DOREEN (DEE) GREGSON, CLU, CH.F.C., CFP®
When I asked Dee Gregson, a 40-year insurance and estate planning veteran how she got started, she chuckled. “In 1979, I was running a retail store for The Bay when some district manager told me I wouldn’t be appointed manager because I was a ‘girl’.
“Looking back, I’m grateful for that twist of misogynistic fate that launched me into the insurance business. When I started out, female agents were rare. I remember our professional association’s monthly luncheons when I was the only woman in the room. They thought it was hilarious to open meetings with, “Good Afternoon Gentlemen, and Doreen!
In those days, half the population was supposed to look after the other half and women did not have equal access to financial independence. In 1978, Canada published some shocking findings about poverty in this country. In that devastating report we learned that simply being female meant you were more likely to live below the poverty line. “I resolved that I was not going to be one of those women and, in fact, I was going to work to change those outcomes,” and she clearly meant it.
Dee has been a women’s advocate for decades – a trailblazer for female advisors and for her clients. “It’s hard to believe that forty years later, these stats have not improved very much. We still have such a long way to go! Financial literacy and empowerment for women was, and continues to be, a really important ‘why’ for me.”
Dee left her Oakville-based practice in 1988 to journey west, after creating a course called “Starting Over” at Sheridan College. This workshop series was designed to help women get educated, get empowered, and get back on their feet when they found themselves facing a scary, new chapter in their life.
Since those early days, Dee has held senior roles at Canada Trust, Raymond James, Canada Life, and Scotia Wealth. In 2017, she joined The Co-operators in North Vancouver. The agency looks after 1,800 families, independent contractors, and small business owners from their central Lonsdale storefront.
What makes co-operatives special?
“We help Canadians manage their finances and build their wealth. As a leading Canadian insurer, we look after property and casualty risks, too. From car insurance, commercial coverage, travel, life/disability insurance, group plans and pensions, and an array of investment solutions, The Co-operators has the widest product shelf in Canada.”
One of the hallmarks of a co-operative is that it exists to serve its members. “We look for the unmet needs of Canadians, and their communities, and find ways to fill those gaps. If the coverage doesn’t exist, we can create it or partner with another insurer to provide it.”
“It feels good to be contributing to the greater good and not just working to make shareholders richer. I’m proud to be part of a co-operative that really does put people before profits.”
Leading a great team
Dee describes herself as more of a ‘Go-Giver’ than a ‘Go-Getter.’ There are six advisors, including Dee, in the agency. “We each have our areas of expertise and we collaborate together really well. I think that creates a more meaningful client experience to have many relationships and touch points with us."
“I love the hub-bub of the agency; it’s a huge change from the corporate ivory towers doing financial/estate planning for the ‘ultra high-net-worth-y’ type of client. I’d much rather be helping young people, retirees and entrepreneurs where I get to make a difference, one client at a time, one family at a time.”
40 years of learning
It’s amazing that people think they need to be rich to have a robust retirement plan. Many Canadians spend more time planning their two- week vacation than their 30+ year retirement! “Anyone, at any age or stage, can benefit from a ‘financial fly-over’ to see the big picture for themselves” says Dee.
As an accredited Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), Chartered Financial Consultant (CH.F.C®), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), Dee is a life-long learner.“ It’s not what you know that matters – it’s how much you can help that counts,” she adds.
Dee is known for her ability to simplify a financial roadmap, offering sensible insurance solutions, retirement/estate planning strategies, and customized investment options. “We spend time to really find out what’s most important to our clients and what’s changing in their lives. Every action plan is different because each is unique to the aspirations of that person and where they are in their life.”
Commitment to sustainability is more than a tagline for Dee’s team. They were the first insurer in Canada to sign the Montreal Carbon Pledge and received the award for Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens for Sustainability for 8 consecutive years. The Co-operators is ranked first among 500 of its peers, named Canada’s greenest employer in 2019.
“Our office uses 100% renewable energy through Bullfrog Power and we do a sustainability audit every year to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. I’m especially proud that our agency has been nominated for the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce ‘Business Excellence Award for Sustainability’ for the past two years.”
The team is encouraged to volunteer in the community and support whatever cause is close to their heart. Each year, the agency raises funds for the BC Children’s Hospital, BC SPCA, Jack.org (youth mental health), North Vancouver Fire Fighters and our local Legion as well as ‘Take a hike Foundation’ to help youth at risk.
Looking Back and Moving Forward
This year, Dee celebrates two major milestones – her 40th career anniversary, and the formation of Gregson Insurance & Investment Solutions Inc. that now owns The Co-operators Lonsdale Agency. “It’s an exciting time to be building a business, especially in an industry that’s constantly evolving with digitization affecting everything we do. These days, we have robo-advisors, AI and algorithms performing many of the planning and investment functions that we humans used to do. Self-driving vehicles, car sharing and other changes affecting auto insurance are expected to entirely transform our business over the next few years.”
Up Close & Personal
Dee has two adult children; Tyler, who is completing his Masters degree at SFU, and Sarah, who is a Certified Financial Planner® like her mom. “Parenting is the toughest management role there is! It’s taught me what it takes to be a caring leader and how to challenge people to bring their best selves to work.”
“Speaking of beloved children, the most exciting news this year, was the birth of our office puppy, Cooper. It’s so great to have him at work every day! He is currently serving as ‘Director of Cuteness’ and training to be our social media ‘spokes-puppy’ and ‘dogger-blogger’. Stay tuned for Cooper’s sensible insurance and investment advice on Instagram (COOPER_Financial_DoggerBlogger). It’s my favourite part of owning a business -- the ability to surround oneself with people (and puppies) that make your life meaningful. I definitely feel at home at work.”
As a last word, Dee says, “I’m infinitely proud of my children, my team, and my 40-year record of service to clients. I’ve been fortunate to serve in different roles spanning the financial services industry. From big banks and trust companies, life insurers, financial planning and investment firms, I am now, happily, an entrepreneur again. I get to focus on business building, just like when I started back in 1979. It’s my simple mission to lead a team I’m proud of, do good work, and thoroughly enjoy this final decade of my career. It’ll go by in the blink of an eye and I can hardly wait to look back over the next 10 years. With the pace of change and technology continuing to transform our industry, it’s bound to be a wild ride!”
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides C
Dee Gregson, CLU, CH.F.C., CFP®
Gregson Insurance & Investment Solutions Inc.
Financial Advisor / Agency Owner
1232 Lonsdale Avenue.
North Vancouver, B.C. V7M 2H6
604 983 7011