Senior Sales Consultant, Advanced Markets
Whether they’re discussing taxes, Social Security claiming strategies, or controlling the distribution of retirement assets, the nine members of Transamerica’s Advanced Markets Group have the knowledge and experience to help financial professionals deliver the best service to their clients.
Between them, they hold 13 CFP®, CLU®, and ChFC® certifications, two law degrees, one M.D., an MBA, and a master’s in law in taxation. But we want you to get to know the people behind the credentials.
The opportunity to succeed often depends getting a foot in the door. For James Verbonitz, it was a matter of fingertips.
As a former financial professional looking for work in the midst of the Great Recession, Verbonitz made an unscheduled visit to Transamerica’s Denver office in 2009. He knew a couple Transamerica guys from his days at Waddell & Reed and figured he’d stop by.
Exiting the elevator on the 11th floor, Verbonitz saw the door to the reception desk starting to close. Covering ground quickly, he grabbed the handle just in time.
“I got my fingers behind the glass, pulled the door open, and walked in,” he recalled.
No one was at the reception desk, but his former Waddell & Reed colleague Michael Kiefer walked by less than a minute later. Verbonitz interviewed with Kiefer the following day and was hired as an internal wholesaler on Transamerica’s annuity desk.
“It was almost like it was meant to be,” Verbonitz said. “Just the craziest thing.”
For those who believe in karma, the fortuitous meeting with Kiefer might simply have been the universe’s way of rewarding Verbonitz for his selfless approach to life. Whether it’s his neighbor’s sprinkler system, his little sister’s 401(k), or a financial professional’s book of business, Verbonitz is always ready to offer assistance.
“He’s always been a down-to-earth guy who puts others’ needs in front of his own,” Kiefer said. “This approach to life comes across when you see him in the office and when he’s working on a complex case with one of our advisors.”
Now in his fourth year as a sales consultant with Transamerica’s Advanced Markets Group, there’s no shortage of opportunities to provide guidance to financial professionals and the wholesalers on Transamerica’s various sales desks.
His passion is evident as he discusses the satisfaction he gets from providing personalized guidance as people pursue their retirement goals.
“Even now, I’m getting a little bit of a chill on the back of my neck,” he said. “Sometimes you get clouded and jaded by some of the negative stuff that’s out there, but I love talking to advisors who genuinely place the client’s interests above all else. It leaves me with a feeling that I’ve helped someone make an impactful and lasting difference.”
Perhaps as a harbinger of his future in financial services, Verbonitz was born at Fort Knox, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Army.
His parents divorced when he was three, and Verbonitz quickly learned about life on the move. He and his three siblings made stops in Germany, Virginia, California, and Kansas as their mom worked as a Navy psyche-nurse (she retired as a lieutenant commander).
“My mom was military, but not militant,” Verbonitz said. “I remember going on base in San Diego when I was about 5. As we went through the entrance gate, the guard was giving a casual salute to the people in the cars ahead of us. Then my mom pulled up, and he jerked to attention and gave a proper salute – head straight, chin up. It was the first time I saw my mom as someone other than just ‘Mom.’ It was pretty cool.”
Life as a salesman
After graduating high school, Verbonitz enrolled in college but postponed his pursuit of a degree for a sales job in Salina, Kansas. Though the money was excellent, he lamented the long hours on the road away from his wife, Regan, and their daughter Isley.
“I was gone way too much,” he said. “I missed a lot of the first 10 years of Isley’s life. I’m more sad about it now. You don’t have that perspective when you’re younger.”
Seeking a better balance, Verbonitz became interested in financial services after reading “Liar’s Poker,” Michael Lewis’ transparent account of his experience as a bond trader on Wall Street in the 1980s.
Within a few years, Verbonitz earned his bachelor’s degree financial planning and landed a job as a financial advisor with Waddell & Reed in Denver.
Enjoying success in his new profession, Verbonitz branched out on his own as an independent financial advisor for Raymond James in 2006. The Great Recession hit hard in 2008 and 2009, prompting another job search.
“The stress was killing me,” he said.
The serendipitous visit to Transamerica put Verbonitz back on the path to helping people with their finances. It was a seamless transition that allowed him to earn his CFP® designation and continue tackling the inherent challenges that come with the job.
“It’s impossible to know everything,” he said. “I have a degree in financial planning and three professional certifications, but every week you run into something you hadn’t run into before.”
Because he’s been on the other side of the business, Verbonitz has similar advice for financial professionals seeking solutions for their clients.
“Become a sponge,” he said. “Learn as much as you can. Never stop searching, researching, and growing your professional acumen because there’s so much out there.”
The long game
After a childhood spent bouncing between countries, states, and cities, Verbonitz has found stability in Denver.
As Transamerica encourages people to recognize the important connection between Wealth + Health, Verbonitz makes sure find balance between his work life and family life.
Along with Regan and their three kids, Isley, Noah, and Ellis, Verbonitz enjoys hiking and biking in Colorado. The family also makes regular trips to the Florida Gulf Coast to fish and hit the beach.
“I was not content in my first few years of my career because I was gone so much,” he said. “I was always searching for that next thing. When I got this opportunity to come to Colorado, that’s when I finally put roots down. I’m in the career I want to be in.”
The Advanced Markets Group has dozens of great resources that are often featured on New Age of Advice. Check back for more profiles on members of the team in the coming weeks.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP ® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
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