Alum uses leadership position to empower and lift others
A strong sense of purpose and focusing on the present help Alana Riley (MBA’17), president of Dalhousie’s Alumni Association, live a full and purposeful life as a senior financial services executive and active community member.
By Alison DeLory
What Alana Riley (MBA’17) says she enjoys most about her career in financial services is helping people sleep.
“People stay up at night generally worrying about one of two things: love or money,” says Riley. “If I can help reduce their worry about one of those two things, that’s great.”
Riley is the Head of Mortgage, Insurance & Banking with IG Wealth Management in Calgary. As an experienced financial services executive, she leads a large team that helps clients reduce their taxes and manage their intergenerational wealth, wills, estates and powers of attorney. For example, recently, their innovative thinking led to a fintech partnership deal that allows IG to offer a fully online application process for mortgages. “The mortgage journey is now end-to-end digital,” Riley says proudly.
A feminist lens
One of Riley’s passions is supporting women in business. She’s fond of the adage, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’
“Let’s lift one another up. I’ve always had an abundance mentality,” she says. “There’s enough room at the top for us all to succeed.”
In 2018, she launched a National Women of Wealth program and actively speaks on the topic. Her focus on helping women manage their finances is motivated by the fact that by 2026, it’s anticipated women will control half the wealth in Canada. She follows that up with a more concerning statistic: currently, 72 per cent of women leave their financial advisor when their spouse dies.
Riley recognizes that women have historically not filled a primary role in managing their families’ finances, and that’s something she’s intent on changing. Riley’s first-hand experience managing family finances is impacted by the fact her eldest son, Austin, has special needs. “I know he won’t have the earning potential of many others, but I want to wake up every morning knowing he has financial security to meet his needs.”
The path to Dalhousie
Riley grew up in Windsor, Ont., and did her undergrad degree at the University of Windsor before starting a career in banking. When she moved her family to Calgary in 2011, it was the first time she’d been west of Ontario.
“My family has always had close ties to Canada’s East Coast,” says Riley, adding she was particularly drawn to the Dal’s MBA program, as several of her colleagues took and endorsed it. It offered her the flexibility to attend from Calgary while working full-time.
Riley has two other children in addition to Austin: son Christian, who’s a third-year Bachelor of Management student at Dal and a member of Dal’s football team, and daughter Madison, who’s applied to Dal.
Beyond a busy career, takes courses and workshops as a lifelong learner, and raising her family, Riley carves time out to volunteer. She’s vice-chair of Gordie Howe CARES, an organization focused on supporting caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She is also a strong and vocal advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in all she does — including at Dalhousie, where she’s president of the Dalhousie Alumni Association (DAA).
“I’m really proud we [the DAA] are worldwide. We have board member diversity across faculties, professions, geographically and racially.” Riley also sits on Dal’s Board of Governors.
“The DAA and volunteering at Dal generally has helped me climb the ladder and build my career. It has built my competency and given me new experiences outside of the corporate world,” says Riley.
The DAA going forward
In her role as president, Riley’s goals for Dal’s alumni association are to make it more transparent, to improve communication and to make sure alumni feel connected to Dal.
The DAA board is accepting applications for new board members until March 5, 2024. Riley encourages alumni who want the chance to give back to Dal to consider applying. “Every single member is involved in something. It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves working board,” she says. “There are endless opportunities.”
And being the parent of a Dal student, she says, has given her a voice to speak about such things as students’ needs for housing and activities. Football has been a big part of her son’s life at Dal, and attending his games, says Riley, has helped her further appreciate the sense of community that exists not only broadly at Dal, but also within its strong sections like athletics and alumni.
As for her own future, Riley says she doesn’t dwell on it, opting instead for living in the present.
“I focus on being the best version of myself I can be in this moment, knowing future opportunities will find me.”