The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Full Circle” as a “…series of developments that lead back to the original source, position, or situation…” For Craig McDonald, “Full Circle” means “Coming Home.” Craig had no idea that his family had strong historical connections to the area when he recently made a 15- year commitment to develop IG’s Newfoundland and Labrador regions.
His new position required that he relocate to Newfoundland. “When my wife, Lee Ann, and I, relocated here, we learned that my grandfather’s grandparents are buried fifteen minutes away from where we now live in Conception Bay South,” Craig says.
“I knew my grandfather, Jack Haley, was from Little Bay. While I was sitting in a local hotel in Corner Brook, leafing through a magazine article about emigration, I learned that many people, including my grandfather, emigrated from Newfoundland, to Nova Scotia around the turn of the century; my grandfather emigrated to Glace Bay in 1901.”
“The connections don’t stop there. I also learned that John Bernard Croak, another Newfoundlander from Little Bay, received the Victoria Cross for his service in WWI. Only two Newfoundlanders received this award; Croak’s father married my great grandmother.”
In 2017, Craig’s daughter, Holly, was preparing for a grade 12 school trip to Vimy, France. “While researching her trip we found the gravesite of my paternal great grandfather and learned that he too was from Glace Bay.” Craig’s father had a 37- year military career and Craig was born near Vimy Ridge while his father was stationed there. “History came alive for us all through the discovery of all of these intensely personal connections.”
The day after high school graduation Craig’s father was transferred to St. John’s, Newfoundland. “I worked as a file clerk for a local insurance company in the summer before returning to Nova Scotia to attend university.”
For 10 years after university, Craig worked for two IT companies in London, Ontario. He returned to Nova Scotia to continue his career and to start a family. “When I lost my IT job, the first person I talked to was my IG consultant. He reassured me that everything was going to be ok. He said, ‘Let’s put a plan together. You’ve got the next two years to decide what you want to do.’ He also suggested that I consider a financial services career. That was thirteen years ago!” he adds with a smile.
Craig became a Financial Consultant in 2007 right before the financial markets crashed. In those early days, he only had a short list of clients. One panicked and sold everything. The other treated the correction as a buying opportunity and is much wealthier today. Two years into his new career Craig became a Division Director and worked his way up to representing Atlantic Canada for all Directors. He has been the Regional Director since 2011.
Philosophy & Approach
Craig’s credits his mom for shaping his philosophy on how to be successful in business and in life. “Mom loved doing puzzles. She always started at the corners, then she framed up the edges, then she sorted the pieces by colours. An important part of her process, was having the picture on the box in clear view. Part of the fun was taking the grandkids over and having them put the puzzle together. Dad taught me that hard work pays off,” Craig adds.
“As Financial Consultants, we start with clients’ financial corner pieces. However, because many Consultants are just blue-skying, they often don’t have a clear picture of what the completed puzzle looks like or if there are any missing pieces. The clearer the picture, the easier it is to start framing it up,” he explains.
Craig has found that most people don’t understand the six pillars of financial planning - cash flow management, tax planning, retirement planning, risk minimization, estate planning and investment planning. “Although we are known for Investment planning that really is the last thing we do.”
“When I started, I found that some Financial Consultants were not looking at all six areas which meant there were gaps in their planning puzzle. By putting everything in writing, we can identify the gaps and create a detailed picture. Today, we have the tools that allow us to do this. It’s not about selling. It’s about educating, entertaining, and celebrating. Clients are hungry for information that helps them make sense of their financial lives in a 24/7 news world.”
Perseverance is also key. “I am a cancer survivor. Life can be hard. How someone reacts to life’s ups and downs defines who you are. And, if you’re not having fun, change what you’re doing. Life’s too short not to enjoy yourself,“ Craig adds.
Craig’s colleague, Stephen Pittman, CFP®, Wealth Planning Specialist, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Investors Group Securities, says, “A true leader needs to be many things in the new business environment…perspective of those within their sphere of influence and then offer support and guidance to grow their business in a sustainable way…Craig consistently delivers on these essential attributes and the results are evident in the top national performance standings his Newfoundland region enjoys today. All of this is built on a foundation of family commitment…As a member of the leadership team for which Craig McDonald is the Regional Director, it is a pleasure and an honour to work so closely with someone that brings this to the team every day.”
Up Close & Personal
Craig has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from St. Francis Xavier University (concentration on marketing and information systems). “I grew up in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. None of my friends wanted to go to St. FX. That’s why I chose it,” he says. “When I arrived in Antigonish, I didn’t know a soul. When I graduated four years later, I was Life Officer as president of the class of ’84.”
Craig has been married to Lee Ann for thirty years. “We celebrated our 25th anniversary in NY city. I arranged a surprise visit to the top of the Rockefeller Center at midnight. I had a diamond in my pocket and planned to ask her to marry me again. The only problem was the elevators closed at 11:30. Somehow, I managed to talk my way through security. Thankfully, she said ‘Yes.’ She’s my rock, I couldn’t have started this new journey without her.”
Daughter Holly, 20, is currently enrolled at St. Mary’s University and is pursuing a French degree. She is also Nova Scotia’s current reigning boxing champion and just spent a week Boston, where she trained with Dickie Eklund, the half-brother and former trainer of former World Champion, Micky Ward. She represented Nova Scotia in the Canadian National Boxing Championship in Victoria. “I was there for the full week of activities. Life is short. I don’t want to miss milestones in any of our kids’ lives.” Recently, Holly went to Montreal for the Olympic trials. Our son, Thomas, 24, just completed his Electrical Red Seal. It was a long four years but he has proven he has the same perseverance that runs in our family.”
Craig has actively volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society, Diabetes Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Children’s Wish, Heart and Stroke and the Alzheimer’s Society as well as supporting the local Food Banks and local supporting agencies.
Craig believes the industry needs to change and adapt so Financial Consultants are not chasing the almighty buck, which allows them to just focus on their fiduciary duty and helping people. “We are in the business of taking care of people. No one wants to be in the position that you could have made things better, but didn’t.”
He has big plans for the future. “We are in growth mode in Newfoundland which is very exciting. I also plan to organize and host many educational sessions on what we do and how our work impacts people’s lives. With an aging population this has never been more important.”
Craig continues to have a passion for his work, his team, clients, and the community he serves. “It just took 38 years for me to Come Home.”
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 Category
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Investors Group Financial Services Inc.
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