Community and Collaboration: Westoba’s New Manager of Financial Planning is Committed to Finding Individualized Advice
Whether you’re saving for your kids’ education, preparing for your own retirement, looking into succession planning, or simply want to be sure that you’re making safe investments for your future, a financial advisor can help. But, as Rhonda Oakden, CHS, QAFP™, Westoba Financial Solutions Ltd’s new manager explains, the role of a financial advisor is more multifaceted than you might think.
A wearer of many hats – sounding board, champion, and collaborator – Rhonda and her “small but mighty” team of financial advisors come to their roles as proponents for the community who are dedicated to helping guide their members through whatever stage of their financial life they’re in, from teenagers excited to start investing to couples ready to retire.
It’s in offering and providing the sense of security and reduction in the stress and anxiety that can come with navigating your financial health that Rhonda and her team really make the difference.
“It’s being a sounding board for the members, to walk them through a scenario or a problem and offer solutions,” she explained. “I think that’s where my team and the entire Westoba team really shine, because it’s not a product, it’s the relationship and the advice that we’re providing.”
Rhonda grew up on a mixed grain and cattle farm northeast of Virden. She and her two older sisters pitched in on farming duties. At the end of the day, sitting around the dinner table, Rhonda and her sisters were included in family discussions about the future of the farm, their parents ensuring that each of the girls’ voices was heard. This included being privy to financial conversations, “whether that was sitting on the floor at the credit union when they did their financing for the year or talking to their lender or banker.”
This openness around finances, planning, and the farming business led to Rhonda pursuing her diploma in Agribusiness at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon. “I recognized that the skills I had acquired growing up on the farm and in college could be transferrable into my financial planning career,” she said. She partnered with a financial advisor and started as an administrative assistant, working her way up to financial planner.
It was the team-centred attitude to the work promoted by her mentors in those early years that has informed the way that Rhonda approaches her role today. “I think over those years it gave me insight and appreciation into how each team member plays such a vital role in the members’ overall experience at an institution,” she explained. “Not just the financial planner conversation but everybody from first-impression staff right through that has an impact.”
Rhonda and her team work with a host of different members, from younger investors to families, farmers, and seniors. They offer solutions that range from mutual funds to term deposits and offer advice on investments, education or retirement savings, and succession planning. The solutions they offer are just a part of the relationship building that’s so important to Rhonda and her team. “When an individual or a business or a farming family is going through that process of succession planning, we’re just another professional team member they can rely on,” she explained. “We’re no different than their lawyer if they’re drafting up buy-sell agreements, or their accountant if they’re doing complex tax planning. We’re all hoping to achieve the same thing, and we may view it through a different lens.”
It is truly the connection with people and her community that is the most important to Rhonda, which makes her such a good fit. Westoba Credit Union has strong roots in the community – they just celebrated their 57th birthday – which has made them a leader and grassroots credit union in western Manitoba. Collaborating with other managers and executives, working with team members who are genuinely excited about what they do, and ensuring that members understand their options are testaments to their commitment to finding individualized, rather than cookie cutter, financial solutions.
“The financial planning process can seem overwhelming and intimidating,” Rhonda explained. “You often get this checklist of what you need to bring in and are then given a financial plan, but our role is to take things a little slower and help people through the process so that they fully understand and that they’re engaged in what we’re trying to achieve. You don’t ever want to gridlock someone into something that might not fit.”
“We can help take some of those pressures off so that you can devote the time and energy to what you need to do and focus on what’s important to you”
Understanding your options when it comes to financial planning is important, but the Westoba team also understands that planning for your future can be daunting and time consuming, especially when you’re running a business, raising a family, or working your way through school. “We can help take some of those pressures off so that you can devote the time and energy to what you need to do and focus on what’s important to you,” Rhonda said.
An impressively early riser, Rhonda finds motivation each day in early morning workouts, led by her sister, who is a certified fitness instructor. But it’s also in finding joy in what she does that really gets her excited to hop out of bed each day. While Rhonda is new to the team at Westoba, she’s quickly finding joy in the role that allows her to be her true self. “I’ve aligned myself with the right people — the people that bring out the best in me,” she said. “They are a supportive team and I’m feeling embraced in the role and I think it’s going to be a very rewarding journey for everybody.”
Rhonda is excited about her new future at Westoba and bringing her experience and collaborative spirit to work every day. “I’m really looking forward to anchoring those relationships amongst our existing membership so that we can be the financial institution of choice in the communities we live in and work in.”