Ross Allan is like most seasoned insurance advisors. Entering the business in 1984, he built his practice the old-fashioned way, by slowly nurturing relationships over time. A long-time resident of Bowen Island, just a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, Allan has become a go-to insurance guy in this close-knit and affluent community.
His office is in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown neighbourhood, to which he commutes by boat for half of the year. He started out serving the insurance planning needs of a broad demographic. But today the ideal client of Allan Financial is a member of the “mass affluent” — high-income earners in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. These clients have substantial investable assets, but also significant amounts of personal debt. Allan calls them the “high debt worth,” as their primary insurance needs are for income replacement and debt protection. The firm processed more than 200 high-end insurance applications in 2016.
While managing a thriving business, Ross Allan desired more. In the past decade, his staff grew from four to 12 people who are mostly Millennial women. He wanted a firm that not only fully explored but also embraced fresh concepts.“The future of this firm cannot be my 56-year-old ideas,” Allan says of his Boomer demographic. “For the firm to really grow for the next 30 years, we need to be ready to compete with the new reality.”
For Allan Financial, the new reality means creating more meaningful social engagement. But what does meaningful engagement even look like?
Enter Allan’s daughter Danielle, who represents the next generation of the firm. As finance director, she has occupied every seat in the firm since she began working in the family business eight years ago — except for her father’s. Danielle is currently two years into a 10-year transition plan, and Allan knows he’s fortunate to have a capable, educated successor who is keen to take the reins one day.
Danielle first brought the idea of the Kiva Project to her father (or “Ross-Dad,” as she calls him at the office) in 2014. Kiva is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco that offers “micro-loans” to borrowers in developing countries to start or scale their small businesses. Danielle was intrigued after seeing friends share on social media about their experience lending with Kiva. They immediately see the impact of their loans.
While organizing a corporate retreat in San Francisco, Danielle suggested they visit the Kiva office. “In the end, the whole team went and had a great meeting with Kiva’s director of marketing,” she says.
Back in Vancouver, Danielle and the team began organizing the Allan Financial Kiva Project. They set a goal to raise and lend $250,000 to women entrepreneurs within 18 months by training the firm’s staff to pitch clients and suppliers. Teams of two or three staff were assigned geographic regions (East Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Central America) and competed to raise money for loans in their regions. Today, they have raised more than $460,000. The initial amounts loaned out were repaid within the first 12 months.