While many advisors get into their careers for the flexibility, it’s not easy to take parental leave; at least, not in the traditional sense. Many are business owners, who cannot sever ties – even temporarily – when baby comes.
“At no point did I shut the door and leave for a year,” says Jessica Chard. The mother of three is a senior wealth advisor and associate director of wealth management for ScotiaMcLeod in Oakville, Ont., who took her first of three maternity leaves ten years ago. “ScotiaMcLeod set me up with a full home office when I went on leave. It was not [expected], but I really wanted to stay connected to the business.”
Chard says the nature of her business allowed her a different kind of flexibility. By building a capable team at work and having a support network at home, she was able to downshift and work from home while looking after her infants.
“I never felt I was being pulled back to the office,” says Chard. “But I wanted to know what was going on with my clients. I had to relinquish some control, and commit myself to work evenings after the kids were in bed.” Chard had to learn to rely on colleagues’ help to understand the nuances of client relationships while she was on leave, checking in weekly after first, and then daily after a few weeks.
Chard says she didn’t go into her maternity leaves knowing exactly how long she would stay away from the office in the formal sense, which may have caused undue stress for her colleagues.
“The first step would be to go to your manager and say, ‘This is what I want my maternity leave to look like and here’s how you can facilitate this,’” says Chard.
She also advises communicating with clients before the leave to make sure they feel looked after, and that they know who to contact in your absence.
That’s what Rebecca Broadley has done with her clients. A financial planner with BMO in Calgary, Broadley spent the last half of 2011 training a junior advisor to take over her client files while she is absent, while at the same time making sure clients are comfortable with her leave.
“I’ve been having face-to-face reviews with each of my clients, reviewing financial plans and introducing them to my colleagues,” says Broadley. “I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring my clients know they can get in contact with me if necessary. It’s my first baby, so it’s hard to say, but I feel like I will be checking my e-mail at least once a day.”
Although she feels confident her clients are in good hands, she was not comfortable taking a full year of leave. “I’m planning to take the first nine months of 2012, and my husband is going to take the remaining portion at the end,” says Broadley.
Broadley is not the only one in the industry looking toward less-traditional parenting arrangements.
Kristine Douglas, owner of The Douglas Team at Investment Planning Counsel in Oakville, Ont., was back in her chair three days following the birth of her first child nine years ago.
“My husband took the leave,” says Douglas. “We knew, quite simply, that we wanted flexibility in life, and we wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t created my business and my practice to give us that.”
After a couple of years of working with various childcare arrangements, and the birth of baby number two, Douglas and her spouse – who’s also a licensed financial planner — decided he would be the one to stay home indefinitely with the girls, now six and nine.
“If he was working full-time, he would have a strict holiday schedule, and more of an eight-to-six job,” says Douglas. “For us, it was a no-brainer. Once the girls are in middle school or high school, he may look to his career, but for now, it’s a wonderful gift.”