LAURIE PETERKIN, Senior Wealth Advisor, Portfolio Manager CIM, Scotia Wealth Management,Toronto, On
"Clear, Concise, Consistent"
If there’s one thing Laurie Peterkin knows for sure, it’s that the key to success – in work and in life – is to be true to who you are. Know yourself, and the rest will follow.
Laurie is living proof.
Laurie has been in the finance industry for 32 years – all of them with the same firm. Today she is a Senior Wealth Advisor, Portfolio Manager at Peterkin Financial Advisory Group within Scotia Wealth Management. It’s what she does. It’s what she loves. But it’s not, in any definitive way, what she is. It was also, she says, never ever part of her long-term plan.
“I think my story is a little different than the typical Advisor,” says Laurie. “Some say ‘I dreamed of stocks when I was five years old.’ That’s 100 per cent not me. I didn’t even know this business existed until I started working in it!” She found herself in the field of finance by chance. She had a newborn at home, her maternity leave was ending (a whopping four months in those days) and she wanted a job that wouldn’t take away the time and energy she needed to be a new mom.
Her journey began as a receptionist. Her responsibilities were mainly cage-related duties, such as depositing cheques. Then fate intervened. “I had been asked by several Advisors, do you want to work for me as my assistant? I always said no. Then one particular gentleman asked me, and my manager at the time said, just try it out. I did, and the rest is history.” Looking back, Laurie still marvels at how making that one decision set her on the path to where she is today, more than three decades later.
Tapping into her own experiences and always being herself
If chance had something to do with her long career in a field that has always given her great joy, it’s certainly not the only thing. The foundation of Laurie’s practice is built on an understanding of people and a strong empathy for their unique circumstances, built, in a very large part, on her own life experiences. Coming into the financial industry with no prior knowledge – or even much interest – proved to be a blessing. She was a blank slate and, moving forward, she could tap into her personal strengths to create her own vision of what a financial advisor looks like.
The Advisor she had agreed to work with 32 years ago gave her the core knowledge she needed. “He was a phenomenal mentor to me,” she says. “It made me open my eyes to what these businesses are meant to be. What is an Advisor? I really tried to explore that. I got to understand how this all works and how these pieces fall into place. I spent many years trying to figure that out, and at the same time getting my corporate licences, buying my partner’s book, and continuing to grow the business.”
The transition from partner to running the business on her own took place during the financial crisis of 2008. The timing of buying her partner’s book was more educational for Laurie than it was stressful. “It became personal, kind of a challenge to try to understand, not so much the markets, but to understand how we as Advisors can benefit the client in the midst of that uncertainty.”
For Laurie, it boiled down to doing what she’d always done: be herself. That meant drawing on her own personal experiences to help better understand clients and what their hopes, fears, and needs might be. Those life experiences included the sudden passing of family members, dealing with both physical and mental illnesses in those around her and being a caregiver to her parents. Her mother, who has mobility issues, and her father, who struggles with dementia, live with her.
“He was a hard worker,” she says of her father. “He was in the electrical business but had no pension or anything to fall back on, other than what he built. All the pieces started to fall into place and it was, ‘OK, I understand what my responsibility is in this industry.’ It’s to ensure people understand how important it is to save money and manage money. My experiences made me realize that clients have to have an emotional buy-in where money is concerned.”
Building a foundation based on empathy and trust
Laurie and her team – (Investment Associate) Laura Paradiso and (Administrative Assistant) Sarah Halabi – are very good at uncovering that emotional part, to the point where clients reach out for a conversation that often is not related to money. “A lot of the time, people will call us and say, ‘actually, I don’t have a question about money.’ Or I’ll spend time going over their portfolio and they’ll say, ‘great, but I have another question for you…’ I get joy from that. It means we really worked hard to build that foundation.”
That foundation, she tells her clients, cannot be built on quicksand. It takes time, and in each stage more bricks are added to create stability. So three decades in, that solid foundation has led to strong and trusted relationships with clients who, for Laurie and her team, are people first. “What’s the human side of this?” says Laurie. “When we meet, maybe 10 minutes is about their money, and the rest of the conversation is sharing what’s going on in their lives and them asking what’s happening in ours.”
“We are our clients’ pension managers”
Connection is a crucial part of her practice and it’s important that clients also connect with her team’s approach to wealth. “We always tell clients that we essentially become your pension managers. Most clients don’t have pensions because pensions don’t exist like they used to. The way we manage your money, build the portfolios, how we focus on income first, growth second – allows us to be your pension managers.” It’s an approach that ensures clients are fine even when markets drop, because their income cushions the impact and they continue to receive their income streams and live the life they want.
Not everyone agrees with that approach, and that’s ok. “If a client comes to us as a prospect and says, I’m interested in such and such return, I have no problem telling them we’re probably not the team for you,” she says. “I don’t tell them what they want to hear because that doesn’t help us. We have to be honest with clients.”
Consistency and communication are other key tenets of her practice. Regular meetings allow clients to take an active approach in their own wealth, and ensures no clients are caught off guard if the market takes a turn. “We don’t get panic calls. ‘Oh no, the market’s down, what do I do?’ I’ve never had that. Literally, never.”
That consistency also means keeping clients on track towards their goals. Laurie talks about a client who was planning to sell his practice just before 2008. Then the market crashed. “He said, ‘I wasn't sure if I should be doing that right now.’ And I said, of course you should be. We've been planning this for the last two years. It doesn't matter if the markets are down. None of that will matter to you because we're prepared. It meant so much to him.”
Gratitude and joy
Seeing clients succeed in reaching their goals and helping them transition from working to passive income brings Laurie a lot of satisfaction. So does the knowledge that she’s helping clients in areas outside of their finances. Again, it’s having those life experiences herself that enables Laurie to take an almost intuitive approach to her client relationships, to truly listen to people and pick up on it when something doesn’t seem quite right in their tone. “I can’t tell you how many times somebody says to me, did you know you were going to become a therapist? If people are comfortable sharing that part of life with me, it means I’m doing something right.”
Laurie is grateful for the road life has put her on, and all the experiences – good and bad – she’s had along the way. She says she’s fortunate: she’s a woman in an industry that’s never had a large female presence. She will always be thankful to the Advisor who brought her into it 32 years ago. Over the years she built on everything she learned from him, while remaining true to herself and always doing things her own way.
While only about 20 per cent of Financial Advisors are women, Laurie knows the industry has much to offer them, and women have much to offer the industry. This includes the ability to really listen to people and the empathy to understand truly understand them. She also knows firsthand that you don’t have to fit a certain mold to be successful.
“You can come into it knowing nothing and build a successful practice,” she says. “And you can have a ton of joy doing it.”
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.
Laurie J Peterkin, CIM, Senior Wealth Advisor
Peterkin Financial Advisory Group, Scotia Wealth Management
a division of Scotia Capital Inc, Scotia McLeod®
675 Cochrane Drive, Suite 115
Markham, ON L3R 0B8
t: 905-479-8258 c: 905.903-3832