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Meet Successful CFP Professionals

Find out what it's really like to be a practicing financial planner from those who are active in the profession right now. The financial planners profiled below have built careers in a range of industries and all parts of the country. See what insights they have to offer on their chosen profession.

President of the Gavin Management Group Inc. and Former NHL Hockey Player
During his 15-year professional hockey career, Stew Gavin recognized the need for a program that would ensure an athlete's business affairs were completely organized and their interests protected.

What inspired you to obtain your CFP® designation and then launch your firm and practice specifically targeted at professional athletes?
I have always prepared for success – whether on the ice or in the conference room. Obtaining the CFP designation was part of my training to become a professional advisor. Many young players are not prepared for, nor equipped to handle, the stress that comes with sudden wealth. Nor do they anticipate how quickly they can go through that money if it is not managed and planned for in an appropriate manner; or how short-lived the lifestyle can be when confronted with injury or other circumstances that often abruptly end a professional athlete's career.

I launched my firm because I wanted to be part of an organization that is aligned with the interests of its clients. This is why we developed the membership concept in my firm. I have only ever wanted to practice in a firm whose values were based on full disclosure and transparency. I've never wanted to be associated with an organization that exploited their clients through hidden fees or in firms who were more concerned with their bottom line than their clients' goals and objectives. In order to guarantee this environment, I built my own.

What unique issues do athletes face that your firm has expertise to address?
I can relate to our clients because I've walked in their shoes. Our experience and narrow target market provide a unique understanding of a player's cash flow needs, the lessons they need to learn and the events they need to avoid.

We're focused on three principles; cash flow management, education and protection. We devote significant resources to each pillar to ensure that our members achieve their objectives.

How has your hockey career influenced your leadership style?
Winning teams require a variety of specialized skills. The third liner won't necessarily be on the power play and the top scorer can't necessarily play a shutdown role. My teammates understand their strengths and weaknesses and I've placed them in roles where they can succeed. You won't find "half-milers"(those who are unwilling to make the necessary effort to win) on my team. To be successful here you need to love your job and possess a genuine passion for the financial services industry.

Do you have a favorite moment as a hockey player? As a financial planner?
The Stanley Cup final against the Penguins was simultaneously the favorite and the worst moment in my hockey career. Playing in the finals was an incredible achievement almost surreal in nature, but losing that series was devastating. Today I get satisfaction from seeing a plan realized. I am gratified when a client understands that by following our plan they will transition from the game and begin a new life phase without financial anxiety.

I've heard through the grapevine that you had a bit of a reputation as a "scrapper" when you were playing in the NHL, how does that translate in your relationship with your clients?
I wouldn't characterize myself as a scrapper on the ice. I think I was dependable and someone that my teammates could rely on for an honest effort. I am an understanding advisor. I know the trials and temptations that confront an athlete, so I am forgiving when it comes to mistakes and regretful decisions. However, I have no patience or tolerance for those that attempt to take advantage or exploit an athlete's trusting nature. The "scrapper" comes out in me when I'm protecting a player's best interests against the many vultures who only want a piece of their wealth.

Tax Partner at MNP LLP
Like most boys growing up in Canada, my dream job was to become a professional hockey player. Fairly early on I realized that wasn’t going to happen, so I set a new realistic dream job.

Who is your current employer?
MNP LLP.

What is your current position?
Tax Partner

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
Four

What was your dream job as a child?
Like most boys growing up in Canada, my dream job was to become a professional hockey player. Fairly early on I realized that wasn’t going to happen so I would say my realistic dream job was to become a lawyer.

How did you come to work in financial planning?
My father owned an accounting practice and I worked there throughout high school and university. He became ill shortly after I graduated university and I took over his practice from that point on.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
I felt that the CFP credential was necessary for me to be able to offer my clients a level of service that I could be proud of. My father’s passion was not preparing financial statements and tax returns that his clients were obligated to file, but instead to provide them with sound tax and financial planning advice that would benefit them and their families for years to come. I inherited this same attitude and felt that the most effective way of providing comprehensive tax and financial planning advice was to become a CFP professional along with becoming a Certified General Accountant.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
The CFP credential has allowed me to focus my career on doing what I enjoy - giving financial planning advice to a wide variety of individuals and businesses. The ability to offer well-rounded financial planning advice in addition to accounting services and tax consulting is the added value that I provide to my clients. It changes the dynamic of my fees from more of a cost of compliance to an investment.

