The first thing that strikes you about Janet Pringle is her passion about being a Financial Advisor.
“I love being able to work with people to help solve what they interpret as a financial hurdle,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years now and I’ve seen the benefit of what having a financial plan can do. So to be able to map out a plan, make it very simple and have people come back and say, ‘Thank goodness you taught me how to save for my kids’ education because they’re in university and we’re paying for it,’ I get huge enjoyment from that.”
She adds, “It makes you keep wanting to go to work every day and do this for all your clients. It’s the best reward you can get. We all have some stressful or busier days but when you know you’ve made a lifelong difference in someone’s life and they come back and tell you that, there’s nothing better. I can’t imagine not doing this.”
Christmas ’94 Changed Everything
When Janet discovered her financial services passion in the early 1990s, she was studying political science at the University of Ottawa. “I had always thought that I’d go to law school,” she says.
But a Christmas present in 1994 and a small-world family connection to a Financial Advisor who’s pretty much legendary in the industry, changed everything. “When I was in my second year of university my grandparents gave us grandkids $1,000 at Christmas. My parents at the time were dealing with Lise Allin. And they said to me, ‘You’re going to meet with Lise and you’re going to invest it.’ So I did. I saw my money make money, and I became hooked.”
The hook set even deeper when Janet finished her degree. “My parents enrolled me in a course that Lise Allin put on . . . It was like a training program to see if financial planning would be for you. So I took it, and that was it. I was hooked. I started in April 1996, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Joining a franchise empire in eastern Ontario
The Napanee, ON native joined the Kingston office of what was then Money Concepts Upper Canada. Janet has remained part of an eastern Ontario franchise empire originally built by Lise Allin and Richard Kizell through a take-over evolution from Money Concepts; to Independent Planning Group; to the Investment Planning Counsel brand.
“Richard owned the Kingston franchise and was sort of partnered up with Lise in this area. This entire region — Napanee, Trenton, Belleville and Kingston. We’d all get together and have these monthly sales meetings to throw ideas around and learn from each other, and we did that for many years,” Janet explains.
When you’re just starting out, building a clientele and getting a practice off the ground successfully can be challenging. The first few months is the make-or-break time for new Advisors. But in her first year, Janet received the Builder’s Award for being the Advisor who had landed the most clients within that time. She’s still thankful for having had Lise Allin mentoring, inspiring and driving her in those early days.
Building to the point of referral
“I won that award because when I went to Lise’s training program, she basically said, ‘I want you to get 50 clients in your first six months.’ So I think I gathered a list of about 200 people that either I knew or my parents knew, and I just basically called them up and said, ‘Would you be willing to talk to me?’”
Twenty-four years later, Janet is still helping many of those same clients and her practice is 100% referral based. “It’s amazing,” she says. “One client is 88 and his wife is 86 . . . I’ve been at their fiftieth wedding anniversary, I’ve been at their sixty-fifth anniversary. I know all their kids and they invite me over to see all their grandkids, and it’s just very rewarding.”
Her practice “is still growing and I’m happy about that.” Janet’s goal, she says, is “to just branch out into my clients’ families more and more.”
She hasn’t had to prospect for business in years, and she’s totally okay with that. “I don’t like talking about myself very much,” she laughs, “And with prospecting you still have to sell yourself.”
Trust’s essential in a small community
Janet doesn’t have to do that anymore because she has worked hard to forge solid client relationships and earn trust. That’s particularly important when your practice is in a small community like Napanee, she says.
“Everybody knows either you or someone you know, or a member of your family. So good news travels fast and bad news spreads like wildfire. If I were to lose trust or did a bad job for a client, everyone would know. So to be able to get such good referrals, it just means so much more.”
There are two groups of clients Janet loves dealing with. “My ideal clients are younger families and retired couples,” she says. “They’re two very different sets.”
She can totally relate to the financial goals and concerns that younger families with kids have. “I’m married with two teenage girls, so I’m aware of all the costs involved in saving for kids’ education as well as having a mortgage and vehicle payments and all that sort of stuff. And because I’m self-employed and my husband is a farmer, there’s no pension plan in our lives so we have to save on our own. So I’m very familiar with what people go through and that makes me very comfortable working with families.”
And she loves helping “couples who are empty-nesters.”
