Time, a priceless gift
Local woman — recognized with national volunteer award for making finance more inclusive — embodies spirit of season with passion for giving back
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Aimee Palmer took a leap of faith five years ago, selling her small business for a job in finance.
“I wanted to make a bigger impact,” says Palmer, vice-president of sales for Aviso Wealth in Winnipeg, about why she made the seemingly abrupt career change.
Indeed, she found an avenue to make an impact, uncovering a “passion” for helping women and people of diverse backgrounds find careers in the industry — efforts recently recognized by WCM (Women in Capital Markets).
She and colleague June Zimmer — with BMO Private Wealth in Regina — received the Outstanding Volunteer Award for their work on WCM’s Prairies Steering Committee, in which both have spent countless hours mentoring and organizing professional development supporting women and other under-represented demographics.
“She has really put in the extra effort to help support women in the industry,” says Lara Zink, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of WCM in Toronto.
While much progress has been made in the 28 years WCM has been around promoting equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in the largely male-dominated realm of finance, much work is left to be done.
Zink points to WCM data showing only 34 per cent of women in the industry believe they are paid equally with men.
Additionally, a recent report by Mercer found women made up the majority of lower-level positions, while being dramatically under-represented in management roles.
And in executive positions, they still make up only about 15 per cent of the C-suite — despite accounting for half the population.
Representation is often even lower among people of colour, Indigenous peoples, individuals with disabilities and those from the LGBTTQ+ community, WCM research further shows.
Yet the will is there to do better.
“The wind is at our back as more Canadian financial organizations promote inclusion in the workplace,” Zink says, adding WCM’s sponsors include a who’s who of big banks, pension plans and investment companies.
Indeed, Aviso is a key supporter of WCM and longtime promoter of ED&I, which appealed to Palmer. So in March 2020, she took a position with the company in Winnipeg that also allowed her to be closer to family.
Previously, Palmer had worked as a financial adviser for another company, providing insurance products — a kind of protection she understood all too well.
“My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 39,” she says, adding he passed away a few years later. Years later, a close friend battled breast cancer and later died in her early 30s. Both experiences impressed upon her the financial hardships that come from life’s tragic turns.
These events played into her decision to seek a career in the financial industry after running her own business for several years — a Calgary medical spa offering esthetic services such as Botox.
“It just wasn’t my passion anymore,” she adds.
Eventually her career metamorphosis led her to Aviso. The parent company of one of Canada’s largest responsible-investment asset managers NEI Investments, it has been an ideal match for Palmer.
Largely serving credit unions, the company’s focus on boosting equality, diversity and inclusion resonated.
So did the fact Aviso encouraged Palmer to volunteer, mentoring young women and others of diverse backgrounds to come into the industry to make it more reflective of the Canadian population it serves.
Palmer agrees the industry is moving in the right direction, seeking to become more representative.
Yet one challenge has been attracting people of diverse backgrounds — a focus of her volunteer work.
“We are really focusing on high school and university students, getting them familiar with all the opportunities in jobs related to capital markets,” she says. “I show them the great opportunities in finance — that it’s about more than becoming an analyst or accountant.”
One aspect she often highlights is how the investment industry can be a force for change for the better amid a growing focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG).
“I tell them that ESG is about not only making sure companies are profitable, but also fair and sustainable for the future.”
What’s more, she notes, women are leaders in this space.
Indeed, Palmer is an example herself through her work at NEI, helping advisers understand the benefits of its award-winning responsible-investment funds.
That’s not to mention her volunteer work, which is focused on ensuring everyone feels they have an opportunity in the industry.
Yet more broadly, the benefits of volunteering — especially during the holiday season — cannot be overstated, she adds.
Certainly, donating money is worthy too.
“But I truly believe your time is much more impactful,” she says.
What’s more, volunteering is not just of benefit to those you help; it also nourishes the soul, Palmer adds.
“Every time I volunteer, it elevates my spirit — no matter what else is going on in the world.”