Investors Group tapped growing local markets
It’s time to buy in.
That’s the investment guru’s advice when it comes to tapping the growing population of foreign-born Canadians.
“English is really a second language in Burnaby today. In the past five years, the immigrant population has increased tremendously in Burnaby, in Richmond, in the Tri-Cities area. As employers, we need to keep pace,” says Bala Naidoo, the affable Regional Director of Investors Group for Burnaby and Coquitlam.
That’s why Naidoo is actively searching out immigrant employees.
“The big advantage in hiring foreign born individuals is their great understanding of the culture and their knowledge of some of the hardships immigrants face. Hiring, training and developing great candidates from these populations is a natural lead in to these market segments.”
Investors Group provides training and development to help people start their own financial planning businesses. Naidoo has had great success tapping into both the local Chinese and Indian immigrant populations by hiring people born in those countries. One recent hire has become a star employee:
“I interviewed her 15 months ago. She was a doctor in China, but it would take her over four years to qualify to practice medicine here, and she decided the barriers to entry were much lower with us. She’s doing phenomenally well. She’s exceeded her targets, and now she’s looking at getting into management. If I had not given her the opportunity, it would have been a real loss for Investors Group. We are using this individual to attract like minded individuals and build a Chinese division within our region. She’s a very hard worker. You know when you give someone an opportunity, the payoff is huge in terms of their commitment, their loyalty, and their dedication,” says Naidoo.
Naidoo, who is originally from South Africa, acknowledges that employers need to go outside their own comfort zones when hiring immigrant employees. “It is hard to understand and build and be patient, and it does take a real focus, otherwise we keep doing what we’ve always done, and that is to keep recruiting people that we feel comfortable with. The big thing for me is to have my leadership team and I come out of our comfort zones and not be scared about trying different things.”
One of the new things Naidoo and his team are trying is a different approach to interviewing immigrant employees. “We had a set interview process at Investors Group. But in other cultures, building the relationship is very important. So instead of the very formal process we’ve used in the past, my team now spends more time getting to know the individual more informally. For example, in Chinese culture, food is an integral part of building relationships, so with a Chinese candidate, maybe we would go for lunch as part of our interview process. Adapting our interview process has been a key learning for us.”
According to Naidoo, the adaptation has to continue after hiring too. “The other thing is spending the time integrating immigrant hires with the existing culture of the office, and taking the time, on an ongoing basis, to make these individuals feel comfortable. We do this by socializing with them, making sure that we spend the time introducing them to their co-workers, and also having forums so that we build better relationships.”
The process of learning to tap into what immigrant employees offer is like Canadians culture’s relationship to “ethnic” cuisines, Naidoo says. “We’re just uncomfortable trying something different. There was a time people didn’t eat sushi. And now it’s become a staple. This is the same thing. I now see the potential. Previously, I did not. I was very apprehensive. Now I see that as a great opportunity for a company like us to increase our client base and to really penetrate this market sector. I keep talking to employers who say the same thing: once they take the leap, they agree: it’s an amazing opportunity. There’s just so much to gain,” Naidoo concludes confidently.