‘I shouldn't expect their trust if I haven't done anything to earn it’

IG Wealth Management advisor shares how sensitivity and self-education have helped her forge bonds with Indigenous clients

‘I shouldn't expect their trust if I haven't done anything to earn it’

“I'll never be in their shoes, but I want to know where they're coming from.”

That’s the philosophy that Treena Nault, executive financial consultant at the Nault Group with IG Wealth Management in Manitoba, says she strives to apply consistently in the many relationships she has built with Indigenous clients.

“I think it's mostly about trust and respect,” she told Wealth Professional. “It's not about asking ‘What is your name?’ It's about asking ‘Who are you? Where are you at? Who's your family?’ and being sensitive to what's appropriate. It's something we need to take time for.”

Building a diverse client base through openness

Nault’s history with IG Wealth Management began the same year as her marriage did, in 1992, and both are still going strong. Starting out at IG’s head office, she accumulated substantial experience on the corporate side before joining the field as a financial advisor in 2010. Since then, she has grown her business, and today is in charge of an all-women private wealth management team that serves a diverse client base.

“We get to know our clients on a very personal level,” Nault said. “That enables us to focus on them, really putting their needs first and find out what’s important to them. We’re very holistic in our approach.”

With a personal style and openness to new client relationships, the firm built up its clientele organically over the years through personal introductions. Adopting a philosophy of creating hands-on, long-term relationships, Nault is able to work with people from all walks of life, including single women, gay and lesbian individuals, and Indigenous clients.

“I tell a lot of stories about my own life, and I'm married to a Metis man that was born Metis. So that might have had some influence,” she said. “But I think it's more because people come to us and know we're very open and welcoming.”

In all her client relationships, Nault strives to understand who she’s working with, and appreciates that what’s important to one client might not be as important to the next. With that simple principle in mind, she has cultivated a reputation for trustworthiness, which has been invaluable in her relationships with people from the Indigenous community.

A continuing education on culture

“What I've been told is that there is some level of mistrust of non-Indigenous institutions within the Indigenous community, which isn’t unfounded,” she said. “It's important for me to have some historic and cultural knowledge, and an understanding of what's appropriate when dealing with them.”

Any time she meets new people from a particular group or community, Nault said, she takes the opportunity to educate herself. As part of that effort, she has participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, an interactive tool developed to teach the complicated history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. She also continues to read books on the subject, and attends webinars where speakers shed light on the realities and scars from past injustices that communities struggle with.

“I shouldn't expect their trust if I haven't done anything to earn it,” Nault said.

To help others benefit from her education and personal insight, she also recently volunteered to join the Indigenous Partner in Action team at IG Wealth Management. “It’s a way for me to be involved in some of these areas where I want us to be more inclusive,” Nault said. “I'm very proud to be a part of a company that is so focused on giving back to so many communities.”

Recognizing that different clients view financial success differently, she said that her Indigenous clients put family at the centre of their priorities. Rather than measuring wealth in terms of money necessarily, many of her clients think about looking after their grandchildren, elders, or other relatives. When working with them, Nault widens the scope of her work to consider not just their own plan, but also how they can help others in their extended family and community in the long term.

“Around a month ago, one of my Indigenous clients, who was a residential school survivor, passed away,” she said. “I'm working with his wife right now to establish a charitable giving fund in honour of his memory.”

Tearing down the financial language barrier

As a CFP and RRC holder, Nault is aware of certain financial planning strategies and considerations that may benefit her Indigenous clients. If they work on a reserve, for instance, their income is non-taxable, which means having an RRSP might not be so beneficial for them. But those details, she finds, are transactional and supportive to the real work of helping people achieve their financial goals.

In a written testimonial, two clients shared how she started by listening, asking questions, and allowing trust to blossom in its own time. From there, she broke down the “financial language barrier,” helping them move away from paying life insurance on their mortgage to getting life insurance for themselves. From following a “pay-as-we-go” approach, they eventually found themselves saving and investing to meet their present needs and future goals, which they continue to discuss through open, targeted discussions.

“The clients wrote that testimonial after about nine months of building the relationship, which was actually quite quick,” Nault said. “It's naturally going to take more time to build trust in this community because of where we've come from.”

The initial know-your-client and trust-building phase is natural to all financial advice relationships. But as Nault’s experience shows, some lifelong conversations take more effort to start than others. For advisors who work with Indigenous clients, that means making an honest-to-goodness effort to understand not just their current situation, but how they came to be there.

“The truth about advising Indigenous clients is that I have to take responsibility of understanding their history and lived experience,” Nault said. “Theodore Fontaine, my client who just passed away, wrote a book about his experiences within a residential school. I plan to read it and be better equipped to see through the eyes of the community.”