waiting to get in to see me about their insurance or financial planning needs,” Patty says.

Colleague and friend Jake Taylor of The Insurance Group, credits Patty’s success to his determination. “I respect what he’s done,” Taylor says. “His persistence, good people skills and doing what’s right for the client have paid off.”

Guided by a career map that he developed upon graduation from college, Patty is surrounded by framed testaments to his belief in goal setting and being held accountable for attaining those goals. To date, Patty has sold more than $1.03 billion in insurance death benefits and $749,000 in premiums. But he has even higher aspirations.

In 10 years, Patty envisions himself with more children, more employees and potentially a managing partner position. Not totally sold on relocating from Columbia, Patty says, “In 10 years, when I’m 36, I’d at least like to have had the opportunity to pass on a partnership.”

Despite what the future holds, core values, a strong faith and a supportive family are the basic components of Patty’s success. He points to McNerny, Northwestern, Mokwa, his colleagues, his wife and his church as the foundations for his accomplishments.

Patty concedes, however, that a key component to his success is simply hard work and lots of it. Patty also admits that, although he never dreamed he’d be in the financial planning business as a child, he was always driven to be the best at what he did. “I wanted to be a professional athlete when I was a kid,” Patty smiles. “Didn’t everybody?”

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