A Money Coach in Canada

Follow & Subscribe


Photo Credit: Roland

I had a splash of cold water dumped on my head this weekend.

It’s not that I hadn’t intellectually grasped the fact that being on the payroll would diminish my credibility as a genuine fan of Citizens Bank of Canada.

But neither had I realized the extent to which any kind of marketing (even though I don’t consider myself a “marketer”; I’m an “evangelist”) job is instantly suspect.

Here’s the thing.

  1. Most people who know me, get pretty fast that I’m straight-shooting and straight-up.  This is one of my most deeply held personal values.  It was/is critical to my success as a money coach:  If a client is going to trust me with conversations about their money, they need to be sure that I’m not going to engage in so much as a hint of duplicity or judgment, not to mention anything unscupulous.
  2. With the exception of a brief stint here or there, every one of my jobs have had personal meaning to me.  Life for the paycheque is no life at all.

But there I was at BarBank Camp BC (an unconference with mega brain power and creativity applied to discussions about banking/credit unions) and the question came up:  Is it possible for people to actually love their f.i.?

I think it is, because I love mine.

But here’s where things got perplexing.

I love mine enough…that I’ve chosen to work there.   Before I worked there, I told others about it.  Lots and lots.  Now, I do the same thing except even more, and yes, I get a paycheque (NOT commission!) for it.

But when I posed the question to the group, I got a resounding response that simply by being on payroll, my authenticity diminished (one person even suggested, diminished by 90%).

I’ve never encountered this before:

When I was VP of a hotel college  no one questioned whether I was sincerely being a VP.

When I delivered financial literacy seminars for FSGV no one questioned whether I was a sincere facilitator.

When I  worked as an employment counsellor years ago for HRSDC no one questioned whether I truly wanted clients to find a great job.

So why is it that now that I (once again) get paid to do what I love – give lots of shoutouts for a kick-ass bank, suddenly my motives are suspect?  I don’t get it.

Readers:  What do you think?  Are we soooo cynical that anyone with so much as a whiff of marketing to them gets tossed to the bottom of the heap of credibility?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Traciatim

    I would probably say it’s simply because it’s a bank, and banks and their employees are inherently evil. The Banks sole purpose of existing is to leech money off of the work of others. This may have something to do with it.


    Sep 22, 2008
  2. It’s because you’re no longer unbiased. You work there so it’s a conflict of interest. It’s for this reason, journalists are not supposed to report on a company they’ve invested in or a person they know well. That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you’re doing. You’re upfront about your employment there and that’s admirable. That’s all you can really do. Your readers and clients can decide whether to take your advice based on this and their other impressions.


    Sep 22, 2008
  3. I posted my take via twitter, but thought it was worth repeating to this audience.
    I think it has more to do with how people view their own jobs. Vocational passion is unknown to so many. :/


    Sep 22, 2008
  4. Dan Udey

    I would say that your credibility definitely diminishes. People tend to become emotionally invested in things – your job is a huge part of your life, and in order to love your job, you pretty much have to love your company. The issue arises when things change.

    Apologists don’t start out as apologists. They start of as people with a genuine passion or enjoyment of a particular thing. The positives outweigh the negatives, and so we love. In my case, it’s Apple and their products. We establish an emotional investment in the company, and that’s fine. The issue arises, though, when things change. For example, maybe a policy changes at the bank which isn’t beneficial for most customers. It’s easy to get suckered in by PR junk, but even easier when it’s your own managers and coworkers that are repeating it as well. It’s easier to believe that sort of thing precisely BECAUSE you love your job and trust your company, and so you can fall into the trap of honestly believing the company line on why things are better. From then on, each time it happens, it gets easier.

    I’m not suggesting you or your institution are likely to do that sort of thing – I really have no idea. What I will say is that it happens so often in companies that get greedy or lose sight of what made them great, and the apologists are the ones who stick around the longest, protesting loud and long that things aren’t really that bad, and making excuses, and because of them, it’s difficult to trust anyone as being unbiased when they’re on the payroll. This is why your credibility is lost – because of others who’ve come before, and jaded us all.

    In regards to your other question, however, I’m a fan of my financial institution. They’ve never treated me wrong, never made any mistakes, and always treated me courteously and professionally. Their online banking has won many awards, for good reason, their bank machines are the best I’ve used, and when neither of those works, their branches are open surprisingly late. This is probably the most important fact, actually, since it outlines that they haven’t lost their way – they’ve been increasing their opening hours for years, and my local branch is open twelve hours a day, every weekday, and eight hours on Saturdays.

    So yeah, I love my financial institution for all that they’ve done for me, for the little perks I get, and the things I notice that show me that they’re actually trying to be a good bank and earn my business. Even if I worked for my FI, I’d have a lot of things to point to to show how great it is, but even then, I wouldn’t expect anyone to believe me without solid evidence. It’s just the way we are, because it’s just the way corporations are.

    (By the way – as far as I remember, you work for a CU – if so, point out that you don’t get a commission, and the CU doesn’t make ‘profits’ the way big banks do. That’s your best bet for credibility.)


    Sep 22, 2008
  5. Mel Reed

    I feel the same as a salesperson. My own integrity has to be something that supersedes wherever I work. That is something built up over 36 years in floorcovering sales and is nothing that can be negotiated. People either trust you or they don’t.


    Sep 22, 2008
  6. Angela

    I work for a bank and am working towards in becoming a financial planner. When I start talking to people about the importance of saving, half of the people would say to me, “you just want to earn more money from us, right?”

    I think partly because many people still don’t get why they need to save.

