Profile of Lee Bethel
Lee V. Bethel, CLU, ChfC, REBC, RHU, CAP, AIF is President of Comprehensive Benefit Services, Inc. He has been a leader in the insurance, employee benefit, investment and financial services field since 1979. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and a past president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Morehouse College Alumni Association. Bethel received his Chartered Life Underwriter, (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) and Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) designations from The American College. He has received numerous industry awards. Bethel has appeared on the PBS television program Money Watch as a guest panelist and as a Financial Consultant for Black Entertainment Television (BET). He has been quoted in Ebony Man and USA Today. He is married and has three daughters.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Lee Bethel started his life intending to pursue a career in science, rather than one in the financial services industry. Bethel’s Bachelor of Science degree from Morehouse College is in biology. His initial sales experience was selling books door-to-door as he worked his way through college.
“It was my uncle who approached me about going into the insurance business while I was in college,” said Bethel. Bethel’s uncle, Ted Tillman was an industry pioneer for African-Americans in the life insurance business. Hired in the 1950’s, Tillman was the second African-American agent ever hired by New York Life.
Bethel’s uncle believed in the value of education. Although Bethel was ready to join his uncle right away in the insurance business, Bethel’s uncle encouraged him to stay in school and complete his Bachelor of Science degree. In 1978, Bethel graduated from Morehouse College. Unfortunately, shortly after Lee graduated, his uncle passed away.
Following in his uncle’s footsteps, Bethel moved to Philadelphia and joined New York Life in 1979. He stayed with the company for the next three years. It was during this time, that Bethel first heard about The American College.
“I would come out to the College’s campus, every week. I heard about the CLU designation during the first week I was with New York Life. I learned that in this business, you need to be educated in order to be of more value to your clients.”
In 1982, Bethel left New York Life and partnered with Lang Dixon in his insurance practice. During this initial period, Bethel began to provide services to Morehouse graduates in the Washington D.C. area. By 1985, he was spending more time in Washington D.C. than he was in Philadelphia. That prompted him to move to the D.C. area permanently in 1987.
Once he was in Washington D.C., Bethel formed Comprehensive Benefits Services. This organization helped companies set up employee benefits plans. With Lee servicing the Washington D.C. area and Dixon servicing Philadelphia, they built both a successful and profitable practice.
Starting in 1987, Bethel also became more focused on achieving his educational goals. He completed his CLU training and was awarded the designation that same year. By 1989, he was able to add the ChFC designation to the list of his accomplishments.
“These designations helped me to develop positive relationships with new clients,” said Bethel. “Having this education means you don’t have to answer the question, ‘Does he know what he’s talking about?’ And education gives you the confidence to handle the needs of high net worth clients. Lang was a big influence on me in terms of my education. It was tough with a new family and a new business but he helped push me to complete the CLU designation.”
Over the next several years, Bethel and Dixon continued to grow their business. Then in 1992, Dixon was diagnosed with cancer. He died in June of 1994.. When Dixon passed away, it fell to Bethel to service his Philadelphia clients and manage both parts of the business.
Time passed and despite being busier than ever before and servicing clients in both Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Bethel continued to pursue his education. In 1998 he added the REBC and RHU designations to the list of his educational accomplishments.
“The education I received at The American College was a big influence on my life,” said Bethel. “These programs gave me the knowledge I needed to be successful. The designation programs allow you to delve deeply into financial services topics. Company seminars just scratch the surface.”
Today, Lee Bethel owns one of the most successful employee benefits firms on the east coast. He is respected within the industry and is a member of The American Society of Financial Services Professionals, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. He served for three terms on the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and serves as Chairman of the African-American advisory committee for The American College.
“I tell everyone that financial services is a wonderful career opportunity,” said Bethel. “It provides you with an opportunity to help people pursue their financial goals.”
Bethel sees a lot of opportunity for African Americans in the industry. “Right now there is a need for quality African-American financial services professionals in the financial services industry. Besides being personally rewarding, it can be professionally lucrative. Now more than ever, people are beginning to understand the value of professional advice.”
“There are challenges that we face. That’s why I support Lang Dixon Day at The American College. This combination of seminars and networking allows African-American financial services professionals to address some of the obstacles that confront us.”
“Overall, I’m optimistic about the future. As our culture becomes more diverse, there will be increased demand for professionals who reflect the make-up of the population. With hard work and a dedication to professionalism, the future can be bright for those African-Americans who choose the financial services industry as a career.”