Michael DeFontes’ insurance career gained traction right out of the gate, and the New York-native has never looked back.
At the age of 24, and only 17 months into his career as an insurance agent, DeFontes became the youngest district sales manager with Mutual of Omaha.
For 19 years – six of those in Springfield – his job was to hire and train agents and put them on a path to service and success.
“Many of the 150-plus agents I trained are still in the business today. Many hold management positions and others have started their own insurance agencies,” DeFontes says.
During his time with Mutual of Omaha, he received the Field Management Award nine times. The annual honor recognizes the company’s top 10 percent of field managers nationwide.
In 2005, DeFontes launched his own agency, DeFontes Financial Group LLC and following the advice he’d been giving to new agents for nearly two decades, DFG Insurance took off. DeFontes’ firm serves a client base of more than 3,200 insured groups and individuals combined.
With four employees, the company’s insurance product sales grew by 30 percent to $6.9 million in 2013, compared to 2012, and DFG has increased sales by a minimum of 18 percent every year since opening. DeFontes’ individual premiums generated $4.1 million last year.
“My success as a trusted adviser comes from being a great listener and from my natural ability to build long-lasting relationships with my clients,” DeFontes says. “The lion’s share of my new clients comes from existing client referrals, trusted adviser introductions and centers of influence. I firmly believe that a referral is the greatest compliment you can receive as a trusted adviser. I receive an average of 10 referrals per week.”
DeFontes says he works hard to get to know his clients and makes himself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they feel confident they can turn to him when he’s needed.
“I often say when I first visit with a prospective client, ‘I will be the best person you will ever hire because you never have to pay me, and you can fire me anytime you are dissatisfied with my work,’” he says, noting compensation comes from insurance carriers, not his customers.
Outside of the office, DeFontes is active in industry groups including the National Association of Health Underwriters and its local chapter. Locally, he has led the group’s educational efforts, which makes him responsible for arranging continued education courses for members.
DeFontes also has demonstrated a commitment to giving back to the community. He is the membership chairman for the Springfield Westside Optimist Club, an organization that works to develop confidence in area youth through various programs, and has been heavily involved in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Men’s Club since 2001.
“Our men’s club raises approximately $50,000 annually for our church and local charities like The Kitchen and St. Vincent DePaul,” he says. “We play a hands-on role in helping our community’s elderly and disabled by volunteering for domestic services.”