FACES OF THE INDUSTRY
|Insurance and Financial Advisor,
Owner of Kincardine Co-operators
|The Co-operators Group Limited
|University of Guelph
Bachelor of Science
|Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
|Memorable travel destination
|Santorini (Thira), Greece and Malta
Resilience, “change addiction,” key to being an independent entrepreneur
Jennifer owns and operates one of the country’s top-producing Co-operators’ insurance agencies, dealing in property and casualty and life insurance policies. She decided to become owner and operator of her own practice as part of a long career in financial services, in which the only constant seems to be change.
Jennifer’s career path has been quite different from what she originally intended. Her undergraduate degree was on the pre-med track where she aspired to go to medical school and eventually to become a physician in Ontario. When she graduated, the appeal of this career lost some of its lustre due to the economic and policy climate of the time, so she pursued other opportunities. A close friend and future sister-in-law suggested finance, and Jennifer began this stage of her career as the office administrator in an advisor’s practice.
“While I did not officially have a background in finance, my mother was a banker so I found I knew a fair bit about finance just from talking around the dinner table. And when it became part of my career, I fell in love with everything to do with money management and investing.”
Her administrative role eventually turned into a partner-track position at a wealth management firm, but Jennifer found her own path to success after a hypothetical “dream job” conversation with her husband. When they determined this dream was in fact realistic and achievable, they moved back to her native Kincardine in western Ontario and Jennifer opened up her own independent practice through The Co-operators insurance company. To this day, Jennifer believes her science and pre-med background still informs how she delivers service and advice to her clients.
“Honestly, I think my previous education enhanced my knowledge of finance. In the medical field, you want to A) help people, and B) heal people. So, what we say here sometimes is that we heal people’s finances.”
Like any business owner, Jennifer’s day begins early and ends late. The qualities she identifies as necessary to run your own practice while maintaining a balanced life include resiliency, lifelong curiosity and hunger for new learning. Plus being a “change addict” and an occasional daydreamer, Jennifer adds, as one important aspect of her job is constantly reimagining ways of doing business in a dynamic industry.
“When you’re an independent owner, you’re the one who’s able to implement change. You are the person who comes up with the ideas, and the one to actually make them happen. There’s pride of ownership there. But it’s one thing to say, ‘I want to do this.’ Change requires planning and understanding the effect it will have on my organization, especially the livelihood of the people who work here. All these things are always in the back of my mind.”
Embracing change in the insurance industry is of particular relevance now, as the pace of technological development in financial services is proceeding at an unprecedented speed. Jennifer views these changes as being positive for insurance practices such as her own, as the increasing use of self-service resources and artificial intelligence in financial services makes strong one-on-one relationships between clients and advisors more important than ever.
“In many ways our industry has become commoditized. So, as a practice we always think of ways that set us apart. We ask ourselves, ‘Why would anyone want to come see us?’. I think we still need to be our clients’ discussion partners. Clients still need to consult with us as we oversee and execute their important decisions. The relationship aspect of insurance is going to be that much more important. And that is our challenge.”
What would you tell your younger self at the beginning of your career?
“Hold on for the ride. Be patient. And always be open to change.”