Farrows "want to keep it personal" at their Belmont financial services office
Article appears below as published in the Aylmer Express September 30th 2015. Reproduced with permission from the Aylmer Express. Photo and Article credits to Aylmer Express, Rob Perry.
Ken and Stephanie Farrow, after formerly operating from their Belmont home, moved their financial services business to a downtown building they purchased in the village 10 years ago.
And while they’ve grown the business, they’re happy to keep it where it employs just themselves and Stacie Van Liere, their longtime administrative assistant.
“We want to keep it personal,” Mr. Farrow said in a recent interview.
“I think we like it as a small, family community operation,” agreed Ms. Farrow.
Mr. Farrow is a local boy, having grown up on Malahide farm, attending South Dorchester, Springfield and Davenport Public Schools and then East Elgin Secondary School, graduating in the mid-1980s.
He studied business for a year at Fanshawe College, and then switched to urban affairs and administration, a course of study tailored to prepare someone to be a government property tax expert.
But the Ontario government had a hiring freeze in the early 1990s when he graduated, so he switched to his current line of work.
Ms. Farrow grew up in London and studied communications at University of Windsor, graduating in 1993.
She planned a career in journalism, but having been president of her residence at university, she found she liked business.
She met Mr. Farrow when they were both hired by London Life as financial advisors, the start of their careers in the industry.
“I’ve always liked finance and numbers,” Mr. Farrow said.
And, Ms. Farrow continued, the other important lure of their industry was “to do with people, and helping people.”
While the general public was becoming increasingly informed on the industry, Mr. Farrow said, they still often needed assistance planning out their financial futures.
Ms. Farrow said Canadian children didn’t get enough financial education in elementary and high schools, despite the critical importance of such knowledge to their futures.
“We’re in the business, and it can be confusing,” she said. So they and others like them worked to increase “financial literacy” through educating the public.
And, Mr. Farrow said, every client’s needs and budget were unique. “You have to know the full picture to lead them in the right direction.”
Their customers, Ms. Farrow said, tended to be divided to those who wanted to learn, and those who just wanted the advice and guidance of an expert.
“The public generally is getting more educated,” Mr. Farrow said.
But, Ms. Farrow continued, the Internet, source for much of that education, has “got its pluses and minuses.”
While it could be a great way to pass on valid information, she said, it could also be a source of bad advice and “facts.”
“We try to keep our content updated, put out educational pieces” on the Farrow Financial Services website, with information they knew to be accurate.
Mr. Farrow said many clients didn’t have a real grasp of their own finances, and their future needs.
That was why they spent a great deal of time just talking with customers when they came in, getting a feel for their financial situations, what help they were looking for and what services exactly the Farrows could provide.
And that was a long list of services, Ms. Farrow said, such as various types of insurance, benefit programs a
nd financial investment opportunities, tailored to individual special needs, such as caring for a disabled child or spouse over the long term.
“A majority of our products will help someone follow their financial plan to where they want to be,” she said. “There’s so many different scenarios.
“And Ken specializes in tax planning,” something that could help out clients both immediately and over the long term.
They were with London Life for several years, but then decided to set up their own financial services firm.
Mr. Farrow liked working with those on farms, having grown up on one himself, and “I was intrigued to go back” to that.
That was one reason he’d specialized in tax planning, which could be particularly valuable to family farm operations.
Ms. Farrow started as a financial planner as had her husband, but followed a different path into management at London Life.
But she found she couldn’t work the 75 hours a week she needed to, flying across Canada frequently, while spending time with their children.
That was why they decided in 2005 to open their own office in Belmont, so they could both be financial planners and advisors, but also have time to spend with their children and be involved in the community, sitting on local committees and coaching youth sports.
Mr. Farrow could also be “closer” to his farming clients, though that’s a matter of perspective.
In a city, 100 clients would be a small circle, but in a rural area they could be spread out over many miles.
Ms. Farrow said one advantage in serving farmers were that they were their own tightknit community.
If they could do a good job for one, the word would spread, even to farms a two-hour drive away.
Ms. Farrow mainly sees clients in their Belmont Road office, while Mr. Farrow goes out to see them in their homes.
“Every kitchen table is unique,” he said, describing both where he met their clients and their financial pictures.
A farm couple might be looking to retire, and seeking to sell their operation, while others wanted to pass the property on to their own children.
The latter held a special place in his heart for the family farm, he said, especially since it was becoming increasingly rare, as large agricultural corporations took over more and more land as time went by.
Farrow Financial Services is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment “at pretty much any time.”