JENNIFER KETCHUM, JD, BBA, Wealth Advisor, IG Wealth Management, Ottawa, Ontario
“Protect, Advise, Educate”
Jennifer Ketchum, a Wealth Advisor with IG Wealth Management in Ottawa, is also a lawyer. When people learn this, they might wonder one of two things: Does she put clients on the stand to cross examine them? And does she yell “objection” in the middle of these meetings?
The answer is no. But the skills she acquired in law school, along with a lawyer’s mindset that compels her to dig deeper, be thorough, and think logically, are the same skills that enable Jennifer to help clients achieve their dreams with as little risk as possible.
Using Her Legal Skills to Protect Clients
“When I was a child, I remember saying, ‘I want to go to law school’,” says Jennifer. “That was in the back of my mind – a bucket list goal. The protection, how law can protect clients, that was the thing that really attracted me to law.” Jennifer followed a path that steered her towards law school, but before she got there, the road veered slightly…and took her to finance.
“When I was deciding what to do in my undergrad, my dad helped steer me towards finance,” says Jennifer. “I got a Business Administration degree with a major in finance.” Throughout her undergrad at the University of New Brunswick, she worked at TD Canada Trust, where she found she really liked banking and working with people.
In her last year of her undergraduate studies, she was accepted in an investment program where, under the supervision of Portfolio Managers, students helped manage a small percentage of a large pension fund. That experience taught her a lot about staying the course when it comes to investing, regardless of what’s currently going on in the market. “This experience validated my understanding of the importance of long-term investing, and not being impacted by “market noise”. I’ve come to realize that often people can let their emotions affect investing and they can get carried away with that market noise despite having a long-term investment time horizon. I see myself partially as a ‘behavioural finance coach’ for clients, as well as a financial planning advisor, where I help clients see the big picture and stay the course.”
Just as Jennifer was finishing her final semester, she had the opportunity to move to Calgary to intern at an oil and gas analysis company. She stayed for over three years, working with the top oil & gas analyst in Canada. It was there she learned about forecasting in terms of valuing publicly traded companies and the importance of only making assumptions that make sense and have sound logic behind them. “The gentleman I worked with was so meticulous, with so much integrity in his work. I got a front row seat to how you actually think quite complex things through with integrity – no shortcuts, which is always something that’s been very important to me.” That training would serve her well in her future career as a financial planning advisor.
But first, her path took her to law.
“I knew I wanted to make a change, so I decided now was as good a time as any to apply and see if I could get into law school.” She did. But even as she studied law at the University of Windsor, she kept dipping her toe back into banking and finance, working in Private Banking and RBC retail banking for two summers. She articled as an articling student where she got a wide range of exposure to the different areas of the legal profession, then practiced family law specifically after she was called to the Bar of Ontario.
Jennifer practiced family law for about a year. Then the pandemic hit. And Jennifer, like so many others, found herself with plenty of time to think during lockdowns. What she realized is that law was not where she wanted to be long term, although she loved working with clients.
True, practicing law checked off some of her boxes. “I wanted to be part of something where I’m making a meaningful impact long term for people, ideally coming from a proactive place. Helping advise and protect – just like you do in law – but rather than being in a reactive position, I chose financial planning for the long term as, depending on a person's situation, it’s ideally proactive. As an Advisor you’re able to help build people’s financial futures and help protect them. I absolutely love what I do.”
Protecting, along with advising and educating, are the skills that attracted Jennifer to law in the first place. Today these same skills are the cornerstone of her financial practice at IG, which she joined in early 2021. “Financial planning instantly made sense to me – planning for things as important as retirement, for example, is just a no-brainer. Optimal retirements don’t just happen, they are planned for.”
She’d come full circle.
“I started in finance and ended up in finance. I don’t want to say I took a detour into law.” In hindsight, you could say that going to law school was all part of a bigger roadmap towards what she was really meant to do. And it’s helped make her a better financial planning advisor. “I gained other skills along the way,” says Jennifer. “I see law as an enhancement to what I’m doing now.”
What Jennifer is doing now is comprehensive holistic financial planning. She works with clients to tailor a plan that will lead them to their financial goals at whatever stage they’re at. She’s also insurance licensed. “That was really important to me,” she says. “I didn’t meet with any prospective clients before I got my insurance licence.” She believes that insurance is an important part of prudent planning. “Part of my job is to protect the plan as much as possible, and that can be achieved through insurance when a person is in their accumulation years.”
Using logical worry to mitigate risks
What sets Jennifer apart from other financial planners is her lawyer mindset – a steadfast determination to dig deep into a client’s background and create financial steps based on a tailored approach. Her training as a lawyer taught her to think in a certain way: look for commonalities; patterns of logic in past cases that could be applied to a new case. “Studying law helped me realize that things are often so much more nuanced,” she says. “So I dig a little deeper in every area that has the potential to be a risk or more complicated than people are letting on and could, unbeknownst to them, affect their financial plan.”
Jennifer’s training to think things through logically works well with her own natural tendency to worry. “By nature, I’m a worrier,” she says, “and that’s a good thing in this profession, I think. Though, I think my legal background helped honed this natural tendency and made me use it in ways that make sense instead of asking a general ‘what if’. It’s saying, what’s the risk, then assessing the probability or likelihood of the risks being actualized and providing solutions to clients to help mitigate these risks and further protect their plans.”
Tapping into expertise to get the best results for clients
Jennifer’s not-so-straightforward path to her career brought her many opportunities to learn from others, so she knows that she can do the best for clients by relegating to experts in certain relevant areas – portfolio management, for example. “I believe financial planning is done best under a team approach”. At IG Wealth Management, that means exposing clients to the expertise of the world-class portfolio managers that IG partners with. “I’m a big proponent of managed solutions,” says Jennifer. “I believe, in most cases, that’s the most optimal solution for people because they are well-diversified and being managed by portfolio management experts, with of course, stringent oversight.”
It also means having a client’s accountant or tax lawyer in the room during a meeting, ensuring everyone is on the same page. “Their accountant or lawyer may have some great suggestions. I see great value in that. It simplifies and further protects the client.”
For Jennifer, it all circles back to protecting clients. It’s what set her off on a path to law school all those years ago, and it’s what fulfills her now when she sees clients achieve their goals – thanks to thorough conversations, thoughtful planning, and careful attention to mitigate the risks.
In the end, law has made Jennifer an exceptional Financial Planning Advisor who does the very best for clients. And as any good lawyer will tell you, you can’t argue with evidence.
Janice Tuff is a professional writer and communicator who got her start in radio copywriting.
Three decades later, she continues to draw upon the valuable lessons learned in her radio days: grab your audience’s attention quickly and always tell an engaging tale.
Jennifer Ketchum, JD, BBA
IG Wealth Management Investors Group Financial Services Inc.
2 Gurdwara Road Suite 500
Nepean, Ontario, K2E 1A2
Disclaimer- Insurance products and services distributed through I.G. Insurance Services Inc. Insurance license sponsored by The Canada Life Assurance Company.