What inspired you to join the group retirement industry?
Entering the Group Retirement industry, in all honesty, was something that I stumbled into after finishing my post-secondary education. After University, I began working for an Investment Management Firm where I formed an instant reverence for the money management business. This was right after the dot-com burst when most graduates did not find the investing world that appealing – all of my friends continued on to either technology consulting or medicine.
However, as with most young people, after working for the same company for 5-6 years I began to grow impatient and started looking for another adventure. During my job search, I came across a job posting with an insurance company in their Group Retirement Division. They were looking for a “Financial Education Specialist” and the job posting had everything that I was looking for: public speaking, investment knowledge, developing education strategy, and travel. I threw my name into the hat and was lucky enough to land the position. The Financial Education Specialist role was a springboard that allowed me to work in almost every client-facing position in the business. It has been a great ride.
Who is your mentor?
I don’t have just one. There have been so many people over the course of my career whom I have looked up to for guidance (Let me know if you need real names). I have been lucky enough to learn from each one of these individuals and continue to do so.
I also have great admiration for people that I don’t personally know but have read a lot about and learned from. The story that resonates the most with me is that of Chamath Palihapitiya – the CEO of Social Capital and part-owner of the Golden State Warriors. Chamath is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of my generation, but he came from a very humble beginning. As an immigrant family that struggled with many of the issues he did, his story is truly inspiring.
What is something that people do not know about you?
I am obsessed with keeping up-to-date on current events – thank goodness for podcasts because they make it much easier to consume content instead of watching the nightly news which can be very depressing and overly political at times.
My Favorites Podcasts are:
- Wall Street Journal “The Journal”
- New York Times “The Daily”
- CNBC “Fast Money and Half Time”
- Animal Spirit
- The Bill Simmons Podcast
- The Acquired Podcast
- The Compound and Friends
- Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History”
Here are a couple of fun examples.
- I love most HBO shows, but particularly The Wire and The Sopranos. I’ve watched both at least three times each. I’ll probably watch them again at some point.
- I am obsessed with Nike Sneakers. At some point during the day, I’ll find myself browsing on Goat.com. Nike AirMax 90s or Blazer 77s are my weakness.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned in the business to date?
- The biggest lesson I’ve learned since joining the business world is the exact same lesson I’ve learned in my personal life. You must continue to evolve and not accept the status quo as good enough. As cliché as it may be, the only constant in life is change. Blockbuster had a steady business model until Netflix came along – and the rest is history.
- As a consultant, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to make sure you completely understand the client’s problem before considering a solution. This may sound simplistic, but it’s very tempting to offer a client a solution that may have worked in the past with another client. Having the discipline to listen to each client’s unique needs and then providing a customized solution is what brings true value to the table. You have to do the work.
Do you have insights about the industry that you would like to share? Thoughts about the future of our Industry?
The future of our industry lies in Continuing Education. That is, education that is specific to members that are in Defined Contribution arrangements.
Starting in this industry as a Financial Education Specialist, the role allowed me to have a front-row seat of the ins and outs of creating and delivering plan member education. As I progressed in my career, I continued to have the pleasure of interacting and educating members by facilitating countless group sessions and one-on-one consultations. My experience has opened my eyes to the significant responsibility our industry stakeholders have in assisting and improving the financial lives of millions of plan members.
Over the years, the advancement of technology and increased understanding of behavioural finance has allowed the industry to develop impactful tools to help plan members understand and strategize towards their ideal retirement. In our arsenal, we have educational videos, financial calculators, retirement planning software, financial wellness assessments, and much more.
Unfortunately, the reality is that most plan members are not utilizing these amazing tools. The two most common reasons I hear from plan members as to why they have not taken advantage of these tools is due to the lack of time and ease of using them. Whether these are justifiable reasons or not, I see that plan members are having a difficult time acknowledging the health of their retirement savings by not using these tools.
I may not have all the answers with respect to motivating members to take action, but I know there is much more we can do. The industry needs to target these pain points and continue to create content that is easy to understand and easy to use. Additionally, Plan Sponsors can take a more active role to motivate and push plan members. This could be done by making employee participation in education sessions mandatory, especially if they are enrolled in the plan. As well, they must continuously remind plan members of the associated risks of not using such tools. We need to be more open and forward with plan members to help them understand the importance of their financial positions at retirement.
The Benefits Alliance Member Spotlight showcases our members across Canada who provide custom solutions for their clients Employee Benefits and Group Retirement.