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Sowing seeds
Sowing seeds

May 01 2024 / Round the Table Magazine

Sowing seeds

An appreciation for both change and continuity has guided Tancock to business success.

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As a child, Aurora L. Tancock, CFP, FLMI, had to say goodbye to her father as he traveled overseas for months, sometimes even years, from their small town in southern Italy for better employment opportunities. Her family of four immigrated to Thorold, Ontario, Canada, when Tancock was 12, a character-building experience that taught her an important lesson: She could survive change. This experience would guide Tancock through a mid-career shakeup that felt uncertain and disappointing when it happened but put her on a path to financial success and fulfillment. Today, as a 23-year MDRT member, these lessons have positioned her to join the MDRT Executive Committee on September 1 as Secretary.

Early lessons

“Don’t spend as much as you make” was Tancock’s first lesson in financial planning from her father. She recalls overhearing her parents during those early months in Canada quietly celebrating the relief of making their mortgage payment after the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck was finally behind them. Soon after, they funneled extra money into purchasing income-generating rental properties, and Tancock’s father was able to retire at 58. “They had a comfortable retirement,” she said. “It was seeing their hard work, that’s really what was instilled in us the most.”

Following their example, Tancock began working part time at a store as a teenager, and after high school, she accepted a summer filing job with Prudential. What she expected to be a short-term commitment became the springboard for Tancock’s career. As she added administrative responsibilities, her curiosity and love for learning led her to take courses in the Fellow, Life Management Institute program to better understand the insurance and financial services industry. Within three years, she was promoted to office manager and later took on roles that included training other office managers and testing new technology solutions. She continued her studies to better understand the advisors she worked with and became licensed in selling mutual funds.

From admin to advisor

Tancock says she could have seen herself staying in an administrative role for the rest of her career because she really enjoyed the work. However, the uncertainty of multiple company mergers prompted her to take control of her own future. Her years of studying to understand the advisor’s role would give her a fast track to becoming a financial services advisor. “Sometimes you don’t know that the skills you are acquiring in one job will really serve you well for the future,” she said. “It wasn’t just about the administration skills; I was learning about the business as a whole.” Tancock’s resignation from her role on the administrative side was effective on Friday, and she began working as an advisor on Monday.

“It was scary,” she admitted. “It was the first time in my life that I was not on salary. My husband was working in sales for a gas utilities company, and he was also on commission.”

Tancock was leaving behind the security of 25 years in administration and beginning a second career with two teenage sons and impending university costs to save for. With her family-focused mindset, she naturally took a more holistic approach with prospects, doing full fact-finding and providing a written financial plan. However, she found that prospects were more comfortable implementing life or disability insurance than in investing. “With investments, they’re buying you,” she said. “They wanted to see that you were going to last.” Her early approach was to target prospects who had mortgages, because that indicated a need for term insurance. “It started with whatever product I could really see there was a need for,” she said. “Once I did that, it was building the relationship to help them understand what else they needed and looking at all the other aspects: saving for their children’s education, planning for retirement and so on. At the beginning, you do whatever it takes to survive.”

‘MDRT spoken here’

During her first full year as an advisor, Tancock qualified for membership in MDRT, barely meeting the requirement in the last weeks of December 2000. Her first exposure to the association had been an “MDRT spoken here” sign in the Prudential office in 1985 while Ron D. Barbaro of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was MDRT President. The 60-year MDRT member described the slogan as a challenge for members to reach out beyond themselves to the world in pursuit of improvement. It was an acknowledgment of the power of MDRT as a global community of members.

Determined to attend the Annual Meeting in her first year of membership — conveniently in nearby Toronto — Tancock initially felt a bit out of place. “Part of me wondered if I really belonged there, among people who had achieved Court of the Table and Top of the Table,” she said, but she was quickly put at ease. “I remember somebody saying, ‘You’re MDRT. You belong here, and that’s why you’re here — to get you to Court, then Top of the Table.’” Her green badge attracted invitations to shared meals, and it wasn’t long before she was doing the asking. “I left that meeting thinking, I am at the bottom of the totem pole. There’s so much that I can still grow here. And I made a pact that this year, I was not going to make MDRT on my last paycheck.”

During her second Annual Meeting, Tancock volunteered, which led to more interaction with other MDRT members. One member invited her to dinner with his MDRT friends who were producing at higher levels. Over time, Leonard Samson, Cert PFS, FLIA, a 50-year MDRT member from Middlesex, England, UK, mentored Tancock and encouraged her to achieve Court of the Table. When she made it, he was the first person she told, and his reply was simple: “OK, now on to Top of the Table,” which she later reached with his continued support.

Influenced by her involvement with MDRT, Tancock developed ways to work more effectively. She established centers of influence by joining Business Network International, which paired her with a local mortgage broker, an attorney and an investment advisor. They met regularly and referred business to each other. Efforts like this were great for business but challenging for family life, as every additional meeting meant more time away from home. In the beginning, she met with most clients in their homes, and during many weeknights, Tancock headed out to evening appointments after family dinner. MDRT’s Whole Person concept reinforced the importance of living a balanced life, and she began to structure her time around family commitments. She also incorporated community service by joining the local Rotary club and eventually served on the board. Tancock doesn’t strive for perfection but knows that she can have balance over the long term, if not the short term. “There are times when family is priority, and there are times when business is priority,” she explained. “As long as you cover all of them, they don’t necessarily need to be in the same week, in the same month.”

Transitioning focus

Balance became an important aspect of her client work as well. After zeroing in on the family market, Tancock would find out what her clients wanted, identify their financial goals and provide proper recommendations in the form of a written financial plan. She loved unlocking their hopes and dreams in these meetings, and having a role in helping them implement the plan that would make their dreams come true. “I think people are busy,” she said. “When they sit down, you start asking them their goals. Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve actually discussed them together.” Over time, her clients have grown with her, and her focus has shifted to retirement planning and estate planning.

While many of Tancock’s long-term clients are moving into retirement, she isn’t ready to take this journey with them. But she has planned to ensure the continuity of Aurora Tancock Financial Services by partnering with two successors. MDRT Academy graduate Reyam Abdulridha, QAFP, joined the firm in January 2022. Tancock also added Sashia Veerman, CFP, in 2023. Both are first-year MDRT members and will purchase the business over the next five years. They will take over the day-to-day work with the office, allowing Tancock to focus her time on about 50 of her top clients.

This succession plan also enables Tancock to focus on her MDRT commitments. She has nothing but enthusiasm for this next step in her journey. “Being part of the future plans for MDRT — contributing to that — is a huge honor,” she said. “I’m going to continue to learn about this organization. There’s so much to know, to see the depth and breadth of MDRT. As a person, I’ve grown so much with MDRT. I can’t even visualize the growth that I will have in this role.”

A strand that connects through Tancock’s life is the understanding that if she does the right thing for clients, for colleagues, for family and friends, wonderful things start to come within reach. “I sow seeds,” she said, noting that gardening is a hobby that brings her relaxation and joy. “I never know where I’m going to harvest, but I do.”