Describe any previous roles / experiences that played a part in getting you where you are today?
As I explained earlier, “apprenticing” under my father’s guidance paved the way for where I am today.

Describe your typical work day.
My time is fairly evenly split between reviewing and working on financial statements, tax returns and financial plans and interacting with my clients and our office staff. Be it in person, on the phone or through email, I spend a considerable amount of time giving advice and discussing my clients’ personal and business financial affairs with them.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
I would have to say the best part about being a CFP professional is how interesting each day is. Dealing with a diverse group of clients with a wide variety of financial situations makes it a challenging and rewarding career to try and offer distinctive financial planning advice to each of them.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
For me, the greatest challenge is staying on top of constantly changing tax laws, accounting principles, financial planning concepts, insurance and investment products, and so on.

Do you have any “words of wisdom” for people considering a career in financial planning?
My advice would be to always be learning. The financial planning industry is constantly evolving and if you don’t make continuing professional development a priority, you and your advice will become obsolete.

Senior Financial Consultant, Investors Group Financial Services
It was very important from a credibility standpoint for me to have this credential. In addition, it gave me the confidence to speak with authority on a wide variety of financial issues.

Who is your current employer?
Self-employed with Investors Group Financial Services

What is your current position?
Regional Director

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
January 1st, 2002

What was your dream job as a child?
Dream job was to be a hockey broadcaster. Achieved that goal. Worked for 18 years as a broadcast journalist, working at various local and national television stations. My last job in broadcasting was working as CTV Sportscaster and play by play broadcaster in the NHL.

How did you come to work in financial planning?
My existing Financial Advisor suggested it would be a good career for me. After doing some research I learned that the communication skills I developed in broadcasting would give me the unique ability to explain complex financial planning strategies to Canadians in simple, understandable terms. I figured it might be a good fit.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
As soon as I became licensed as an advisor, I began the program and obtained the designation within two years. It was very important from a credibility standpoint for me to have this credential. In addition, it gave me the confidence to speak with authority on a wide variety of financial issues.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
My company (Investors Group Financial Services) is a big supporter of the CFP designation. Having the CFP credential has allowed me to move into a leadership position, and opened many other doors within our company.

Describe your typical work day.
My job is to support the Consultants in my region as they work with their clients. Reviewing financial plans, compliance-related transactions and delivering training sessions are a large part of my day. In addition, my responsibility is to hire and train new Consultants and future CFP professionals.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
Definitely, making a difference in the lives of the people we work with. Whether it be clients, or Consultants, it is very gratifying to know that I have made a positive impact in someone’s financial future.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
Over the years, the level of administration has increased exponentially. It’s important to be adaptable to change, and have systems and support in place to keep pace.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
When I interview candidates, I look for strong character over technical skills. I encourage people to take a hard look at their ability to get their message across (communication skills). I look for people with integrity, character, and individuals who are trusted by others. I believe we’re in a recession-proof industry. There is a great demand for what we do – provide advice to Canadians looking to secure their financial future.

Financial Planning Consultant, RBC Wealth Management
The best part of being a financial planner is working with people to help them realize peace of mind and security that comes from financial stability.

Who is your current employer?
RBC Wealth Management

What is your current position?
Financial Planning Consultant

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
Since 2005

What was your dream job as a child?
Teacher

How did you come to work in financial planning?
Combined interest in business and planning. Started with CSC and kept taking industry courses to expand knowledge. The financial planning courses appealed to me the most and employment opportunities followed.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
To stand out/differentiate myself and to add value/higher level of expertise for those I was working with.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
Has qualified me for several positions (entrepreneur, bank, government, college) allowing for much career growth and earning potential.