Getting clients to be fully engaged
“I like to help people transition from working to retirement or even semi-retirement. Sometimes they’re working part-time after they’re retired, or they do consulting. I get a lot of enjoyment out of working with people like that because there are so many unique opportunities they have,” says Janet.
She treats all her clients as “a top client, because that’s how I view my clients.” The only thing she expects of them is being as committed to their financial plan as she is.
“The ideal client has to be a full participant. I can put a plan in place but unless the person or the couple is committed to following the plan, it’s just going to be a waste of time for all of us. Because you have to be invested in your own future,” Janet says.
She adds, “I think people get caught up in everyday life and don’t actually take time to sit down and map it out. They know what they want to do, but you have to sit down and really map it to figure out what you need to do today to get to where you want to be. Live for today — plan for tomorrow
“It’s something everyone is capable of doing if they just sit down and carve out the time to have a discussion about it. You don’t have to start big. I think people think they need to be saving thousands of dollars a month and that’s simply not the case.”
Her mantra with clients is “you live for today and plan for tomorrow.” “It’s great to have all these hopes and dreams and financial goals, but unless you set up a plan, it’s going to be very difficult to achieve it.”
For Janet, continual client education is important. Some Advisors hold events and seminars regularly. Janet prefers talking one-on-one with clients. “In a group setting, it’s a more generalized topic,” she says.
“I feel it’s very important for clients to understand what I’m doing. Sometimes clients really don’t want to learn but any time I sit down and talk with a client, I always make sure they understand exactly what we’re doing and why we’re using the strategies we are . . . Clients really appreciate that because they understand what we’re doing and then they become more invested in the process.”
Weathering the financial crisis
Her personalized approach to client education is what got both Janet and her clients through the turmoil of the 2008/2009 financial crisis.
“The one thing I did I remember very well . . . I spent three days immediately after the big crash calling every single one of my clients and telling them it was okay. I told them, ‘You don’t need your money today and your portfolio’s invested according to our plan. The money you need to live on for the next six to 18 months is set aside according to our plan, and it’s not affected so we’re just going to ride the crest. If you’re nervous or want to talk more, call me any time.’ And I didn’t have one client veer off their plan or their course.”
Her actions and strategy then meant that today for those same clients, market fluctuations “are a non-starter.” There’s rock-solid confidence and trust.
What clients want
Janet knows just being there to listen and provide that kind of advice during the financial crisis is one of the reasons why her practice is now totally referral based. “I think the main thing I’ve learned is that clients just need to know you’re going to be there and we’re going to achieve what we’ve set out to do if we stay on track; follow the plan; and have an open conversation where they can bounce ideas off you,” she says.
Janet sees this constant, personalized client education as even more critical because with technology, the internet and social media, “people are bombarded with information.”
“A lot of people get overwhelmed with all the information so that’s actually a good thing for me because then they come to me and say, ‘You know what’s going on, tell me what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing.’ It’s having that relationship with the client.”
Thriving on looking out for clients
She thrives and prides herself on being “an all-round resource point for a lot of clients.” “They’ll ask me things about what they should be doing in their business, or about their mortgage rate, or if they should lend money to a nephew. I’m happy to give them advice.”
Janet says it’s all part of what clients expect and looking out for their best interests. “I’ve learned that clients don’t expect me to know everything. But they expect me to be honest, get them the information if I don’t know it and provide them with really personalized advice.”
And that’s where building relationships with other financial professionals in the Napanee area has been crucial over the years.
“That’s key,” says Janet. “You have to have that with all the centres of influence in your community so you can quickly find information for a client if you need to. I’m lucky I’m from a small community, so I have several lawyers I can refer clients to, as well as accountants.”
Constant education’s crucial
Being on the local hospital foundation board helps in building those necessary professional relationships. You “get to know other members of the community who are in these other areas that I can reach out to, so it’s great.”
As for her own education, Janet is “constantly trying to stay on top of things and see what else I can learn.” She holds her Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®), Chartered Life Underwriter® (CFP®) and Registered Health Underwriter® (RHU®) designations. But “I’m constantly going to seminars and taking new courses because the industry is changing and the markets are changing and are in constant flux. You need to stay on top of everything.”
