Most former professional athletes love to tell you about their time in the big leagues. Darrin Shannon is not “most former professional athletes.”

Shannon is a financial advisor and co-owner of D.S.Financial Solutions Inc., which operates under Toronto-based Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada’s umbrella, in Alliston, Ont., north of Toronto. He also played a total of 506 games in the National Hockey League (NHL), divided among the Buffalo Sabres, the Winnipeg Jets and the Phoenix Coyotes, from 1988-98. But Shannon is quick to point out that his 16 years as a financial advisor eclipse his 10-year career in the NHL.

Sure, hockey often is part of the conversations Shannon has with clients and prospects, but they’re the ones who bring up the topic, not him. These days, he’s better known as the coach of the local Ontario Hockey League’s junior team, the Alliston Hornets. “The longer you get away from the NHL, the less of it is about your career,” he says. “Younger people don’t know who the heck you were.”

So, there’s no personal shrine to Shannon’s hockey career in his office – just a painting of hockey legend Gordie Howe and pictures of kids’ hockey and soccer teams that Shannon and his business partner, Sean Moore, have sponsored or coached.

Today, Shannon, age 47, focuses on his book of business – about 300 families and split evenly between investments and insurance, with some clients accounting for both lines of business. His clients range from small-town folks to downtown Toronto business people. Regardless of what type of products Shannon’s clients hold in their portfolios, he makes sure to map out a financial plan that notes where each client is at present and how those clients can reach their goals.

“You need a starting point,” Shannon says. “Along the way, people make good decisions and mistakes, and I try to figure out how we can help [our clients].”

Shannon likes to gather as much information as possible during an initial fact-finding meeting, then plug that data into Sun Life’s software. Once he ascertains where clients are relative to their goals, he charts a path that may include paying off debt and putting money into RRSPs, RESPs or TFSAs and various insurance products. And just like any good hockey team, Shannon has help in the corners from assistants Gaynor McLeary and Pat Morrison.

Shannon likes to have regular followup sessions with each client – usually once a year, depending on his or her availability and priorities.

Most of the time, Shannon invites clients to his office, but, considering most of his clients are within an hour’s drive, he often makes house calls: “I’ve met clients in Tim Hortons or around their kitchen table.”

When Shannon’s professional hockey career ended in 2000 (he spent the final three years in the minors), his father, Don, a veteran of the insurance industry, told Shannon he had the right personality and temperament to become a financial advisor. Don knew the business well, having started off working for Mutual Life of Canada and riding out a couple of corporate mergers to end up working for Toronto-based Clarica Life Insurance Co. and Sun Life.

“I eventually came around to saying, ‘Let’s check into it and find out what it’s all about’,” Shannon says. “Sixteen years later, I’m still doing it. My mom and dad are leaders in my family. I look up to them. My dad thought I could be good at this job and, clearly, that’s part of [why I considered a career in financial services]. It was a good fit.”

Most of Shannon’s prospects are referred to him by longtime clients, but he also gets some clients through his work in the community. “I still try to get out and play hockey,” Shannon says. “I’m out a lot, whether it’s coaching, playing, volunteering or attending community-based events. In the course of meeting and networking with people, I generally run into some people once in awhile who need financial advice.”

Shannon wasn’t a big spender during his playing days, but having a financial advisor in the family didn’t hurt, either. Shannon was intent on not being one of those athletes who blew their earnings on an extravagant and unsustainable lifestyle.

“My dad would take some of my money and put it away for me,” Shannon says of his playing days. “If you’re an athlete, you can live off 5% [of your income] and save the other 95%. Get a budget – a number – and live within it. You don’t have to deprive yourself, but if you can stay consistent within a budget, you’ll have some structure in your life.”

Shannon was able to turn back the clock for a couple of days in October 2016, when he was one of the former Winnipeg Jets players invited to play in the alumni game that took place before the Heritage Classic outdoor game between the modern-day Jets and the Edmonton Oilers. In that game, Shannon played alongside Hall of Fame members such as Teemu Selanne and Dale Hawerchuk, and opposite such greats as Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

“[Playing in that game] was really cool; you could feel the hockey in the air,” he says. “It’s neat to step back into that environment. We had 6,000 people watching us practise – [we were] a bunch of old guys who are out of shape. For 16 years, you get away from it and do your thing. Now, we’re just day-to-day guys. We had reporters coming in to talk to us after the morning skate. It brought back a ton of great memories about Winnipeg and hockey. We loved it.”

Shannon and his wife, Sue, have spent their fair share of time driving to and from hockey, volleyball and soccer games and practices for their three daughters: Kennedy, 19; Ryan, 17; and Alex, 15. The family likes to take a tropical vacation every winter and are partial to the Caribbean.

You won’t catch Shannon sunning himself on the beach from dawn ’til dusk, though. “I’ll go play volleyball or do whatever activities there are,” he says. “Anything that involves a game is good for me.”


Darrin Shannon, a financial advisor and co-owner of D.S.Financial Solutions Inc. in Alliston, Ont., knows a thing or two about advice. As a young professional hockey player, he learned from veterans. Once he became a veteran player himself, he reciprocated by offering advice to rookies. Now, after 16 years as an advisor, Shannon offers the following advice to new advisors:

Always do what is in the best interest of the client. “Assume you are in their position,” he says. “If you would do [something] personally, then you can always feel good about your advice and the job you’re doing.”

Don’t be afraid to hear “no” from your clients and prospective clients. That’s part of both the business and the job, Shannon says. “Continue talking to people and building relationships,” he adds, “because you never know where prospects will come from.”

No matter how long you’ve been on the job, keep learning. “This industry is constantly changing,” Shannon says. “And we, as advisors, need to keep up with the changes so we can add value to clients and show our worth to them.”

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