Investors Group: Turning Dreams into Reality
Kevin Tomlinson has a mystery to solve. While he, his wife, and several colleagues from Investors Group (IG) were away on a cruise, he received word from back home that there had been a “dusting of snow.” That might have been an understatement. It was actually a foot and a half. But that healthy heap of Nova Scotia winter was not the only surprise Tomlinson found upon his return. “When we got back from the cruise, my driveway was plowed,” he smiles. “One of my neighbours did it, but we haven’t figured out who yet.”
Originally from Whitby, Ontario, Tomlinson came to Nova Scotia in 2006 to take a regional director position with IG. “We liked the idea of coming to the East Coast,” he says. “We liked the lifestyle, the adventure.” Since then, he and his family have discovered many marvellous features of their new home. Yet, for Tomlinson, it is the people – people like his mysterious snow removing neighbour, his clients, and his fellow IG financial consultants – who have made the greatest impression. “The comments about how friendly the people are here are absolutely true,” he says.
It is not surprising that Tomlinson was quick to appreciate the friendliness and helpful nature of Nova Scotians. After all, helping people is the essence of his career with IG, a nation-wide network of personal financial planning service providers, guiding clients in money management through customized advice and products. “We build relationships with our clients. We help them design financial plans to get from point A to point B,” says Tomlinson, who has been with IG for 12 years. “Whether it’s investments, insurance, mortgages or banking, we basically have a one-stop shop for people.”
Investors Group launched in Canada in 1926, and has expanded and evolved to become the largest financial services company of its kind, managing almost $50 billion in assets for approximately one million Canadians. “By the time people see what’s in the media, what’s on the TV, and listen to all the things going on, they are confused,” Tomlinson says of the many households struggling when it comes to figuring out finances. “They look to professionals like us to help them.”
Tomlinson describes IG consultants as “financial architects” who design and implement personal financial plans for each client based on their current situation, and their goals for the future. According to Tomlinson, good financial planning helps people turn their dreams of greater security and freedom into reality, and the key to that is really getting to know people, whether they are clients, or other professional advisors who can help implement a client’s financial strategy. “That is what keeps our clients with us,” he says. “We couldn’t have survived as long as we have, and built the relationships that we have with our clients without really getting involved with their lives.”
Nova Scotia is home to more than 100 IG consultants, ranging in backgrounds from recent MBA grads to former fishermen, who help thousands of households around the province make educated financial plans and decisions. Tomlinson’s Scotia Highlands region hosts 40 consultants, and features eight offices between Dartmouth and Sydney. As Regional Director, Tomlinson oversees the training and development of consultants, as well as the “big picture” of IG’s presence in his region. Consultants enjoy the benefits of IG’s training, resources, and infrastructure, but they also have another advantage - the independence of an entrepreneur.
“Every consultant is a self-employed individual, running their own business,” Tomlinson says. “We’re free to work from anywhere. We don’t necessarily all work out of an office. Some of us work from our homes, some of us work from our cars, depending on what’s best for us.” Such flexibility lets IG consultants create their own ideal work-life balance, and lets them put their diverse skill sets to work for themselves and their clients.
“Nova Scotians have a lot of ingenuity,” Tomlinson says, noting the province’s long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. “People here have always had to be innovative to survive the ups and downs, and that is important because that is what our consultants do. They have to think outside the box.”
Investors Group encourages consultants to realize their own career dreams by putting control in the hands of each individual consultant. But IG also fosters a strong sense of community, both within the “IG family”, and in the communities where consultants live and work. “We put a lot of effort back into our communities with charitable and volunteer work,” Tomlinson explains. “Whether it’s community support programs, or provincial initiatives like Feed Nova Scotia, or local organizations, we are doing lots of things to put back into the community because we think that is important.”
As Tomlinson and his wife also discovered, volunteer work and community involvement is also a great way to meet people, make friends, and really feel at home in Nova Scotia. “You can build relationships quickly here,” he says, “and people are not quick to judge.”
A balance between hard work and an easy lifestyle, strong personal relationships, and meaningful community contributions are all high priorities in Nova Scotia. They are also integral parts of the IG corporate philosophy, and concepts that Kevin Tomlinson has taken to heart, personally and professionally.
And although he hesitates to call himself a full-fledged Nova Scotian just yet, Tomlinson is eager to share the unique advantages of this province with others. “We have a house on a lake, two miles from the ocean. That’s something we never could have had in Ontario,” he says. “And, we’re certainly not caught up in the hustle and bustle,” he adds. “Not that life is any slower, it’s just thought of differently. People are more concerned with others here.”
Which explains why a company like Investors Group successfully took root in Nova Scotia. And why Tomlinson and his family quickly fit in and felt right at home. And why an anonymous neighbour would clear the snow from your driveway while you were away. That’s no mystery. That’s just the way it is here.
Feature story written by Amy Spurway