Describe your typical work day.
I spend about 1/3 of my day meeting clients, and about 2/3 of my day reviewing information, researching and formulating appropriate strategies, and being a subject matter expert/resource within my office.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
Working with people to help them realize peace of mind and security that comes from financial stability.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
Asking enough questions to really understand what is important to each person I meet.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
The ability to connect with people, to listen and understand what they want and need to feel secure, is the value a financial planner provides. This, paired with the technical knowledge, is what will lead to success for you and your clients.

Associate, Succession Strategies Group Inc.
The CFP credential has afforded me with the tools and insight required to provide an objective perspective for my clients. To provide sound advice that truly puts our clients’ interest first is paramount, to also enjoy what you do is a close second.

Who is your current employer?
I am currently employed at Succession Strategies Group Inc. an Independent Financial Advisory business

What is your current position?
I am currently an Associate at SSG, providing financial planning service as well as being a licensed insurance agent

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
6 years

What was your dream job as a child?
Inventor. I always wanted to create something that my friends and family could use

How did you come to work in financial planning?
After starting my career with a financial institution, I had progressed through the back office channels to a support role for financial planners. I enjoyed the dynamics of the role and it seemed a natural progression for me to step into a client-facing, advisory role.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
Advising clients requires an individual to take on the responsibilities, along with the trust that is given to you, which I treat with the utmost respect. I felt it was imperative to attain what some may say is the ‘gold standard’ in the financial planning field with the CFP designation.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
The CFP credential has afforded me with the tools and insight required to provide an objective perspective for my clients. To provide sound advice that truly puts our clients’ interest first is paramount, to also enjoy what you do is a close second.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I work on providing our clients with sound financial advice, looking out for ways to improve their long term outlook while mitigating risk. I work with a very close team and we truly work like a family, and that naturally flows through to our client interactions. We look for ways to make a positive impact to the community and the businesses that we serve. No day is ever alike and time does fly when you enjoy what you do and the people you work with.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
The best part of being a financial planner is having the confidence and understanding that your work truly makes a difference to the people you service. Some people call it the ‘a-ha’ moment, but I always enjoy the moment when our clients understand their ‘big picture’.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
The most challenging part of being a financial planner is to compartmentalize yourself away from the business. There is always the debate of work-life balance and that emotions in this business can get the best of you. But having a sound process in place will ground you in this business. There are too many things that you cannot control, but you can always control your approach to the job.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
I would say that you must never stop learning and to try and find the balance of what you love to do and what you do well. Passion can take you far, but self-awareness will help channel that energy to help reach your goals.

Financial Advisor, Y Corporation
The most challenging issue is to explain to prospects what they should expect from a financial planner, and how personal the planning is, as each individual has their specific circumstances that may affect any decision about their finances.

Who is your current employer?
Associated with Sun Life Financial through Y Corporation

What is your current position?
Financial Advisor

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
9 years

What was your dream job as a child?
Engineer

How did you come to work in financial planning?
After a career in business development and general management, I considered a career change to financial services.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
Financial planning presented itself as key for better service to clients.

The CFP credentials helped me present myself as an accomplished and knowledgeable professional. The confidence and expertise associated with it are much appreciated by my clients.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
As my work process hinges around client service, responding to clients’ requirements and queries is of the highest priority. Many other activities are handled through ongoing processes: Clients’ communications, invitation for periodical review meetings, clients’ meetings either in person or by phone. Responding to inquiries from leads and prospects. On an ongoing basis, conferences and webinars with investment companies and other service providers are key to keep current about the market, regulations, case law and other issues of value to our clients’ planning.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
Interacting with clients. As we work mostly with individuals in transition, either between jobs or preparing for retirements, we help them make informed decisions. It is quite satisfying seeing them achieve their goals and enjoy their achievements.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
The most challenging issue is to explain to prospects what they should expect from a financial planner, and how personal the planning is, as each individual has their specific circumstances that may affect any decision about their finances.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
Before planning, get to know the facts, and the individuals you are dealing with. The advice has to be supported by the facts, and most importantly match the personality and desires of the individuals.

Vice President, RocheBanyan Inc.
CFP professionals have built in social responsibility – helping clients manage their financial planning affairs positively impacts society by empowering individuals to be independent.