This year, she has realigned the investment side of her practice, so that has meant even more education. “I’ve just transitioned over to IIROC in this past year and the reason I did that is because I intend to be here for many years to come and that’s the direction I think the industry is headed. I wanted to make sure I was where I wanted to be. To do that, I had to go and get my securities licence. I just felt it’s more education, and more knowledge and more product offerings that I can have for my clients, to take them into the future,” Janet says.
Being the go-to person
It all keeps her busy. Especially because Janet handles all front-end client relations herself. “My team is amazing,” she says. “[But] I never have anyone other than myself deal with clients . . . I have lots of people to do all the paperwork and the administrative side of things, but I do all the client relations myself so I’m fully aware of what’s happening in their situation.”
It goes back to the whole relationship thing — the key to building a successful practice. “It’s fairly simple,” Janet affirms. “You have to show up, you have to do what you say you’re going to do for clients; you have to be available for clients when they need you. This business revolves around emotions. Financial decisions are often made when there’s a huge emotional factor . . . it might not be my scheduled time to talk to a client, but if they call me at six p.m. on a Friday night because they’re really worried about something, I’ll do whatever I can to talk to that client and do whatever I can for them. I think just showing up and meeting their expectations that the client has set out at the beginning is the key.”
Advice for new Advisors
Be that go-to person. Invest the time building those relationships and trust. It’s going to take time and it’s going to be challenging at first. But in the long run, it’s worth it for everyone — client and Advisor alike. That’s her advice for any “younger Advisors who are brand new and just starting out.”
“There’s so much information that’s coming at people through social media and the internet, and robo-advisors; and do-it-yourself. None of that provides the actual trust and relationship factor I think is really valuable,” Janet affirms. “So they really just have to work on that.”
For Advisors, it’s part of doing every day what you have to do to fulfill a brand promise. “The first thing I do every morning is check to see if any clients have emailed or called me,” Janet says. “And those immediately go to the top of the list. I usually respond within two hours unless it’s something I have to get some additional information on. No client will ever contact me and not hear back from me within one full business day. And I think that’s really important, because I work for them.”
Finding balance is a foreign thing
She’s “very much a routine person and I like schedules.” And between running her practice and community involvement, Janet’s calendar is rarely without something booked. Finding balance is a bit foreign to her — the line’s happily blurred.
“I don’t know if I’m great at it,” Janet laughs. “I feel like that unless I leave the country, I’m always sort of working. But I love it, so I don’t feel like it’s work. If a client emails me at 9 p.m. at night, the client’s not expecting me to respond. I know that. But if I know the answer right away and I’m able to respond, I’ll answer right away and I don’t consider that working.”
And “I don’t even know the amount of hours I spend” with the Napanee Crunch Female Hockey Association. Janet has been association president for the past several years. To her, the actual time commitment isn’t the important part.
Getting involved ‘the least I can do’
Both her daughters play hockey, and “I want to make sure not only that it’s the best place for them to play, but also for all the other girls in the community. From when I began, we’ve doubled the number of teams and that’s something I’m passionate about. Because I think being a part of any kind of team sport is huge for young females and young boys. You can develop a lot of life skills being a member of a team. I thought I could definitely give back in that area.”
She’s also the director of the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital Foundation. “I was asked to join because of my financial background . . . at the same time, it’s our local hospital. It’s where I go when I’m sick or when my kids are sick, and I want it to do well and be here for many years to come. So it’s a no-brainer for me to be involved in these things,” Janet says.
Thriving on it all
She adds, “I have the flexibility in this job to set my own hours, so for me to take a couple of hours every few weeks to attend some board meetings, it’s the least I can do.”
Janet thrives on all of it. It’s her definition of success. “I don’t find this work. I really enjoy it. I love my clients. I see no end in sight, that’s for sure.”
She adds, “As long as I’m getting the enjoyment I’ve always had from my job, then I just want to keep doing better and better. I want every single client to have the best experience. And so you can never stop.”
There is one thing she’d like to see. “I would love one day to see one of my daughters take over my business. But time will tell if that happens or not.”
Dean Askin is a B2B and non-profit content writer/consultant with more than three decades of experience in journalism and communications.He’s worked in radio current affairs; written for and edited national trade magazines; and taught journalism.
Dean learned to master the craft of telling powerful stories with words under the guidance of Canada’s master storyteller – the late, great Stuart McLean.
Janet S. Pringle B.Sc., CFP, CLU, RHU
Senior Financial Advisor
The Pringle Team
204 Princess Street