    Partly because when they choose to save, they don’t get the service and experience they deserve; or they choose to invest for the wrong reason therefore they lose money.

    I think in order to offer good services to clients the relationship has to go both ways. The bank has to be honest with a client (yes, bankers work for the commissions, they don’t want clients to lose money either because to have a client’s trust means steady income for the banker); on the other hand, the clients have to realize what a bank can or cannot do (an annual return of 10% is definitely a no!).

    I might be bias — but I believe that if a client has the right reason to save and to invest, and is willing to spend some time to talk to a banker, many bankers would be willing to suggest the right kind of products for the client. Clients lose money only when they don’t take the time to learn what a bank can and cannot do.


    Sep 22, 2008
  7. Nancy, I’m sorry you had a rude awakening like that.
    I agree with several of the other commenters, though: You’re no longer an unbiased outsider, you are an insider, you’re invested, etc. I particularly like Dan’s line about

    Apologists don’t start out as apologists. They start of as people with a genuine passion or enjoyment of a particular thing. The positives outweigh the negatives, and so we love.

    It’s parallel to the discussion about ads or sponsorships on websites. A blogger may love a particular gym, car shop, restaurant, etc., have been a loyal customer there for years, mention them often and lovingly on the blog. But when he/she takes the next step and take paid advertisement from them, or enter into some other kind of paid relationship with them, the credibility takes a hit. The blogger can’t claim independence from that business anymore.


    Sep 23, 2008
  8. wow – what thoughtful comments. Thanks, all!
    @traciatim You are a straight-shooter among straight-shooters: I always get a charge out of your comments! If you ever wanted to elaborate, I would *love* to have a guest post from you on this topic. I think it would be illuminating for us bankers to hear what some people really think. (although obviously i personally like to think we actually are providing a crucial service … )
    @unspender Can I rely on you to keep me honest? 😉
    @markmcspadden You understand. For me, this truly is much more than “a job”. It ties into who I am as a person, and my personal values. (sometimes, that makes me a pain in the ass employee!)
    @Dan Wow – thanks so much for such a comprehensive and insightful comment. You know, microsoft’s blogger (and I’m not my bank’s blogger, but still), Robert Scoble, was famous for calling out his own employer for sucky products (most notably, vista). Microsoft gained themselves cred by letting him call a spade a spade (but alas, they still went public with vista!). I hope I can do the same thing — continuously push us to continually get better, from the inside. But you have a completely insightful and valid point: it’s possible to ‘love too much’ and allow yourself to overlook things that should not be overlooked. Or to not speak up (ha! I can’t quite imagine me acquiescing, but I suppose theoretically it’s possible). And let me guess… it’s a bank that uses a lot of green …. 🙂 TD just keeps doing so much right, don’t they. (are they out-credit-unioning the credit unions??)
    @Mel thanks for dropping by! I can well imagine you have, over the years, developed a large base of people who trust you and do business with you because of that trust in your integrity.
    @Angela – wow, I didn’t realize that many people are suspicious even for something as fundamental as suggesting saving! Maybe you confirm @traciatim’s point.
    @Jan Et Tu, Jan? kidding! I see your point, and it’s funny – today I was listening to MacBreak and Leo was promoting Visa. He did it in a very natural way, but also made it clear visa sponsors his show. And I have to admit, I didn’t really believe Leo is all that stoked on visa … but on the other hand, because I enjoy him enough, I was at least perfectly happy to *listen* to him promote visa, which is way more than I can say about traditional advertising.


    Sep 23, 2008
  9. You know, microsoft’s blogger (and I’m not my bank’s blogger, but still), Robert Scoble, was famous for calling out his own employer for sucky products (most notably, vista). Microsoft gained themselves cred by letting him call a spade a spade (but alas, they still went public with vista!)

    I’ve got a fun fact for you: Vista doesn’t suck. But it does have a serious marketing problem, a reputation problem.
    Vista is an outstanding software product that just happens to not be a 100% perfect fit for 100% of the tens of millions of people who use it (or could upgrade to it). Famously, Vista is outright feared and loathed by thousands who never as much as touched a computer with it installed (see the Mojave Experiment campaign).

    I used to read Scoble’s blog (started reading it long before his time at Microsoft, stopped following him a year or so, I guess) and I don’t remember him saying that Vista sucked. Rather I remember him expressing (presumably genuine) excitement about Vista starting years before its release, reporting back from developers’ conferences that developers loved the new features available to them, etc.. He was seeing it very much from the inside (what MS people and outside developers were creating using Vista), and there was a lot of new stuff to be excited about.

    Then Vista was released and subsequently was criticized for not being perfect for everybody, for being sold in a confusing number of versions, even for being different from Windows XP in a number of ways, etc.

    I’m sure Scoble agreed with much of that criticism. But there’s a big difference between: “It’s regrettable that Vista doesn’t come bundled with drivers for Minolta flatbed scanners from 1996” and “Vista sucks!”.

    OK, that’s (more than) enough ranting for now.

    Apologist? Moi?!


    Sep 24, 2008
  10. @Jan My God, will you PLEASE become a Citizens Bank member and hold us to account, when/if needed so forthrightly?
    And I stand corrected. Scoble did use the words Suck and Microsoft in the same breath, but regarding Live, not vista, and I think it was after he lef. Quote:
    Scoble responded. “Microsoft’s internet execution sucks (on the whole). Its search sucks. Its advertising sucks. If that’s ‘in it to win’, then I don’t get it.” (Times online)


    Sep 24, 2008


  1. countably infinite » Blog Archive » BarCamp Vancouver 2008 - Unconference Meta

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge