Immigrants have been a boon to those advisors with the language skills and cultural understanding to harness the market, but it’s a two-way street.
Not surprisingly, a number of advisors step up to the plate every day to give back to their communities, donating their time and expertise to worthy charitable causes. Interestingly, they often find they gain much more from the experience than they bestow, including personal satisfaction, lasting friendships, networking opportunities and even unsolicited business.
We talked to five advisors who are active within their respective immigrant communities. These are their stories.
Anita Dalakati, India/China
Anita Dalakati joined Sun Life Financial as an advisor in January 2005. An immigrant herself-she is of Indian descent, but emigrated from China and speaks fluent Mandarin, Hindi and English-Anita doesn’t pursue a niche market, but she is very active in the South East Asian community.
On the first Monday of every month, Anita hosts a talk show on an ethnic radio station, where she answers questions about insurance and financial planning. “There are a lot of differences in insurance in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. I explain the role of insurance and financial planning in Canada.”
Anita is also a member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver-Frasier-view, which is currently focused on mental health and substance abuse issues of South Asian youth in the area. In addition, she sits on the board of the Ethno Business Council of British Columbia, which recognizes the achievements of new Canadian entrepreneurs, and is a charter member of the Canada India Foundation, which seeks to build closer ties between Canada and India.
With pure intentions of giving back to her community, Anita hasn’t seen significant uptick in her business, but concedes she’s probably gained a few clients through her radio show.
She notes, though, that “there’s nothing wrong with being able to grow your business, because the more successful you are, the better you can give back to people.”
Tina Tehranchian, Iran
Originally from Iran, Tina Tehranchian, CFP, a financial advisor and branch manager at Assante Capital Management Ltd., has received many awards for charitable work in her community-from the Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, among others. Tina’s specialization is in advising business owners and this has proved useful in her volunteer work, which includes mentoring newcomers who are struggling with unemployment.
She’s also a member of the planned giving advisory committee for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, fundraises for York Central Hospital, sits on the Board of Seneca College, is a trustee for the McMichael Art Gallery and chairs the Iranian-Canadian Network for Employment and Entrepreneurship Mentoring.
While her involvement in the community has helped her business, the impact is not necessarily monetary. “Yes, along the way there have been some clients,” she says, but more important is the personal satisfaction and the expansion of her network-both personal and professional. “As a financial advisor, you need to have the right resources; you need to have a good network.”
Audrey Chiang, China
Audrey Chiang, a 33-year veteran advisor at Sun Life Financial, joined the Chinese Association of Mississauga in 1998, and has been giving back to the Chinese community, and the community at large, ever since. Her volunteer work has earned her numerous accolades; she was awarded the Chinese Canadian Legend Award by The Asian Business Network Association in 2009, and she was chosen as Sun Life Financial’s Lakeshore region Volunteer of the Year in 2001 and as a finalist in 2009.
Audrey’s first volunteer effort was fundraising for the building of the Yee Hong Geriatric Care Centre. “Some of the older Chinese people do not speak English, and are uncomfortable going to a [nursing] home run by English speakers,” she says. Yee Hong fills that need, providing culturally appropriate services to seniors of different backgrounds.
Since then, the Mississauga Board of Chinese Professionals and Businesses, under Audrey’s leadership, has raised more than $1 million over ten years for various organizations. She focuses on healthcare, but also raises money for the Chinese Cultural Centre, as she believes it’s important to teach the younger generation about their heritage.
Through her volunteer efforts, Audrey has become quite well-known in her community. And though she stresses it wasn’t intentional, some of her biggest clients today sought her out because of her community work. “It’s a win-win situation for all,” she says.
Renee Talavera-Siao, Philippines
“Because I am Filipino, I give back to my community,” says Renee Talavera-Siao, an investment funds advisor with TriMonarch Financial/FundEx Investments Inc. who immigrated to Canada in 1974 with her parents.
As president of Fiesta Assistance and Services, a charitable organization founded in 1995 in association with the Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe, Renee’s main objective is fundraising-to help the poor in the Filipino community, to provide aid in the case of a natural disaster in the Philippines, and to promote Philippine art and culture.
Education is very important to Renee, and so she also helps sponsor a scholarship that’s given annually to a member of the dance troupe who pursues post-secondary education. In addition, every August for the past 13 years, she has invited clients, friends and prospects to join her in a charity golf tournament.
“The money we raise from the golf tournament [is] used to build houses from slums in the Philippines,” she says. “It’s like Habitat for Humanity, but it’s a more holistic approach. It’s not just the house; we also believe in values formation and [sustainability], so we teach them how to [run] a business.”
Renee has also seen her business grow as a result of her charitable work. “It helps build stronger relationships, and because you’re out there in the community, you’re more visible, which makes you referable. They see you.”
Monica Linares, Colombia
Monica Linares immigrated to Canada from Colombia in 2001, and has been a Sun Life Financial advisor since 2005. Putting her South American roots to good use, Monica has built a solid business catering to a niche market; she estimates about 90% of her book comprises Spanish-speaking people.
It’s only fitting, then, that her volunteer work centres around this community. For the Toronto Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Monica serves as a director of education and training, but also organizes seminars and networking events for entrepreneurial new immigrants.
Monica’s also involved with Javerianos en Canada, whose main agenda is to help immigrants find jobs, and founded another group, called Red Hispana de Negocios, to help Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs with networking opportunities. In addition, she organizes a breakfast meeting every month and brings a successful Spanish leader who shows “new immigrants that they [too] can be leaders in the community.”
Her volunteer work has provided Monica with personal satisfaction, but she says she’s also gained some business in the process. “When people like you and trust you, it’s easier to get referrals.” It’s not her intention to drum up business, though; rather she sometimes finds it’s a happy result. “If they come, it’s great. But I do this because I really love to.”