Former Canadian athlete shining in the financial industry

Former Canadian athlete shining in the financial industry

The financial industry is still predominantly a male domain.

Women, however, are gradually beginning to make some headway in the sector.

Last month’s Wealth Professional e-magazine featured 42 women who are leading the charge in the evolution of Canada’s wealth management industry. 

The list includes Mitzie Hunter, the province’s associate minister of finance with responsibility for setting up the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, and Michelle Hastick-Cowell, the vice-president of wealth and strategic management at Benson Kearley IFG/HollisWealth.

“This is a huge honour when you consider we are talking about women from across the country,” said Hastick-Cowell. “I love helping and connecting people and getting them to where they need to be. The majority of the time, very few of us are women investment advisers doing this kind of work and getting recognized. So this is definitely an honour for me and my team who are my biggest supporters.”

She was encouraged to join the brokerage 12 years ago by Humber College associate dean Dr. Paul Griffin who was the ING Wealth Management Inc. national director at the time.

“He had the idea of putting investment advisers into brokerages and being able to provide referrals and help build up the fence around their clients,” said Hastick-Cowell who heads the six-member financial service sector that provides seminars and ways to cross-sell along with insurance and investment options for clients.

Her immense value to the firm was affirmed when she came out victorious in an annual national staff challenge competition.

“Last year’s challenge was unique in that they asked advisors for their ideas on four various topics where you can re-think, re-imagine and re-invent,” she noted. “I decided just 14 minutes before last November’s deadline to do a submission and see where it will go.”

Hastick-Cowell was one of six finalists selected to make their submissions in Miami to a three-member judging panel comprising Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Marshall Goldsmith -- whose group offers experienced coaches who work one-on-one with successful leaders to help their businesses grow -- and Scotiabank Wealth Management senior vice-president Glen Gowland.

The judges critiqued the presentations while about 400 of the presenters’ peers voted.

Hastick-Cowell submission revolved around defining value in the world of CRM2 (Client Relationship Model Phase 2) that’s a new era of transparency for investors on the reporting of fees and performance by their financial services providers.

“At HollisWealth, each and every one of us is more than just advisers,” she said. “The investment side is 10 per cent of it. So many times, we are sitting down with clients going through a funeral, birth, buying a business or a new home. It covers every single gamut. What we do is all about saving lives, dreams and businesses and it equates to life savers. We are coaching our clients through life’s unknowns and our value is priceless at the end of the day.”

Hastick-Cowell garnered 43 per cent of the votes for her powerful presentation completed 52 seconds ahead of the allotted 10-minutes and won a trip to Bora Bora, a scenic South Pacific island.

A career in the financial sector was not on her radar just over two decades ago when she set York University long and triple jump records that still stand and was the university’s Female Athlete of the Year in her final season in 1995.

“I wanted to go into dentistry, but that would have meant I wouldn’t be able to continue with my athletic career,” the product of Trinidadian and Jamaican immigrants who graduated with a microbiology degree said. “I had to find a way to have a flexible schedule.”

Shortly after graduation, Great West Life offered Hastick-Cowell a job with the flexibility that allowed the high performance athlete to win four senior national triple jump titles while becoming the first Canadian female to surpass 14 metres in the event. She also captured Canada’s first ever triple jump medal – bronze – at the 1997 Francophone Games in Madagascar and represented the country at the 1998 Commonwealth games, the 1999 Pan Am Games, the 2000 Sydney Olympics where she was the athletes’ representative and the 2001 World Championship.

“Track and field allowed me to see the world, meet amazing people and really appreciate what it means to be Canadian,” she said. “We are blessed to live in this country.”

Last September, Hastick-Cowell joined older sister Andrea Brown in York University Sports Hall of Fame.

“That honour was absolutely amazing,” said the mother of two who lived in the Jane & Finch area for the first seven years of her life before relocating to Peel. “I had a lot of friends and family attend the event and my kids really loved the induction.”

Hastick-Cowell was recruited by CIBC where she was an athlete ambassador before joining Benson Kearley IFG/HollisWealth where she chairs the management advisory council.

She encouraged women to consider the financial industry as a career option

“This is a phenomenal industry to be in,” said Hastick-Cowell who sits on the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners education committee board. “Like in any facet of life, you will face challenges and adversity. But if you think this is where your passion is, go for it.”

The passion for her job in the financial services industry parallels her desire to give to the needy.

“I have a big heart when it comes to philanthropy,” she said. “That’s a big part of the lives of me, my children and my team at work. If we see someone in dire straits, we definitely want to jump in.”

For someone who has had amazing success jumping, it’s not surprising that Hastick-Cowell is always willing to take a leap to help others.

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