Expert on aging teams with bank on ‘life transition’

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WINDSOR, Ont. – Early in her consulting career as a social worker and expert on aging, Amy D’Aprix looked after her ailing parents. It was a personal experience that would set the stage for her personable approach to helping others figure out how to prepare and cope with getting older.

She never imagined she would be doing it for a financial institution.

D’Aprix, who has a PhD in gerontology and also goes by Dr. Amy, was hired four years ago by the Bank of Montreal as its life transition expert.

D’Aprix has helped the bank attract new clients and gain more business from existing ones, said Sandi Dwyer, senior program manager for BMO’s retirement and financial planning group.

D’Aprix coaches the bank’s financial consultants on dealing with clients’ emotional and practical needs when talking about money. In the past four years, she has also spoken to 150 groups of invited clients in venues across the country about retirement and the unique challenges women face with money. Estate planning is another topic she will tackle in the near future, she said.

In her retirement sessions, she uses the analogy of a photo with four corners representing the questions participants should be asking themselves. Who will they be with? What will they do to keep life meaningful? Where will they live? And how could changes in their health affect their life?

D’Aprix tells participants that finances are the frame that helps hold the picture together.

“What I love about doing the client events is it’s like people wake up when they’re sitting in the room. If they’ve done any planning for retirement it’s likely financial and not very much,” she said.

BMO was among the first banks to adopt the softer approach of bringing in an expert on aging, a trend that appears to be picking up steam with other financial institutions.

She keeps her presentations lighthearted and doesn’t offer financial advice – and the sessions aren’t sales pitches for bank products, D’Aprix said.

Helping older adults prepare for retirement is laudable, but financial institutions should be focusing on protecting investors, said Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy for CARP, a national non-profit group focused on aging that has 350,000 members.

“It’s not as though anybody doesn’t know about it already. It’s what are you going to do about it?” she said of the types of issues D’Aprix addresses. “There’s nothing wrong with these things. The point is what is the added value? The danger is that (clients) get lulled into a certain sense of comfort with an organization. Of course, I can’t help but question motive. You’re in the commercial world. People don’t do anything for nothing and they don’t give you feel-good advice without a purpose.”

Eng said bank clients and potential clients should take away whatever they find is useful while still remaining vigilant whenever they’re pitched a new financial product.

D’Aprix’s other consulting clients include companies that provide home care and assisted living. She has written a book, From Surviving to Thriving, about caregiving. She also sells a journal and set of cards designed for sharing memories on her website.

“I got into this when I was 21 years old. I had no idea.” said D’Aprix, 49. “I didn’t think about the fact that boomers would be aging and that there would be this great opportunity. I just loved older adults and their families. It was where my passion was.”

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