A Master Networker
Positive and forward thinking, Monette Malewski is a master networker – quite possibly one of the very best – with real contacts and relationships that span the globe, and affiliations that take several pages to list.
The passion for me, in this industry, is people. People are so vulnerable.
Her honours and accolades are considerable too – including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and, most recently, a fellowship or honourary degree bestowed for her work with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Part of being a ‘pillar’ for the university has included her creation of different partnerships and connections between the university and a widely diverse group of others, including medical researchers in Quebec, departments of agriculture, organizations in northern Haiti, foundations which do work developing water projects in India, and even Cirque du Soleil.
In business, she is well-recognized for her skill and experience in advanced planning, with many of her clients counting on her to be a business advisor and strategist, not just their insurance advisor, and sometimes their life coach as well.
Originally an elementary school teacher, Malewski rose to become the superintendent of schools, before deciding she wanted to work for herself. She joined her husband’s practice, but soon found herself taking over as president when he died, just four short years later.
Starting from scratch
When she first started out in the business, Malewski says she needed to go through the same ‘starting from scratch’ that every advisor experiences at the beginning of their career. “It was hard at the beginning. I thought all of my networks, because they like and respect me, they trust me, that they would use me. But they knew me in another domain. I really had to start from scratch.”
She did this by joining a business women’s network, and the Chamber of Commerce – because of her earlier background, she served as the Chamber’s vice president. “I was very fortunate to have that, and I used it to my advantage.”
Her husband, meanwhile, was also well known, and much loved by his clients. “He had a good reputation, and I’d only been here for four years. Most people didn’t know me,” she says.
“I spent a lot of energy writing an incredible letter to them,” she recalls. “And of course, I followed up. So many clients told me that letter did it. ‘When we saw that letter, Monette, we had to meet you.’ The letter got 96 per cent of them to stay with me.”
Five years later she acquired the practice of another advisor who’d passed away, as well. “I knew exactly what was going to happen. They loved him. I was able to say that I’d done this before, and I knew what they were feeling. I told them I was there to help and help to move it forward. Again, I kept 96 per cent of the business.”
Today, M. Bacal Group of Montreal is a family enterprise like those she serves, employing her daughter, and her brother as well.
“The passion for me, in this industry, is people. People are so vulnerable. They don’t want to talk about morbidity or mortality, yet that’s the most important thing they have to talk about,” she says.
Still, “I always feel that whatever you do in life, it’s about going forward. Seeing the glass three quarters full, and never empty. I want my clients to feel that.”