Pruett guides growing firm

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at 1:00am

Three years after your becoming managing partner, what is your general assessment?

The main accomplishment over the last three years has been the growth in our holistic planning. We've had tremendous growth in our investment operation, as well as in our employee/executive benefits operation. The fact that we've been able to rank in the top 10 in the entire Northwestern Mutual system in recruiting talent has been a key. The Pruett Financial Group is comprised of about 220 individuals, of which about 100 are independent financial representatives. In the Nashville office, we have about 100 people, with 50 financial reps and 50 staff members. We have averaged 24 new financial reps each year since 2002.

What about this year?

Inside Info
Charles R. "Chuck" Pruett, managing partner, The Pruett Financial Group/Northwestern Mutual Financial Network
Hometown: Rock Springs, Ga.
Age: 39
Education: B.S. communications, Middle Tennessee State University
First conventional job: Telemarketing for J.C. Penney
Hypothetical dream job: NFL head coach

Working from his fourth-floor offices at Roundabout Plaza, Pruett oversees about 220 financial representatives and staff serving more than 46,000 clients from offices in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities. Pruett, who has been part of the Northwestern Mutual Network since 1992, serves on the advisory board of AmSouth Bank, the board of directors of the Downtown YMCA, and the MTSU Foundation board of trustees.

We will add 25-plus financial reps. That's in the state of Tennessee, so we should add about 10 to 12 in our Nashville office.

Pruett's investment services operation has experienced considerable growth in the last year.

Yes, we saw a 54 percent increase from 2003 to 2004.

Can you provide additional statistics?

The Pruett Financial Group gross revenues in 2004 were $184.5 million, up 20 percent from 2003 [$152 million]. The company also ranks in the top five of financial services firms in Nashville for the total number of certified financial planners [according to the February 2005 Nashville Business Journal ranking]. In 2004, we reported 17 CFPs. The number is now above 21.

What is your take on Roundabout Plaza?

It was the right time, the right place and the right building for us. It has allowed us to create synergy by being all on one floor. We have clients in our office consistently. We have about 28,000 square feet on the fourth floor, and we just signed a lease for about 3,000 additional square feet of expansion space. We have plans to build that out and occupy it in the summer of '06. Once that occurs, the Pruett Financial Group will occupy the entire floor.

Describe the Pruett and Northwestern Mutual relationship.

Northwestern has an exclusive distribution system consisting of 100 firms nationwide. The company appoints managing partners to whom it gives exclusive access to its products and services. In this case, I operate as a sole proprietor. I have independent contract relationships with financial representatives who get that exclusive access to Northwestern's products and services. In general, the managing partners have the sole responsibility for how they market their firms and whom they select to represent Northwestern. We're proud of the reputation we have had in Nashville for the past 115 years of being one of the most selective firms in choosing those people.

The Nashville Business Journal most recently ranked Pruett Financial No. 35 in the top 100 private companies in the city. And Business Nashville ranked the company the 71st largest private company in the state. Your thoughts.

I can't take the credit for this. I'm fortunate to be the beneficiary of a long-lasting organization that has had great people and great leadership for 115 years. They've done a great job of being ambassadors of this company and have taken care of clients with their financial planning.

Describe the company's strategic employee/executive benefit services operation.

The nationwide group marketing program, which provides employee benefit services exclusively through Northwestern representatives, has quietly grown into a very significant business. SEBS serves more than 1,100 businesses in Tennessee, and sales increased 64 percent in 2004.

The Pruett Financial Group has long focused on life insurance, but has seen high growth in its investments and employee/executive benefits operations. Your thoughts.

Over the last several years, we have seen tremendous change in the financial services industry, with the insurance and investment industries converging into one. We've had to aggressively change with the industry. We are now taking a holistic planning approach.

Prior to your becoming managing partner, your Murfreesboro office was one of the more successful Northwestern Mutual units in the country. Your comments.

I must give credit to my predecessor, Bill Cochran. Everybody needs a mentor and role model. I had a great one. Bill taught me a lot about the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. It comes down to selection. In Murfreesboro, I learned to select good people.

In what area does the Pruett Financial Group need strengthening?

I would say there are parts of our state and territory that we need to have a presence in. We have tremendous opportunities for people who want to be in management positions if they are the right fit.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?

I consider myself a visionary and a big thinker. My weakness is in dealing with details in order to implement the vision. This personality flaw creates the need to have good detail-oriented people around me.

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