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A Familia Affair
A Familia Affair

Apr 25 2022 / Round the Table Magazine

READ 00:08:07

A familia affair

How father and daughter MDRT members grow together with a niche of Latino, family-owned restaurants and grocery stores.

By Antoinette Tuscano

Topics covered

A thriving and fulfilling career can begin where few people have ventured. Yet, by understanding the niche market and its needs as well as patiently building trust, one can create a career that spans generations for both the clients and the financial advisor.

For José A. Narvaez, LUTCF, a 23-year MDRT member, the niche was Latino, family-owned restaurants and then grocery stores in the New York City area. He made the transition to grocery stores early in his career because he saw more potential. They’re “bigger than restaurants in terms of liquidity,” explained José. “They always have liquidity.” Supermarkets also are one of the businesses that thrived in the pandemic economy, said José, of New York, New York, USA.

Opening doors in new markets

The Latino market fits well with José’s background. He was born and raised in Ecuador and came to the U.S. when he was 17 to study and earn a degree in finance at Long Island University in New York. While all countries have their differences, he understands Latino cultural dynamics. He knows many of his prospects in that market didn’t have English as a first language. At the time when José was getting started, he didn’t even have brochures to give them in their native Spanish. He also understood that they wouldn’t have been raised or familiar with products such as life insurance. In his first years as an advisor, he cold called them to address what he knew would be their most urgent need: medical insurance.

“Back then,” said José, “not many agents were contacting these prospects because of the language barrier, and many of these businesses were located in Latino communities. These were people who came to the U.S. around the same time as me, about the early 1980s. Some of them may have arrived a bit earlier, in the 1970s or late 60s, and they started their businesses from scratch. So, it was an opportunity for me.”

Medical insurance opened the door for José, but he made sure he built trust with clients so the door stayed open. He would tell clients if they needed anything to call him. “Even today, we’re always helping the clients, even with services we don’t offer, but we can connect them with people who do,” said José.

To assist his clients in all aspects of their business to the best of his ability, José took additional courses on advanced business concepts, such as business insurance. “Knowledge is power when it comes to working with business owners,” said José.

This knowledge equipped him to talk with his clients’ accountants about products such as IRAs. It also gave José the tools to find the best options for clients to limit their financial risk, protect their assets and how to pass their family business on to the next generation — while also providing options to fairly compensate family members who aren’t interested in the family business.

Growing family businesses

Families have been the cornerstone for José, both with his clients and his own family. Like many of his clients, José is passing his business on to a family member. His daughter Vanessa Carolina Narvaez, a five-year MDRT member also from New York City, began working part time in his office when she was in college. After she graduated with a degree in finance in 2009, she decided to work with her father full time as a financial advisor. José soon put Vanessa to work cold calling to find her first clients.

Starting as a young advisor and talking to clients about money was intimidating, Vanessa said. She followed her father’s example, though, and became educated about more advanced business practices, which increased her confidence and emboldened her to qualify for MDRT.

José also taught Vanessa to be patient with clients to build trust. Patience doesn’t mean inaction though. Vanessa and José meet every Monday to talk about the cases they are working on and how they’re moving forward with their goals. They take their time getting to know clients and their families, which allows them to act as an advisor to multiple generations of clients. Vanessa and José get deeply involved in their clients’ families, often attending their family parties and events.

"Knowledge is power when it comes to working with business owners."

Vanessa and José have their own segments of the business they focus on. José has been building connections through golfing. Although Vanessa doesn’t play golf, she sometimes joins him afterward for networking.

In addition, Vanessa keeps up with technology and social media strategies that allow their business to operate with the latest digital tools. She also works with many female clients on medical insurance and with millennial clients and the adult children of some of José’s older clients. For them, Vanessa is viewed as part of José’s business continuation plans.

Opportunities in continuation plans

“Clients ask me,” said Vanessa, “‘What’s going to happen 20 years later with this policy that I’m doing now?’ or they’ve asked ‘What’s going to happen if I die? How are you going to help my wife?’”

For clients, it’s peace of mind knowing that Vanessa will be there for them.

