This year’s trailblazers

Wealth Professional Canada recognizes the Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth who have excelled and delivered for their clients over the past 12 months. 

Not only are they accomplished top financial advisors, but are contributing to the industry as mentors and community role models, and changing the dynamic for the better. 

Industry expert Helen Hurlbut, CFO at Equiton, says, “As a woman working in the Canadian wealth industry, I admire the achievements of my female peers in the face of organizational and career obstacles. Despite the challenges we all encounter, it is truly remarkable to witness their progress and success.” 

 

Sheena Schreiner

“Most of our new business comes from existing client introductions. They are our biggest advocates and the biggest compliment we can receive if someone is that confident in us that they’re willing to introduce their close friends or family”

Sheena SchreinerCresco Wealth Management,

Wellington-Altus Private Wealth

 

Fellow industry figure Jennifer Hochstein, associate vice president, Western Region at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, adds, “Women of influence are those taking action and leading. Through actions, we create change and inspire others. For women in any industry, it’s a huge feat to ‘make it’ because of a variety of factors. Specifically in wealth, we are entrepreneurial in nature, and nothing is done without some form of sacrifice.” 

 

Top female financial advisors make client connections 

One winner, Sheena Schreiner of Cresco Wealth Management, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, has used her gender advantageously despite being in the minority.

“There’s only about 15 percent of women advisors in this industry. I don’t look at it as a negative or a pitfall. I look at it as a strength and use that when trying to work with our clients and to generate introductions and new business.”

Schreiner sets herself apart with her ability to build rapport, particularly with female clients who she doesn’t specifically target but is passionate about supporting.

“Our clients are families and sometimes there would be one that’s more involved and it can typically be the man. I make sure that we are including the women, so they have a good understanding of the person and the team that’s looking after these things for them.” 

Due to this approach, Schreiner’s clients aren’t blinded in the case of divorce or death.

“If an event like that were to happen, then they are comfortable with me as the person that’s looking after this for them. If we can get in front of that before something happens, it’s one less thing to think about,” she adds. 

 

Heather Holjevac

“You will always succeed doing what you love and doing the right thing. That’s why I’ve evolved into fee-for-service planning because it really focuses on the person’s situation”

Heather HoljevacHoljevac Financial Group

 

This is an initiative that fellow winner Heather Holjevac can relate to in running her firm, Holjevac Financial Group. She joined the industry over 30 years ago because of the experience of her mother’s divorce. 

“She was very frustrated with the lack of understanding of her situation. Back then, men were the ones that dealt with the finances. I thought there was a gap in the industry and that’s why I started to help women understand their specific situations,” she says. 

While this was Holjevac’s motivation to join, she has relied on empathy to flourish. 

“My focus is really on listening to people and understanding what their specific situations are and figuring out solutions that match, instead of looking at a cookie-cutter kind of solution.” 

This is aided by Holjevac’s professional designations, which include:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

     

  • Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)

     

  • Elder Planning Counsellor (EPC)

     

“I draw on personal experiences and the experiences of my clients to build a repertoire of solutions,” Holjevac explains. “This industry is about the money and how you can help people generate wealth, but I find that for a lot of women clients, they want someone who understand them and what’s important to them.”

Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth 2023

Also using her innate abilities to drive forward is another winner, Sue Derlago, partner at MLD Wealth Management Group at CG Wealth Management, who holds the designations:

“There’s still such a small number of women in senior advisory roles. Women like myself have a different approach when working with clients and we get them to really open up, more than they might with a male advisor. That’s allowed us to build really deep relationships across families.” 

Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth 2023

Proving the point, Derlago deals with three generations of families, which she attributes to being adept in building a high level of confidence in her abilities. 

“A lot of my conversations really focus on that as opposed to the metrics of the market and that’s really helped fuel a lot of our growth and build those multigenerational relationships.” 

Another way that Derlago engages with clients is not overburdening them with financial jargon.

“The ability to talk to people comes easily to me, but actively listening to what people are trying to share is critical,” she explains. “In our industry, there’s a lot of bright people and often we’re so focused on wanting to share that knowledge that it might come at the expense of truly listening to what our clients are telling us. I ensure that I hear what they are saying.”

Like her fellow winners, Derlago actively engages everyone even if they are not the primary contact. 

“We always find when we’re working with couples, there’s often one spouse who may be running point day to day. If that’s the female partner or not, we want to make sure that they feel comfortable with us, that they do understand the high level because at the end of the day, they may find themselves in a position where they have to manage all of this.” 

 

Sue Derlago

“In this industry there’s a lot of shiny spoons to easily take you off course as you are spinning a lot of plates. I have documented intentional processes in place to make sure we’re not going to drop any”

Sue DerlagoMLD Wealth Management Group at CG Wealth Management

Providing support 

The previous 12 months have been a difficult time for the top female financial advisors in Canada. Markets have been inconsistent and world events have caused uncertainty. However, WPC’s Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth have responded. 

