Toronto Finance International's CEO sees five post-pandemic issues to address

We can't go back to the way things were before, warns executive, who believes advisors can help us move forward

Toronto Finance International's CEO sees five post-pandemic issues to address

Jennifer Reynolds, Toronto Finance International’s President and CEO, sees five issues that need to be addressed as the financial world emerges from the pandemic. Some are aimed at the executive suite, but some directly pertain to how advisors aid clients.

“The pandemic has raised the importance of the financial sector in many ways. It played a key role with government in helping get through the initial crisis,” she told WP. “We have a fundamental role to play, but we can’t go back to the way things were before.”

She lauds the technological changes. “We’ve delivered work and services in different ways that we hadn’t done before because we had to to do our business,” she said. “We had to take greater risks to deliver. Now we need to take the learnings coming out of this and make some changes.”

Her first learning is using the pandemic model – where “we faced the pandemic as a global community” – to address climate change. “We’re going to have to address it as global partners,” she said. “Climate change is accelerating, and we have to work together.”

The second is providing support and a long-term strategy to address what happened to women in the pandemic, particularly those in vulnerable sectors, such as health care and service.  “There are pretty scary statistics about women leaving the workforce. They don’t go back, they drop out, and that has long-term effects,” said Reynolds, noting many women are retraining at school. Dropping out not only impacts women’s careers, but weakens the female pipeline into senior leadership. “It’s incumbent on us to work hard to bring women back and keep them on track,” said Reynolds, noting they need both support and a longer-term strategy to create a healthy pipeline. “That’s an important piece of the recovery.”

The third lesson is the importance of addressing diversity issues, which the pandemic turned the spotlight on. “I think there are challenging, but interesting, times ahead. It’s going to take some work,” she said, noting some larger organizations are good at including more women and diversity, but it’s not as prevalent in smaller organizations. She’s encouraging both the government and companies to make changes so employees can see both the leadership and difference. “We have to figure out how to get diversity across the sectors.”

Fourthly, given that the average Ontario small business racked up an estimated $208,000 in debt during the pandemic, she encourages financial advisors to share their networks and expertise to give them the best advice they can as they emerge. “Small businesses don’t have those networks and connections,” she said. “So, let people know where they can go because they’re dealing with issues they’ve never dealt with,” she said. She also encouraged those in finance to be patient as small business repay their debt.

Finally, it’s important to be patient. Things like the Black North initiative don’t change things in a year. “We’re talking long-haul. It’s a marathon,” said Reynolds. “I don’t think the winning strategy is to go back to what you did before. Chances are there’s been an evolution during the pandemic. The world looks different, so how can you change your business? You have to come up with some creative solutions.”