Who is your current employer?
RocheBanyan Inc.

What is your current position?
Vice President

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
14 years

What was your dream job as a child?
Equestrian instructor

How did you come to work in financial planning?
I joined a family based investment firm at the age of 17. My uncle taught me the investment industry from the bottom up. His tutelage imparted a strong foundation which would provide an enduring, rewarding career.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
The CFP designation is the gold standard in financial planning education. As a young investment professional, the CFP helped to establish credibility. The practicality of entering in a profession that imparts real-life lessons just makes sense.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
The CFP is the backbone qualification in my career. While I don’t directly practice financial planning currently, the planners that I lead know that I understand their support needs on a fundamental level.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
Running a boutique investment firm grants me the flexibility to wear several hats. As the Branch Manager, I’m responsible to ensure all branch activities are compliant while maintaining a platform for an unparalleled client experience. I manage operations from recruiting advisors to directing day-to-day activities and setting strategic pace.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
CFP professionals have built in social responsibility – helping clients manage their financial planning affairs positively impacts society by empowering individuals to be independent. What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner? The most challenging aspect of financial planning is the constant state of change. While the core function of holistic planning is static, the technicalities aren’t.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
Never underestimate the power of listening. Every plan is as unique as the client themselves.

Financial Planner
Since I fell in love with financial planning 17 years ago, I had one mission and that was to earn the highest degree of learning in the field. Since the CFP designation was the hallmark of financial planning, I earned the credential.

Who is your current employer?
Kingdom Financial Corporation

What is your current position?
Financial Planner

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
6 years

What was your dream job as a child?
To be a stockbroker

How did you come to work in financial planning?
While studying for the Canadian Securities Course as a new immigrant 17 years ago with the intent of becoming a stockbroker, I kept getting drawn/interested in the aspects of the course that involve taking clients through a planning process and then advice. I eventually discovered financial planning as a field of study, it spoke to who I was as person more than being a broker, and I eventually took a college course, some more courses with the Canadian Securities institute and then the CFP certification exams. The courses afforded the opportunity to work in different areas of financial planning. I worked as an investment specialist and as a Financial Advisor at TD Canada Trust for about 6 years, then got a role as a financial planner with Bank of Montreal focused on Investment and retirement planning, which I did for 9 years, and now I am an independent Financial Planner and focus on all aspects of Financial Planning and Insurance.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
Since I fell in love with financial planning 17 years ago, I had one mission and that was to earn the highest degree of learning in the field. Since the CFP designation was the hallmark of financial planning, I earned the credential.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
It has distinguished me as a professional. In Canada most people call themselves financial advisors and different kinds of titles, the CFP mark gave credibility to my work. Clients that research advisors before meeting them tend to choose one with a CFP designation over one that doesn’t, and for me having this credential keeps me on my toes to ensure that the level of service I give to my clients is above and beyond.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
Review client meetings, summarize previous meetings and email information to client, and business development in several forms.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
Professional helper. Having the skill set and the ability to help a wide array of people navigate our complex financial world.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
Keeping clients' needs front and centre. In our profession, in order to keep the trust of clients you have to ensure that the clients' need are addressed regardless.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
Financial planning is a people business, so if you love people and you care about them you will do well. You might not be an overnight success, but if you keep clients’ needs ahead of yours, you will eventually build a reputation and distinguish yourself from the pack. You cannot invest for the sake of earning a commission or fulfilling an employer’s sales goal; when you do what is right by the client, everybody wins.

Vice-President Sales - Ontario, Financial Horizons Group
As I began working with more advanced clients, I realized I needed more expertise. Then as I moved into leadership roles it was important for me to model appropriate behaviours to people I lead. How can I ask advisors to continue their education and develop knowledge if I don’t?

