Kristin Ramlal: Changing the Perceptions in the Financial Industry

Kristin Ramlal | Vice-President of Institutional Sales | Canda Life Institutional Investment
Kristin Ramlal | Vice-President of Institutional Sales | Canda Life Institutional Investment

A veteran of the financial services industry—Kristin Ramlal, Vice-President of Institutional Sales at Canada Life Institutional Investment Solutions—is breaking down barriers in the industry with her passion and persistence.

Kristin was featured in the Top 10 Admired Women in Wealth Management (2022), was awarded by Wealth Professional Canada as a 5-Star Leading Women in Wealth (2021), and by the Knowledge Bureau as a Distinguished Young Advisor (2018). She has been a 2019 Knowledge Bureau Feature Grad, been featured in Winnipeg Free Press, Investment Executive, Wealth Professional Canada, Aspioneer Magazine and on CBC radio.

Kristin also volunteers her time as the Chair of the Society of Real Wealth Managers, an international network of financial professionals who collaborate under the Real Wealth Management framework to enable financial peace of mind, and Membership Chair for the Women in Leadership Employee Resource Group at Canada Life.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief us about your career path as a staunch woman leader up until your current position. What were the challenges that you had to overcome to scale your progress?

Aggressive, persistent, difficult– these are of the gender-biased words I have had to overcome throughout my career. Instead of dwelling on the misconceptions, I’ve decided to gracefully accept that it’s ok to be aggressive with my goals, persistent with overcoming barriers, especially when presented with difficult circumstances.

By the age of 25, I was a mother to two boys under the age of 5, completed my Bachelor Commerce honors degree in actuarial mathematics and finance from the University of Manitoba, had five years of financial services industry experience at two of the six big Canadian banks (Royal Bank and BMO Nesbitt Burns, including a US subsidy, RBC Centura), and completed an actuarial internship at a North American insurance company (Allianz Life) in Minneapolis, MN (USA).

It was not an easy task to juggle all the balls being thrown at me from all angles, and to add to the challenges I often felt discriminated and faced gender biases as a young “teen mom” destined to drop out of university, while being a visible minority and one of the very few women trying to find a path to success in the financial services industry.

At a young age, I was faced with making life-altering decisions independently, continuously managing my time and energy efficiently, while trying to remain balanced and healthy for my boys and me. In hindsight, without taking this untraditional and challenging path, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

Learning these simple, yet ever so hard fundamental life skills early in my adulthood, 100% contributed to where I am today and my ability to give back to my teams, partners, and community. For that, I forever grateful to have been delt these cards.

What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?

My perpetual curiosity and desire to try to understand the why behind everything, keeps me inquisitive, thinking outside of the box, and always ready to level up. As a result, I do not shy away from asking questions, making suggestions, brainstorming new ideas and entertaining different perspectives.

I believe that this has contributed to the success and new growth opportunities, personally and professionally, throughout my career. I’ve learnt that asking the right questions can be just as impactful, if not more, than giving the right answer; this is where growth happens.

While in university, I remember my business professors highlighting the importance of networking, and at the time, although I did my best to network within the business school, I wasn’t quite sure how this “lesson” was going to make an impact on my growth eventually.

Nearly 20 years later, I can honestly say that building a network, personally and professionally, within my university, community, organizations of employment, and the financial services industry at large across Canada, has been one of the biggest contributors to my knowledge, perspective, and growth.

Through networking I landed my first role after graduation, was blessed with finding a mentor and sponsor, have been invited to do public speaking engagements, received nominations and industry accolades and most recently was promoted to a new role within at Canada Life as a result of my individual development plan networking goals and initiatives.

It’s not always about what you know, but who you know. Networking is an investment in YOU and will often provide the greatest growth opportunities possible.

Please share your learning of the business world.

The business world can appear to be complex, but by taking it step-by-step, and learning from the bottom up is ultimately the best way to navigate.

In order to start, I would suggest focusing on a business area that you are passionate about; from there it will become easy to expand your depth of knowledge. This can be accomplished through structured post-secondary educational programs, workplace experience, networking and self-study, to name a few.

It is unrealistic to think that one can learn the business world inside out and backwards, which is why I would suggest creating an individual development plan focused on business awareness and set micro S.M.A.R.T goals that can be accomplished over time. Such as, attending virtual and in-person networking and professional development sessions, keeping up with business news, coffee chats with leaders and peers, and delegating time to self-study. Invest in yourself, as it will pay the greatest return to you over the long run!

What strategies do you implement to promote gender diversity for various leadership positions at your company?

In the financial services industry, there continues to be a gender gap due to the barriers to entry and the growth limitations women face throughout their careers while juggling family commitments and overcoming gender biases preventing and minimizing professional career growth.

As a result, I have made it a personal leadership goal to do my part by mentoring young, and young at heart, women who are interested in growing personally and professionally, but struggle to see a clear path to success.

Throughout each mentorship partnership, I share my best practices, tips and life experiences to help guide my mentee throughout the creation and implementation of their unique individual professional development plans, but also seem to take away as much as I put in. learning from my mentees while being open to reverse mentorship and self-awareness re-discovery.

What values do you incorporate to enhance the work culture of your company?

I value trust, teamwork and communication. I strive to connect and learn from others different perspectives, contribute my time and energy to thought leadership and mentorship, and enjoy collaborating within others in and outside of my organization for the greater good.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your sector? How are you preparing for the change?

Not only are we going through the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer of all time, but we’re also seeing a large volume of skilled professionals retiring. This presents a new opportunity set for the advisor of the future and will present opportunities for new experienced financial professionals to grow with the industry.

In order to be best positioned, in 2019 I become the chair of the Society of Real Wealth Managers, a network of financial professionals with complementary skillsets (tax, bookkeeping, legal, financial planning, portfolio management and estate and insurance) who collaborate within the Real Wealth Management™ framework to enable financial peace of mind of clients, their families, communities and causes important to them.

As a network, we regularly connect to share best practices, discuss real-life case scenarios, analyze trigger events impacting clients today from a 360-degree perspective and brainstorm effective wealth management solutions taking into consideration taxes, fees and inflation for inter-generational wealth sustainability.

Please note that the Real Wealth Management™ framework is exclusively taught via the Knowledge Bureau’s Real Wealth Management™ Program.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for your company?

As a passionate wealth professional, I hope to always be able to contribute to the financial services industry as a financial literacy and Real Wealth Management™ advocate. I strive to be a modern millionaire; helping millions of people achieve financial peace of mind, while doing my part to support and promote opportunities for women to grow within the industry.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders willing to venture into the modern business arena?

What may have been someone else’s paths to success may not be the best route for you. Start with a self-discovery to understand what you are passionate about; this will propel and drive you. From there, explore self-study, networking, and get your toes wet within the industry taking it step-by-step, day-by-day. Never forget to stay true to you and your individual development plan. This is a continuous and evolving road map to your success. What you manifest is what you will have the potential to achieve, so do not hesitate to cease the moment to allow your dreams to become a reality.