In every life, certain unexpected moments can occur that instantly change everything. For Neal Owen, one such moment came in the spring of 1974. While his parents were on vacation in Mexico, his mother fell gravely ill. With commercial airlines unwilling to transport her back to Canada, she spent the next six months fighting for her life in hospital there, with Neal’s father by her side.
Only due to the generosity of a family friend with access to a charter jet were they able to return to their home in the picturesque town of Owen Sound, on the shores of Georgian Bay. But, in their long absence, their successful clothing store was impacted. The financial and emotional impact of these traumatic events changed his family forever. They also taught Neal vital lessons that would help shape his own successful, 38-year career in financial services.
“I made the decision early on that I was going to help prepare entrepreneurial families for life’s uncertainties and to protect what they cannot afford to lose,” says Neal. “I knew I had to build trusting relationships with my clients to create an atmosphere that encouraged an open exchange of information. This is so important, especially when discussions about finance touch on sensitive and personal areas of their lives. This trust provides the framework to help clients make wise decisions that instill a sense of certainty in uncertain times. Providing confidence, clarity, and peace of mind is my number one priority.”
Philosophy & Approach
In 1982, when Neal began his financial services practice, financial planning was not well-understood. Conversations typically focused purely on returns, not on how wealth could help clients live their lives on their own terms. “Financial advisors seemed uninterested in helping clients achieve their short, medium and long-term goals,” says Neal.
“I founded BlueRock in response to an unrealized need among entrepreneurs and professionals for values-based life planning. “Our goal is not to do business with everybody that needs that we have; our goal is to do business with the people that believe in what we believe, especially the willingness to challenge the status quo.”
A comprehensive wealth management strategy includes identification of the clients’ life goals “Our access to expertise, a broad spectrum of entrepreneur-specific services, and our unparalleled commitment to client service, create the foundation of BlueRock’s integrated approach,” he says.
“Our client commitment includes a promise to to gain an understanding of their needs, to leverage our resources, and to provide solutions that are appropriate for them and their families,” says Neal. “BlueRock also brings together experts from multiple disciplines - from insurance and investments to tax, legal and estate planning. This holistic approach helps clients achieve their life goals.”
BlueRock is compensated on a fee-for-service basis. A key component of the company’s approach is to redefine what is involved by retirement-related investing; instead of just focusing on wealth maximization, Neal’s team seeks to achieve a consistent steam of retirement income.
“This is how we focus on the ‘right’ objective. Our robust asset allocation strategy is based upon sound investment theory, and makes a real difference for clients,” says Neal. “The strategy really pays off in a downturn when clients are able to remain fully invested.”
Correctly identifying the best objective for each client requires extensive financial planning. For example, Neal insists on an Investment Policy Statement that outlines the client’s financial objectives including asset allocation, annual contributions to the portfolio, planned expenditures, and investment time horizon. “We believe a sound investment plan begins with this policy statement,” says Neal. “Unfortunately, many advisors and clients ignore this critical step because it can be very time-consuming, detail-oriented and tedious.”
In Neal’s view, starting with a well-considered plan not only ensures clients are in the best possible position to meet their long-term life goals, and forms the basis for future behavioural coaching conversations. “Almost none of what you hear in the media pertains to your specific objectives,” Neal explains. “Market performance and the headlines change more often than do your objectives. Not reacting to the crisis du jour has tremendous value over the course of time.”
BlueRock, which is audited annually by the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX) to certify it adheres to the highest standards in the industry, also utilizes a specialized Financial DNA software. The technology includes questions about risk preferences, communication styles, learned behaviors, and quality of life. “When you first become a client, we ask you to complete two questionnaires,” Neal says. “This helps us pair you with a compatible advisor. Our clients come first in every way. Clients recognize this and, for more than two decades now, our business has been 100% referral.”
Of course, portfolio performance is important. Asset allocation and diversification are two of the most powerful tools used by Neal’s team. Each BlueRock portfolio contains more than 10,000 different securities. “All of our portfolios are constructed using broadly diversified, low-cost funds that tilt the securities selection to those that have been identified by Nobel prize-winning researchers to outperform over time. Our strategies are beautifully designed, simple to follow, and closely monitored. This allows clients to confidently embrace their investment strategy and to ride out the inevitable ups and downs in the stock markets.”
Neal and his team continue to innovate. “Our close working relationships with great academic minds combined with our innovative, out-of-the-box thinking have helped us find ways to continually innovate and evolve.
Up Close & Personal
Neal often speaks at industry conferences and events, and in the community. BlueRock financially supports Big Brothers and Big Sisters, local charities for abused women and homeless youth, and volunteers at events benefitting the community hospital. Neal and his wife, Kim, have a 24-year old daughter, Amanda, who currently teaches snowboarding and skiing in Banff. In his spare time, Neal hunts grouse and pheasant with his English Setter, Gauge.
Neal says, “We enjoy our work. We value our relationships with our clients, and are committed to being trustworthy, transparent, and reliable. We believe it’s our mission to provide clarity and confidence within the framework of a comfortable experience.”
Through it all, Neal never loses sight of what first drove him to pursue a financial services career in the first place: helping clients achieve the peace of mind that they will have the resources that will allow them to live the lives they want, no matter what the future holds. “Clients want to know that they won’t outlive their money. They want to know they can start checking off the boxes on their bucket list. They also want to face the future with anticipation.”
The opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PEAK Investment Services Inc. Although this article has been written with the utmost care, and the contents are based on Suzen Fromstein’s interview of Neal Owen, there is no guarantee that it will be correct or applicable to all individual cases. Some statements reflect Neal Owen’s personal opinions.
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Section.
Neal Owen | President
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