Group for women advisors provides camaraderie and empowerment

By Susan Yellin | December 21 2017 07:00AM

Photo: Freepik

When 20-or-so women wearing the blue and gold cardigans of Gryphin Advantage walked into a department store in Grove City, PA in 2010, a saleswoman innocently asked if the women were part of a “team.”

“Yes,” said one of the female financial advisors from the Hamilton, ON-based managing general agency (MGA). “We’re tumblers,” she added cheekily.

But while the answer may have taken aback the saleswoman somewhat, the name stuck and for the last seven years, the ladies of Gryphin have become known as The Tumblers, a women’s-only group that helps to cultivate the Gryphin belief in building relationships and learning.

In the still male-dominated life insurance industry, Gryphin prides itself on being the only MGA in North America (that it knows of) with a group dedicated to helping women financial advisors help themselves.

Léony deGraaf Hastings, an independent financial advisor based in Burlington, ON, was on that first women’s-only shopping trip (plus Gryphin founder Rod Millard).  It was just her initial opportunity to mix only with fellow female advisors.

Talking shop

“It was really the first time that I was able to be around a group of female advisors and have some fun and talk some shop. It was a really good experience,” says deGraaf Hastings, who has held her life licence for 18 years now.

After that trip came Gryphin’s annual conference in Nashville, where the women once again came together. It was then that deGraaf Hastings hit on the idea of holding a monthly meeting with Gryphin’s women financial advisors. 

“We felt a camaraderie where we could ask business questions or have a discussion about a client or something like that and not feel intimidated about what a man’s opinion might be,” explains deGraaf Hastings. “I think it was really just that comfort level of being able to talk shop with other [female] advisors.”

While being around all other advisors is worthwhile, deGraaf Hastings says women advisors have a lot of challenges in the life insurance industry above and beyond their day jobs.

“I think having this extra support from other women who know exactly how you feel is great rather than a male advisor who says: just go out and sell. I find that men are more about the numbers than women who are more about the experience.”

So every Tuesday of the month The Tumblers get together, starting at noon with lunch (paid for by Gryphin) and an open session for any questions or hot topics. The rest of the meeting deals with a pre-arranged topic and a roundtable discussion.

The meetings have never been specific on products – more general business ideas such as the CRM system other advisors use, their best sales techniques, what to look for in an assistant and how to use social media, says deGraaf Hastings. Fellow Tumblers are encouraged to bring their ideas forward – and if not, then take notes and gain something from the meeting. 

“I think there is enough business to go around for all of us. The chances of me and another female advisor winding up at the same client’s kitchen table fighting for a piece of business is pretty rare.”

When deGraaf Hastings tragically lost her daughter in a car accident two years ago, the group almost fell apart. But the group rallied and each member now comes up with a topic for the monthly moving. In doing so, deGraaf Hastings spread around the responsibility for The Tumblers monthly meeting and kept the group going.

Meaningful relationships

Tracy Lennon, a financial advisor with Lennon Financial Services in London, ON, who has helped put together some of the Tumbler trips, characterizes the group as an “empowering system” in a positive environment. “Everyone walks into a meeting happy to see each other, to share; it’s really uplifting and that part I absolutely love.”

Lennon says Gryphin has been generous in footing many of the transportation bills and is a natural part of Millard’s goal of cultivating good relationships among his advisors, both male and female.

“Where Gryphin gets separation from all the other MGAs is the relationships we nurture,” says Millard. “We actively do things on a regular basis to establish that meaningful relationship.”

Millard has taken male advisors to baseball and hockey games and has encouraged them to participate in golf foursomes. So when it was brought to his attention that many of the women weren’t that keen on these activities, he says he raised the idea of a shopping trip to the States. Not only did he rent the bus and go with them, he says he had a fabulous time. He also took The Tumblers skiing one year.

Millard says Gryphin hosts a number of events throughout the year, from barbecues to conferences, most of which Gryphin pays for, for all of his advisors.

“Most MGAs have product, they have comp, they have service and they do it well. But we take it a step further with the relationships we have with our advisors,” says Millard, saying this is a great draw for advisors looking for a change in MGAs.

DeGraaf Hastings says Gryphin allows female wholesalers into the Tumblers group as an extension of the relationship building exercise.

But she says she doesn’t know of a single other group like this in all of North America. “I wish I knew how to bottle this and sell it and present it to everybody else. I think every MGA is falling behind if they don’t have this.”