UToledo Family Business Center

Member Spotlight: Skylight Financial Group

Skylight Financial Group

sponsor focus: skylight financial group

It’s axiomatic that The University of Toledo Family Business Center is more than the sum of its members; the Center’s sponsors are an essential part of the equation as well.

Take Skylight Financial Group, a sponsor since Day One — nearly 30 years. Angie Jones, Family Business Center director, offers accolades for Skylight’s involvement: “Skylight has been responsible for some of our best programming, with many of their employees attending events, speaking with affinity groups and sitting on committees.”

One of the largest locally owned financial planning firms in Ohio, Skylight Financial Group — a general agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) — was born of a 2017 initiative to combine offices in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Talk about dovetailing with one of the FBC’s central goals: creating a unified business community while recognizing each company’s singular strengths and needs!

Reaching that kind of unity between four unique cities is a work in progress, agree Dale Seymour, who acts as the firm's ambassador and Skylight’s Advanced Sales Specialist Bruce DeBoer, who share their experiences in this conversation.

“Melding the personalities of the four Ohio cities was the biggest challenge,” Dale says. “With the merger, we have about 200 licensed financial professionals across the state, plus staff. Management and administration are spread across the four cities, as well as a series of detached locations where financial professionals rent their own space. They bring another 80 or 90 members of the Skylight family.”

Bruce points to a particular benefit that’s come with meeting that challenge: “Between so many participants, there’s a lot of cross-pollination of ideas, which was one of the original intents.”

Another original intent was to enhance internal communications so that the expertise of various specialists could be shared without driving across the state. That was already well under way when COVID-19 intervened, Bruce says. “Using Zoom has made everyone even more accepting of digital meetings, although now that vaccinations are opening things up, face-to-face meetings still have advantages.”

An additional part of the merger challenge, Dale says, “was to hang onto the practices of the past that are still positive, while simultaneously pointing our feet toward the future. One of the things brought by Paul Fox [the Cleveland MassMutual office General Agent who initiated the merger] was a double vision for the company — one where we could all move into the future without disenfranchising things of the past that are still important today.”

Take customer service. It’s still central to Skylight Financial Group’s philosophy, but today its focus comes with a refinement that Dale explains.

“There’s an emphasis now on the customer experience — discovering the experience they want,” he says. “It’s a movement from the older, product-driven emphasis in the financial industry. In our current company model, we offer a relationship -based business practice, where products become secondary.

“In practice, we’re meeting customers where they are. Culturally, that’s been quite a move for both the investment and insurance sides of the business, compared to standards that existed for the last 50 years or more. This new mode puts customers in charge of their future — but they don’t have to do it alone.”

Dale adds that new paradigm has shifted the way financial professionals prepare for regular client meetings: “We ask the client what they want to talk about. We say, ‘Before we get started, tell me a bit about what you want to accomplish in this meeting.’“

Many customers, already internet-savvy, want to be educated about financial options rather than sold on them in the traditional sense, they agree. “On the other hand,” Dale notes, “selling is getting people to reach a mutual understanding, which is best accomplished through an educational dynamic — understanding a client’s reality, then going from there.”

One thing that hasn’t changed since 2017, though, is the company’s support of the Family Business Center.  

Dale says, “Part of drive behind the Center’s founding was that Toledo was seeing its Fortune 500 companies downsizing or right-sizing — or wrong-sizing, as the case may be! There was a serious desire to make sure that medium- and small-sized companies would have a path to staying successful to the next generation of business ownership — or Toledo might not have a business future beyond the automotive industry.

“The idea was to create an environment affiliated with the University where a non-solicitous environment by the sponsors created a safe learning opportunity for the membership. They were free to discuss issues important to them and wouldn’t feel their privacy was being invaded. Affinity groups grew out of that because membership has grown so much. When the Center was being started, our firm had a business initiative of its own, regarding sponsorship of family business centers across the country. The UT Center fit into that model.”

Bruce adds, “When we began the merger and our sponsorship of the Center came into the conversation, it became evident just how good the UT situation was compared to bigger cities. When you look at how much has been accomplished with the Center, it’s pretty amazing — far ahead of where everybody else is. Everyone in Toledo should be proud.”

As well, he says, Skylight Financial Group’s agents learn from Family Business Center members: “While the merger has given us increased access and a broader perspective for our financial professionals, the safe learning environment of the Center is valuable. It’s multifaceted, not directed solely from company ambassadors or professorial expertise, but shared by and from all stakeholders.”

Dale sums up the company’s direction by saying, “Skylight’s movement toward the new model as well as having access to quality products and maintaining an affiliation with [MassMutual] — these are all significant. Keeping eyes on both the best practices of the past and the evolving opportunities of future places us in an advantageous position.”


Local firms are sales offices of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and are not subsidiaries of MassMutual or its affiliated companies.  Securities and investment advisory services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. www.SIPC.org  7150 W Central Ave, suite 100, Toledo, OH 43517. 419-893-9759


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Last Updated: 6/27/22