'We attract people similar to ourselves so self-awareness points you to where you should be marketing'
Kelvin Rampersad was working at a record store in his hometown of Montreal when his uncle, then Dean of Foreign Students at the University of Guelph, encouraged him to apply for a three-year position as a math teacher in Nigeria. Though the money was right and, given his family connections, he was all but guaranteed the job, finding out about the strict code of conduct for the teachers — “They told me I’d be living in a compound and there’d be no drinking and carrying on, and back then I liked drinking and carrying on,” Rampersad laughs — changed his mind.
A newcomer to Toronto, Rampersad needed a job and he needed one fast. So he answered a newspaper ad looking for people to sell life insurance and to be honest, he wasn’t so sure about it at first.
“They took us cold calling, door knocking, evening calling and I didn’t know if I was cut out for it,” Rampersad recalls of his start in 1988. “But I carried on, and that’s where I learned how to get clients and build a business. They always said to us, teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime, give them one fish and you feed them for a day. That stuck with me.”
A financial advisor at Carte Wealth since 2013, Rampersad says social media is the new door-to-door and though it may be more advanced, it’s the same concept. Being rejected, hearing no, and learning how to keep pushing forward are fundamental lessons, even if at first it’s just to keep your head above water: that first job was all commission-based, and more than once Rampersad asked himself what he had done and questioned if he should move back to Montreal, but he kept at it — and he’s so happy he did.
Rampersad quickly discovered a natural talent for helping others, relishing the opportunity to advise clients on how to achieve their life and money goals, and the best part of what he does is seeing long-term clients who he’s known for decades see the fruits of their collective labour. Through planning, strategizing, market ups and downs, moments when they were angry with him and other times when they were thrilled, he has the great privilege of watching them retire in comfort, with not one financial worry, and in a position to leave a legacy for their children.
The industry has gone through many changes since Rampersad answered that ad in the paper, especially in the last five years, but again he harkens back to advice he received years ago on how to build your practice: know who you are and exploit it.
“I find clients will have the same mentality and disposition as you, because we tend to attract people like ourselves,” he says. “Know who you are and that gives you a clue into where you should be marketing.”
In the last 45 years there have been four bad periods and last year was one of them. Rampersad relied on his experience from those previous difficult times to carry him through 2022. Starting in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, Rampersad ramped up client communication. He went from seeing clients once or twice a year unless they reached out for something, to calling everyone with regular updates. Then he started calling every quarter not just to discuss their finances, but to find out about their health, how their family was doing, and how everyone was dealing with the various lockdowns. They all appreciated those calls, most needing somebody to talk to outside their families, and it helped solidify Rampersad’s relationships with his clients. By showing he cared about them as people, it took him further in what he does for a living.
Going forward, “I’ll do more of the same and maybe do more,” Rampersad says, adding his focus is managing client expectations. What are they looking for? What bugs them? How do they feel if they make 7% or lose 7%? He doesn’t reinvent the wheel, “I just add my spoke and move on,” he says, adding a large part of his success is the team he has around him.
“Everyone has goals and plans, and you need many people in our world to get clients to where they want to go — it’s not just me. We really do make a difference in people’s lives. Our industry is changing for the better overall, and the best is yet to come.”
The best advice he can give anybody, and the advice he lives by himself, is that we only live once. Markets rise and fall, issues crop up both personally and financially, and all anybody can do is manage it — and of course, a little planning ahead doesn’t hurt.
“Save for a rainy day and enjoy your life,” Rampersad says. “And everything else sorts itself out.”