Derlago says, “It’s been challenging to proactively communicate with our clients in terms that are meaningful to them. One of the things that that I’ve really been trying to improve more over this last 12 months is being able to take market events and put them into relatable terms and how they impact a specific client situation.” 

That has seen Derlago rerunning income plans based on a sustained market downturn to reassure clients that they are still on course. 

“You have to bring communication into terms that people can relate to.” 

Schreiner, who holds the CIM designation, is similarly providing reassurance to her clients. Some have been reactive to current economic conditions. 

“It’s really been making sure that I really keep our clients focused on the long term and not falling into some of those behavioural traps and keeping them focused on what the end goal is.” 

She continues, “And remembering that none of us has that crystal ball but we have a process and we trust the process, and the further back we look in history, the further forward we can see.” 

This same issue has impacted Holjevac, as her deep personal links to clients have seen worries shared about children affording homes or retirement. Due to her extensive experience, she can offer guidance. 

“The key for my clients is really the feeling of security, of knowing they’re going to be OK,” Holjevac comments. “So, for me it’s drawing on other clients and giving them comfort that I’ve worked with someone like that before and that it ended up OK.”

Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth 2023

Mentors and community role models

Not only does Holjevac have plans to expand her business due to demand, it’s also partly for her client’s wellbeing. 

“You need to be prepared as a business owner to make sure that your clients are taken care of if something happens to you,” she says. “I love the fact that I can help people and make a difference in people’s lives and that’s really what keeps me going.” 

Fellow winner Alynn Godfroy, who runs her own firm Godfroy Financial, is equally passionate about giving back socially. Not only does she sit on the board for Community Living Windsor and for the Lakeview Montessori school, but has a partnership with the libraries in Windsor and Essex County to offer:

In addition, a Grade 11 student is being mentored in her office. Godfroy says, “She would like to work in the accounting field or become a financial advisor and is learning the day-to-day operations of a financial planning business. She has been with me less than two months but is able to prepare tax returns, do a cash flow plan and a retirement plan.”

Going beyond her day to day is also something Derlago has homed in on. She takes part in a program with her alma mater, the University of Calgary, by talking to third- and fourth-year finance students. 

“When you’re a young person you don’t even understand how many options may be out there. I’ve really enjoyed participating and made myself available to give these young people a better understanding, whether it’s young women in particular, of what roles in wealth management look like.” 

Some of those students have also been invited to spend a day in Derlago’s office, to shadow her and see a top financial advisor in action. 

Taking time out to mentor younger colleagues is also a passion for Schreiner. In addition, she takes an active role in The Brenda Strafford Foundation, including doing a presentation to hundreds of women about raising funds for the Heart Home Network. 

“It’s a shelter for women and their children escaping domestic violence, which provides them with a longer-term situation care where they can rebuild, get reestablished and be back out on their own.” 

Then, her team has also raised funds for the Rec at Home program. 

“It helps elderly people get more involved through activities over things like Zoom, where they can connect with other people in their community, and we’ve helped through things like golf tournaments and silent auctions.”

 

Alynn Godfroy

“It is my goal that every time I meet with a client or prospect that they are learning and becoming more financially literate. I think we all need to do this as advisors”

Alynn GodfroyGodfroy Financial


 

 

Insights

As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter experts below for an independent analysis of this report and its findings.

  • Helen Hurlbut


    Helen Hurlbut

    Chief Financial Officer

    Equiton

  • Jennifer Hochstein, MA


    Jennifer Hochstein, MA 

    Associate Vice-President, Western Region

    Wellington-Altus Private Wealth

  • Tanya Wilson


    Tanya Wilson

    Senior Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager

    Wellington-Altus Private Wealth

 

In July, Wealth Professional Canada invited wealth professionals from across the country to nominate their most exceptional female leaders for the third annual Leading Women in Wealth list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with, or in some way impacted the financial services industry, and to have demonstrated a clear passion for financial services. 

Nominators were asked to provide details of their nominee’s achievements and initiatives over the past 12 months, including specific examples of their professional accomplishments and contributions to the industry as a whole. 

The WPC team reviewed all nominations, examining how each individual had made a meaningful contribution to the industry, to narrow down the list to the Top 50 Leading Women in Wealth. 

This report is proudly supported by the Canadian Association of Alternative Strategies & Assets (CAASA).

 

CAASA

About the supporting association

CAASA is Canada’s largest association representing the country’s alternative investment industry. The Association has more than 370 members, including alternative investment managers, pension plans, foundations, endowments, family offices, and service providers. Its membership and activities span all alternatives from hedge funds and venture capital to real estate and cryptocurrencies.  

Founded in 2018, CAASA’s mission is to bring Canada to the world and the world to Canada by promoting information sharing, networking, and collaborative initiatives between its members and the industry at large.  

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