Charyl Galpin is a woman with a plan. After more than three decades in the financial services sector, the majority spent with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal (BMO) and its brokerage subsidiary, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., the new head of Nesbitt is still thinking about the next step for her career – and the business.
Galpin credits her dozen years on the operations side of the business with helping her to develop skills she finds particularly useful. “When there’s some kind of an issue, because of my operations background, I have a calm and methodical way of thinking my way through,” says Galpin. “What is the situation, and what do we need to be thinking about? And then, what should we do about it?”
That background also became an asset when Galpin was named co-head of Nesbitt in 2011; her experience complemented the sales experience of Richard Mills, her co-head. “It was actually a really good partnership,” says Galpin. “We each, I would say, taught each other things about the business, given what our individual expertise was.”
Part of this collaboration led to a stronger emphasis on financial planning at Nesbitt, including products and better client performance reporting.
Galpin, 54, joined the bank straight out of high school as a teller, having decided to get married instead of pursuing a career in law: her father, who is a lifetime employee of the parent bank, helped Galpin get that start in 1979. She stayed with the bank for seven years, working in a variety of roles before moving into a junior management position as banking services officer, corporate and government banking.
Over the course of her career, Galpin became a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers, received the ICD.D certification from the Toronto-based Institute of Corporate Directors and graduated from the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School.
Working at the bank, Galpin always made it a point to map out her next career move, something made easier by the clearly defined roles and hierarchy characteristic of large banks. And she was clear about her goals and what she needed to reach them. “I’m responsible for managing my career,” Galpin says. “There’s things that I need to do and there’s things that the company can do to help me. It’s really a partnership.”
Always on the lookout for a new challenge, Galpin decided to gain some experience on the brokerage side of the business and joined Burns Fry Ltd. in 1986. (BMO acquired Burns Fry in 1994.) Galpin’s first role at the brokerage was as supervisor of credit control, the department responsible for margin loans.
One major change in the industry since then, she notes, is the shift from a focus on using specific transactions to generate profits to a more diversified approach. “There was lots of interest in what was potentially the hot stock of the moment and could people increase their wealth by trading that stock,” Galpin recalls. “Fast-forward to today, where, really, most clients are taking more of a portfolio approach.”
Despite the consistency of Galpin’s career path, it’s clear she thrives on change. She found the more open architecture of a brokerage, where roles and responsibilities often can be more fluid than at a large bank, both surprising and appealing. She soon realized that the structure allowed employees to pursue their careers in more flexible ways, from the trading desk to human resources. Says Galpin: “The world was your ocean, really, in that respect.”
Part of setting her own career path was being clear about her time with family – something that was not always understood in the male-dominated brokerage world of the past, in which few spouses were employed. Dinnertime with the kids was very important to Galpin and her husband. They would leave their home in Whitby early each morning in order to make it home for dinner with their two sons.
Her own career arc helped Galpin to appreciate the challenges women often face while moving up the ranks and she is committed to fostering recruitment and promotion of women in the financial services sector. Women make up almost 17% of Nesbitt’s 1,300 advisor force across 50 branches in Canada, and Galpin would like to see that number increase, both at BMO and within the sector. “There are more women working in this industry than there were,” says Galpin. “Do we have enough? No.”
Women often are put off by the volatility of a commission-based business, says Galpin. But, she believes, the advisory industry has a lot to offer women, and vice versa, such as flexible hours.
In addition to recruiting more women, Galpin is committed to promoting them at the brokerage and across BMO. “One of the things that we’re focused on is making sure we have more women in leadership positions – across BMO Financial Group, but certainly within Nesbitt,” says Galpin.
Having more women in the brokerage itself also will help Nesbitt serve its clients better, according to Galpin. In the future, women are going to control greater amounts of wealth, whether through inheritance or because more women are establishing themselves professionally and financially, says Galpin, and women are more interested in making their own investment decisions. Adds Galpin: “We need a sales force, or an advisory group, that recognizes the demographic and the diversity that we have in Canada.”
Then, there are the future clients of Nesbitt – younger clients frequently called “millennials,” who want more technology-based communication from their advisors and financial services firms, says Galpin, whether that’s through email or text messages. “We have to be thinking about how we manage a relationship in a digital space,” she says.
Outside of the office, Galpin is an avid quilter and keeps some of her creations at her farm near Belleville, Ont., where she spends her weekends with her husband, Patrick. Galpin’s sons are in their 20s: one is a startup company’s founder in California; the other works at BMO in the private-banking division – a third-generation BMO employee, a point of family pride.
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