Following an early career in equity markets and investor relations for both public and private corporations, Ellen Covey founded Elevate Financial Strategies to offer strategic options to business owners in the Greater Calgary Area. With services ranging from pension and savings strategies to insurance as a tactical tax tool, Ellen finds the most value in building relationships with her clients “…because business is personal”.
In this edition of Advisor Spotlight, we get to know Ellen, her observations about the industry as well as what makes Elevate Financial Strategies different from the competition.
Where did you grow up?
I’m an Alberta girl through and through – I grew up in central Alberta and have stayed true to my small town roots. When it was time to relocate we chose the town of Cochrane as it is beautiful, close to the mountains and the city, and full of fantastic people.
As a child, what profession did you want to get into?
I always wanted to be a journalist or a travel writer – I love books and find the world tremendously interesting, and left to my own devices I’d visit every country on the planet (and write about it).
What inspired you to become an advisor?
Like many others this was a career pivot – I was a stockbroker in my past life (pre-kids), and then worked in business development, education and not-for-profit sectors. After our move to Cochrane, a serendipitous series of events led me to become an Advisor. Once I got started and realized how powerful and important this work is, I just couldn’t stop 😉.
What do you feel is Elevate Financial Strategies’ greatest competitive advantage?
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I believe our ability to form meaningful, authentic relationships is one of the key things that sets Elevate apart. I named the company partially as a play on my name, but also with the goal of elevating an experience that has sometimes felt intimidating or transactional in the past. Truly caring for people is at the core of everything we do. The joke at Elevate is that we can’t help but fall in love with our clients, and it’s true! We have been blessed to form wonderful friendships with so many of our clients , and it’s been my greatest privilege to both celebrate milestones and client successes, as well as show up during times of tragedy with love, and tangible support.
How do you think the insurance industry has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?
As difficult as this past year has been, I think it brought a much-needed wave of change to the industry. While there has been terrific progress in Fintech from certain sectors and carriers, much of the industry felt like it was stuck in 1984 (what’s a fax??). Moving into a space of flexibility, adapting and innovating to 21st century needs like electronic signatures, streamlined/AI underwriting, higher non-med thresholds, e-applications and online meetings has been transformational for both the Advisor and client experience. We absolutely need human contact, but I believe the overall efficiency is moving in the right direction. Bravo to those carriers and partners who seized the opportunity to create positive change!
How have the ways you do business and interact with your clients changed since the pandemic?
I’m definitely an in-person person, so it was quite a shift to move everything online. I miss the client meetings, the coffees and lunches and organic conversation that evolves from being in the same room, however the shift to online meetings has allowed me to expand our reach beyond just my corner of Alberta. It’s also been helpful for families who work out of the home and can only meet during evenings and weekends – jumping on a quick Zoom on a Saturday morning leaves more free time for everyone, which is a plus. Yet we still try to incorporate the personal touch in our interactions, even if we have to mail out our thank you cards now…
What is one thing you wish more people knew about the insurance industry?
Great question! I wish more people understood what a powerful tool insurance is, both for protecting our income and families during our working years, and as an estate planning tool down the road. This may come as a shock, but Canadians pay a boatload of tax 😉 – savvy planning using insurance as an asset can be a tremendous tool for leaving a legacy of blessing to those you love, and of course is critical during times of tragedy.
What do you think the insurance industry will look like in 10 years?
That’s a tough one! Given the significant change we’ve seen in the last 12 months, I expect to see increased digitization and online accessibility, streamlined processes, and Fintech solutions we haven’t even imagined. Yet the heart of our practices should stay true to the core – educating and empowering clients, demystifying the complex and providing great solutions, and most important of all, using finance and insurance as an opportunity to serve our clients with love. Setting up a great plan is one thing, but walking to the door with a cheque in hand, knowing there is suffering and loss on the other side – that’s quite another. Walking alongside our clients through their darkest days is our greatest privilege, and you can’t digitize that.
If you were writing a book about your career, what would be the Title?
Lol, if I were writing a book I’d have to call it “The Accidental Advisor”. I didn’t ever plan to be an insurance advisor, yet after witnessing the power of the role we can play in improving people’s lives, I am so glad I said yes. I’ve been blessed to work in a variety of careers spanning several industries, and everything I’ve learned to date can be leveraged in this work. I didn’t expect to be running my own firm, but the excitement and freedom of carving my own path, serving people exactly how I’d like to (with as many hugs and exclamation marks as I care to deploy), has been delightfully liberating 😊
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Nothing is wasted. Take every experience, positive or negative, and file it away – learn from the mistakes, figure out what you do (and don’t!) want to do, seek out mentors and generally be a sponge, soaking up everything as you go along. We are always evolving, and healthy leadership is borne from a thousand experiences.
What are some traits that make for a great leader?
I’ve come to value character as much as intelligence – kindness under pressure is more impressive than a fancy degree, and watching a powerful person demonstrate humility by authentically listening to their team, and serving from a heart of gratitude is truly extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a nerd and love a big brain, but a bright leader with a servant heart is the most compelling person of all.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the advisory business today?
Find a cohort of peers and get connected – this industry requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and can feel overwhelming, especially during the early days. Connect with other advisors who share your philosophy and are happy to brainstorm ideas, share resources and best practices and encourage you as you chart your own path to serving clients well in your own unique way.
Ellen’s personal and welcoming approach to servicing clients is certainly what positions Elevate Financial Strategies as a distinctive practice that fosters and prioritizes long-lasting connections.