There’s no such thing as “business as usual” for Mitch Milless.
“The dignity of work,” he says, “is a theme that was ingrained in me during my time at Catholic Studies.” Milless, who has been with Marsh & McLennan since 2013, specializes in retirement planning and investment.
“Catholic Studies gave me a lens to look at everything I do,” he says, “whether it is in my vocation of marriage or my work as a fiduciary investment advisor. … In both, I am called to do the same thing: lead the people that God has put in my care by putting their best interest before my own.”
One of 12 kids, Milless grew up in what he describes as a blue-collar setting. Business was the last thing on his mind for a career. In fact, he had another collar in mind in the beginning: a priest’s collar. But after three years at Saint John Vianney College Seminary (SJV) he realized he was called to the working world. His job hunt began with finance firms.
“In my final interview for my job out of college,” he recalls, “[the interviewer] looked at my resume and asked, ‘How do you expect to be successful in financial planning with a philosophy and Catholic studies degree?’ I told him that I spent four years learning about the problem of evil, the existence of God, and how to make people truly happy by having a relationship with Jesus and following the teachings of the Catholic Church. I then told him that these are issues that have been debated for centuries and that if I was intelligent enough to wrestle with those heavy topics I would have no trouble learning about financial services.”
Milless went on to argue that the skillset needed in the priesthood was the same set needed to be a financial advisor. “I told him that if you asked anyone walking down the street, ‘Do you want to go to heaven when you die?’ they would say, ‘Absolutely.’ If you then ask them, ‘What are you doing to get there?’ more often than not they would look at you and remain silent. If you asked the same person walking down the street, ‘Do you want to retire comfortably someday?’ they would say, ‘Absolutely.’ If you then ask them, ‘What are you doing to make that possible?’ you get the same response: silence.”
Still not entirely sold on Milless’s abilities, the interviewer asked him, “Have you ever sold anything in your life?”
“I told him that I had not been in sales, but I had been part of the recruitment effort for SJV: encouraging 18-year-old men to think about joining the seminary, which included the possibility of lifelong celibacy. I explained that SJV had record growth and that this was unheard of. He said, ‘You’re hired! Selling celibacy to 18-year-old men is the most difficult thing I can think of.’”
And Milless has been happily working in finance ever since.
“Being a financial advisor allows me to help people with something that is very important,” he says. “It’s something that almost everyone needs, something that most people struggle with, and it’s an industry that needs good honest people with real integrity. This is a very complicated need that can be exploited very easily. I am driven to try to change the industry I work in to one that puts people first instead of profit.”