Reluctance transforms to passion
There are two things Christine Lengvari said she would never – ever – do under any circumstance: be part of the family business – and golf.
“They were the only two things – and it’s not that I never thought I would never do those two things, I knew I was never going to do them.”
I very much grew up in this environment and really didn’t want to be involved in the family business.
But life sometimes abounds in happy ironies and today, Lengvari is president and CEO of Lengvari Financial Inc. in Montreal, a boutique insurance brokerage specializing in retirement and estate planning that was started by both her parents – i.e., the family business.
Lengvari’s steadfast reluctance to get into the business originally stemmed from the fact that with both mother and father in the business, insurance was generally the major issue talked about and there was little separation of work and home. Even her parents’ holidays were spent going to life insurance conferences.
Staying away from insurance
“So I very much grew up in this environment and really didn’t want to be involved in the family business.”
At first she tried to stay away from insurance. She earned her MBA, became an accountant and then a business evaluator. She spent six years in South Africa starting and setting up a non-profit job-creation plan in Zululand.
But her parents were aging and when she decided to come back to Montreal, her father, George Lengvari, asked if she wanted into the business. She was hired on initially as chief operating officer.
“When I got into the business I got licensed and then very slowly I did the courses and the CLU,” says Lengvari. “Then I started selling to people that I knew and that’s how I got started. Eventually I bought the business from my dad.” Since then, she has added elder planning counsellor to her credentials.
She found it difficult to walk in her father’s shoes because he was well known. But Lengvari also says selling insurance was – and is – a difficult business for many women because it remains a male-dominated profession.
So what changed her mind about insurance? Lengvari says she loves working with clients and using insurance as a tool for retirement planning.
“I wouldn’t say I ever had a [straight] career path. But everything was a stepping stone to where I am today. So the advice I can give today is far richer and complete because I have this very varied background.”
Lengvari is actively involved in CALU, sitting on its tax committee. The committee looks at policy and social issues like longevity and the importance of long-term care insurance for the aging baby boomer generation. Currently, it’s putting together a paper and will lobby government to help Canadians buy long-term care products by introducing either a tax deduction or tax credit.
She is also very active elsewhere: Lengvari is on the advisory board of Manulife Bank and Trust; started planned giving programs at both Concordia University and St. Mary’s Hospital Centre and is involved in major gifts and planned giving with the Cancer Research Society; she is chair, Client Committee, Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program at Concordia; sits on the advisory board of the School of Continuing Studies at her alma mater of McGill University and is on the Montreal executive of the International Women’s Forum, which advances leadership among women.
And oh yes, that second thing she would never do – golf?
“I did learn how to play golf and I love it.”