Since the pandemic began, Vanessa said she’s had even more conversations with clients in their 20s who want to start planning for retirement and contribute the maximum into retirement accounts. “Times have changed,” she said.

The pandemic has not changed everything though. As in some family businesses, not all family members are equally involved. Many of their clients have children in their 20s who are entrepreneurial and working in their family business. Yet, there are adult children who do not want to continue in their family’s livelihood. In fact, to their parents, they seem uninterested in doing any sort of work. Despite their level of involvement, all the children may expect to inherit the business equally. That’s when José and Vanessa bring in estate lawyers to help the families plan. “It makes a big difference, because the lawyer will explain to the client the tax issues and the importance of planning,” said José.

“Estate planning opens a lot of doors,” such as business continuation and retirement planning opportunities, said José. “Always work with a few lawyers who are proactive in insurance, business concepts and estate planning. Do that, and you can work and have a conversation anywhere.” A working relationship with an estate planning lawyer helps build credibility with clients.

Today, the picture is brighter for the Latino population being served. The brochures and other material are translated into multiple languages, and companies see the value of the Latino market.

“With census results and seeing the growth in Latino population by 2050, insurance companies saw that as an opportunity in the buying power that we have already,” said Vanessa.


Expanding Latino U.S. markets

In the U.S., the “Hispanic population has been one of the fastest growing in recent decades. Since 1970, the Hispanic population has grown almost sixfold. Census Bureau projections show the Hispanic population is expected to grow by 86% between 2015 and 2050,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Overall, the foreign-born U.S. population is projected to reach 78 million by 2060, making up 18.8% of the total U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau. “That would be a new record for the foreign-born share, with the bureau projecting that the previous record high of 14.8% in 1890 will be passed as soon as 2025,” according to the Pew Research Center. Asian and Hispanic immigrants are projected to continue to be the main sources of U.S. immigrant population growth.

Immigration and emigration snapshots worldwide


Brazil has traditionally been a net recipient of immigrants. Recent immigrants come mainly from Argentina, Chile and Andean countries or are returning Brazilian nationals. Since Brazil’s economic downturn in the 1980s, emigration to the U.S., Europe and Japan has been rising but is negligible relative to Brazil’s total population. The majority of these emigrants are well-educated and middle class. (CIA’s World Factbook)


In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6.8 million people. They represent 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries, according to Canadian statistics.


An estimated 2 to 3 million Ecuadorians live abroad, but increased unemployment in key receiving countries of Spain, the U.S. and Italy slowed emigration. The first large-scale emigration of Ecuadorians occurred between 1980 and 2000. A second nationwide wave of emigration occurred in the late 1990s. Ecuador has a small but growing immigrant population and is Latin America’s top recipient of refugees, with 98% coming from neighboring Colombia. (CIA’s World Factbook)

The Philippines

The Philippines is the source of one of the world’s largest emigrant populations, consisting of legal temporary workers known as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs). As of 2019, there were 2.2 million OFWs. They most often migrate to Middle Eastern countries; Hong Kong, China; Singapore; and seek employment on ships. (CIA’s World Factbook)


The foreign-born population is growing rapidly. As of 2015, the foreign-born composed 46% of the total population. The overall population is Chinese 74.3%; Malay 13.5%; Indian 9%; and other 3.2%. (CIA’s World Factbook)

United Arab Emirates

The country’s total population is an estimated 9.8 million as of mid-2019, with immigrants making up 87.9% of the total population, according to 2019 U.N. data. The 2015 population estimate is Emirati 11.6%; South Asian 59.4% (includes Indian 38.2%, Bangladeshi 9.5%, Pakistani 9.4%, other 2.3%); Egyptian 10.2%; Filipino 6.1%; and other 12.8%. (CIA’s World Factbook)

Family is the cornerstone of José Narvaez’s personal and professional life. He and Vanessa meet every Monday to talk through their goals and business plans.

Vanessa and José Narvaez on Pershing Square Plaza in New York, New York, USA.



José Narvaez jnarvaez@ft.newyorklife.com

Vanessa Narvaez vnarvaez@ft.newyorklife.com