Ex-insurance exec to head Seneca training program

By Mark Noble | January 31, 2007 | Last updated on January 31, 2007
2 min read

Seneca College’s financial services practitioner program is being seen as one of the best hopes for replenishing an aging workforce in financial services. While stakeholders remain committed, Seneca has found filling the classroom challenging. Supporters of the program hope this problem will be remedied by the appointment of Transamerica Canada’s former COO, Karen Gavan, as its new operating director.

Gavan, originally trained as a CA, has spent her entire career in the insurance industry. She says she’s always had a desire to teach what she knows to the next generation of industry professionals, and given the dire need in the industry to find talented people, she thinks the Seneca program is a perfect fit.

“From my history in the insurance industry, I can tell you they desperately need new young people to come up behind,” she said. “That’s why I was very interested in the program. I think it’s an excellent way to bring people in and get them the skill base, which will only help improve the success of the industry as a whole.”

Cutbacks in the number of career sales agents and in training programs — throughout the financial services industry but especially in insurance — have led to a deficit in qualified salespeople that keeps growing as many industry veterans prepare to retire.

This vacuum was Sam Albanese’s original impetus to start the program. He says that while the program has received strong support from the industry, it has proven difficult to put students into the seats.

Albanese believes the program is well positioned for long-term success, though. Seneca has already secured the participation of RBC and Desjardins, both of which will sponsor their own recruits to take the program.

“People are lining up to pick these students up,” says Albanese. “The program has been extremely well received by the industry. But like anything, it takes time to build up. What all parties [need to do] to promote the program is to make sure there are enough bodies coming through the system.”

The program developers plan to continue to actively recruit from their three target groups: those training as the chosen successor to a retiring advisor; university graduates seeking practical experience; and people unhappy with their careers and looking to change directions.

In his opinion, this process will be easier with Gavan. Albanese believes that as a former high-profile executive, she will give considerable credibility to the program’s recruitment and marketing efforts.

Gavan emphasizes in particular the importance for the program to focus on succession planning. Educating salespeople who can take over the business from mentors or parents will be one of her primary goals. “Many advisors don’t have succession plans for their business,” she says. “What’s going to happen with this? If they retire, they can continue to try to run their business part time, but that’s really not an effective way to service your clients.”

Filed by Mark Noble, Advisor.ca, mark.noble@advisor.rogers.com


Mark Noble