Who is your current employer?
Canada Life, Great West Life, London Life Insurance Company

What is your current position?
Regional Vice-President, Product Solutions Centre - Ontario

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
17 years

What was your dream job as a child?
Veterinarian

How did you come to work in financial planning?
I was working in the retail automotive business as a business manager, and every Saturday I had to work. A friend of mine who was very successful in the insurance/investment business suggested I should look at a career in financial services. I began researching a number of companies, met with a number of recruiters to learn what the role really entailed, and joined a company in 1991.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
As I began working with more advanced clients, I realized I needed more expertise. Then as I moved into leadership roles it was important for me to model appropriate behaviours to people I lead. How can I ask advisors to continue their education and develop knowledge if I don’t? It is also, to me, the premier designation to hold as it is well known and the values and beliefs align with mine.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
Credibility.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I travel all over Ontario working with MGA partners, National Account partners, Wealth & Insurance Solutions Enterprise advisors & Freedom 55 Financial to help them achieve their business, professional and personal goals through our product solutions. I coach 2 sales leaders who in turn coach and develop a team of 44 wealth & insurance product experts.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
I’m not actually practicing anymore, however, staying on top of trends in the industry, changes to taxation, products, processes, compliance allows me to help my stakeholders stay relevant. Helping Canadians with their physical, mental and financial well-being comes from sound financial planning, and my coaching and support of our advisors and leadership teams helps them accomplish this.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
Prospecting and building your practice takes time and effort along with some rejection. Understanding that the rejection is not personal and demonstrating the value a financial planning professional brings helps move people through the planning process and on to financial, physical and mental well-being.

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
Appropriate licenses, earning designations and having knowledge is table stakes today. Where I’ve seen some of the smartest people fail is they don’t spend as much time developing interpersonal skills. Learn how to engage prospects and clients, and work on those skills. Seek mentors. My whole career I’ve had mentors along the way who have helped me build my skills. Know the type of client you want to work with, identify how you will approach and work with them. Have daily requirements and hold yourself accountable to helping a specific number of people every day, week, month and year.

Regional Sales Manager, Insurance
We live in an era where credit is too easy to get, material possessions are over-valued, and the immediate gratification thing is real! “Supporting” a client’s thinking about financial success can sometimes mean “changing” their thinking and that is challenging. But who doesn’t love a good challenge?!

Who is your current employer?
Great-West Life

What is your current position?
Regional Sales Manager, Insurance

How many years have you had the CFP® credential?
11 years

What was your dream job as a child?
Figure skating star in the Ice Capades!

How did you come to work in financial planning?
It was journey of self-discovery after my mother’s death. Women of her generation didn’t or couldn’t always choose to have a career. I came to understand what a strong, educated woman she was in spite of the life challenges she faced. She made a difference in people’s lives – she demonstrated that through her love of family, career and community. Mum always encouraged us to make choices, live with the consequences, follow our path and keep moving forward. This is the Cole’s notes version; I guess I’m trying to say she is my inspiration for living a life that makes a difference.

Why did you earn the CFP credential?
It was part of my journey in making this career choice – it goes back to valuing education and making the most of the choices you make in life.

What impact has the CFP credential had on your career?
It has distinguished me as a professional. There is no question it has opened doors for me; I have had the privilege of working in several different roles in the industry all of which have supported my growth and development as a CFP professional.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day. Each day is filled with reactive and proactive activities, not unlike any advisor’s workday. In my current role my goal is to bring value to my clients – the advisors that I work with – every day.
The part of my current role I enjoy most is working with advisors to develop opportunities they have uncovered in the client conversation and fact find. My aim is to support their thinking around the problem, help them position a strategy that addresses the problem and is one that the client will understand and be engaged in.

What is the best part of being a financial planner?
Problem solving. Every client is different – risk planning problems may not be completely unique but the way each client engages is. It’s about finding a way to support the client’s thinking around their financial success, whatever that means to them.

What is the most challenging part of being a financial planner?
We live in an era where credit is too easy to get, material possessions are over-valued, and the immediate gratification thing is real! “Supporting” a client’s thinking about financial success can sometimes mean “changing” their thinking and that is challenging. But who doesn’t love a good challenge?!

For someone breaking into the financial planning industry what words of wisdom would you share?
Know why you want to be an advisor; understand your mission and have a vision. This is critical to staying engaged during difficult times. Find a mentor and get your designations. I believe the Certified Financial Planner designation inspires respect from colleagues and clients alike.