From the streets to the boardroom…
The Triumphant Story of Jeff Lestz and Genistar.
By Ronnie Ajoku – 2017
Once a homeless orphan living on the streets of Chicago, Jeff Lestz has come such a long way that he has literally changed the financial destiny of thousands of people. Here he tells Ronnie Ajoku how this came to be and why he is so determined to see ordinary people obtain financial freedom and live debt-free.
Jeff Lestz’s life story mirrors the extreme victory over adversity narrative Hollywood movies are made of. Today he is respected as the Founder and CEO of Genistar, a financial education company with a mission to help individuals and families become debt-free and financially independent. Having changed thousands of lives, and not one to let the good old lessons of life go untold, Lestz is also author of the recently published book – ‘Your Journey to Financial Freedom’.
Hardly the foreseeable outcome for a 12-year-old orphan forced to live on the streets of Chicago. “My passion for what we do comes from my childhood. My father was a business owner and his business failed. He fell into a deep depression after losing everything and committed suicide. My mother had three small children under the age of 12; I was five years old. Not only was she emotionally distraught but we were left in poverty. Sadly, she died a few years later and all three of us were in and out of foster homes and orphanages.”
“At the age of 12 I ran away from home and lived homeless on the streets of Chicago until I was 15 years old,” Lestz says of his unfortunately troubled childhood.
In what can only be described as divine intervention, he was rescued from a life on the streets and given another chance, one he made sure to fully utilise. “I was very fortunate that someone took me in at 15-years-old and I went back to high school and onto University.”
Determined not to allow history to repeat itself. Lestz set upon himself the task of learning more about financial education and along with that came his desire to help others with their financial plans. “I always wondered why my father never had a will or life insurance and had no plans in place for his family. It seemed so senseless and careless. So, when I went to a financial education seminar (in the USA) when I was 24 years old it blew my mind. I thought to myself; ‘if only something like this would have been available to my parents!’ “I had a good corporate job but was not great at handling my own money. After seeing what the company offered, I became a client and went to work with them in their part-time associate programme. I fell in love with helping people with their finances and in nine months I was earning more money part-time than in my full-time job and I then went full-time.
“In the USA I built a great team of leaders and over 5,000 salespeople who became advocates for financial literacy. I love what I do, and it excites me to bring hope to people about their financial futures, and to build other leaders who have the same mission of helping families become debt free and financially independent.”
Genistar was created to offer ordinary people what the company calls a ‘Proper Honest Direction’ (PHD) in finance. In line with this, Genistar offers a valuable, yet free, service called the ‘Financial Game Plan’ (FGP). An apt description of their FGP would be a ‘money sat-nav’; put in your financial goals (destination), taking into consideration your current financial situation (location) and have the length of time it would take (distance) calculated for you. An added benefit of the Financial Game Plan is that it can also highlight some potential shortcuts towards achieving these goals in the shortest time realistically possible. “It is for anyone that wants to take control of their financial future. Most advisors would charge £500-£1,000 just for the report. We do it complimentary.”
Business owners also invite Genistar to come into their businesses to educate their employees and offer financial education as an employee benefit. Relocating to the UK was a decision Lestz had to make after being asked to spearhead Primerica’s foray into Britain. “I was with Primerica Financial services (part of Citi in the USA) from 1981 to 2003 and was asked to help head an expansion into the UK. My wife and I sold everything in the USA and moved to the UK in 2003. From 2003 to 2007 we built a company called Citisolutions and then Citi closed the company down in 2007. That’s when we started Genistar,” he said of the company’s origin. “We knew that the model worked and that people in the UK were hungry for knowledge about how to handle their money. The nice thing about money is it is a ‘universal language’. In 1987, there were 300,000 full-time salespeople in financial services in the UK, currently there are less than 20,000 financial advisors. There is such a huge need for what we do in the middle-income market. That’s why we need to recruit so many good people to help us on this mission.”
In the early days, Genistar started recruiting people that love what they do in life and had a yearning to help others. “We started recruiting teachers, social workers, nurses, and people in social services who tend to love what we do because they like to help people. Teachers do great working with us because they like to empower and teach others. The original company in the States was founded by a group of schoolteachers who were fed up with the lack of financial education and decided to do something about it. Our former company, Primerica is now a $4 Billion company.
“Our clients are from every walk of life, but all have one thing in common – the desire to excel financially.”
Genistar prides itself on offering a distinguishable service compared to others in the market. “Financial advisors will give you advice whereas Genistar educates people and then we refer them to our experts. Financial advisors are typically after the wealthy market and our market is average, everyday people who probably don’t have their wealth made yet. We give something better than advice; we give education so the client can both understand and be educated on the right decisions in their finances. Our core strength is the belief in our saying: ‘always do what’s right 100% of the time, even if you don’t get the business!’ Because people love what we do we average 10 referrals from every client. We teach our people to give such great service that their clients are excited to send them to see their friends.”
Genistar also offer a number of other financial services that businesses can take advantage of. “We have an incredible package on all types of business insurance, health insurance, estate planning with wills and trusts, pensions, and business life insurance. Probably where we can add the most value to a business is how we can serve their employees in a financial education seminar and offering each employee a complimentary financial plan. It’s a proven fact that if your employees are less stressed about money they will perform better at work.”
Part of the company’s portfolio includes Genistar Mortgages, which was started to help educate people on how to spend less in interest and understand how to pay off their mortgages sooner by applying a concept called ‘Fortnightly Half Payments’. This knowledge can help you cut 4-7 years off your mortgage. At Genistar Mortgages we are brokers and can do any type of mortgage for homes, buy-to-lets and commercial or business loans too.
“Our business model is not just about treating customers fairly but actually treating everyone like family,” he added.
Here is how Genistar may be able to serve you as a business owner.
As a business owner, you are always looking for ways to improve your bottom line without sacrificing quality. Genistar’s expert team can help you make a thorough analysis of your business insurance needs and save you money! Make sure you are properly covered and that you are getting the best value for the money you are spending.
Financial Education Seminars for Employees
Help your employees to be less stressed in the workplace and more productive. Money problems cause so much stress, anxiety, depression, and divorce. Now, you can offer your employees the very affordable benefit of financial education, PLUS with every seminar we provide each employee a FREE consultation and Financial Game Plan.
PMI – Private Medical Insurance
Whether it’s just for you, a few key employees, or the entire office you will be amazed at how affordable Private Medical Insurance can be. Talk to our PMI specialist to see how we can help.
So many times, as a business owner you forget about your own needs whilst taking care of everyone else. Sit down with one of our team and look at where you are going financially. This service is free of charge.
Genistar was founded in 2007 to serve people by educating them and empowering them to take control of their financial future. Invest in your people and they will become better employees.