Financial Consultant, Ben Manzo first made the decision to pursue a career in finance by making a conscious choice to be interested in money. As an only child with parents who grew up in small towns, Ben knew that it would be up to him to develop a financial plan that would work for his family’s needs. Shortly after his birth, his family left the Niagara region to settle in East Toronto where he grew up on the Danforth. After winning a small lottery, he attended a reputable private high school and eventually moved away from home to start his post secondary education. During this time, he made personal finance a priority and found that he had a passion for helping others.
“I got into this business because I’m an only child and I knew that my parents would not be around forever,” explains Ben. “I realized that I would be by myself some day and decided that it’s probably best I learn about finance because that’s what’s going to keep me secure. I realized that in order to provide things and live a good life, understanding money would be important. I suppose I scared myself into learning about financial management.”
Starting his education at St. Michael’s College School provided Ben with a good foundation for his path towards a role in financial management. Meeting many people whom he considers to be “good centers of influence,” he was always thinking two or three steps ahead of wherever he currently was. By the time he graduated and moved on to Western University to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in economics, he was already a good fit for a role in financial management.
“When I was in my first-year and living in residence I ran for treasurer of my building, which was the biggest dorm at Western,” Ben says. “I lost by a few votes, but it helped me build inner strength. Sometimes you fall off the horse and you have to get back up. While that was happening, I was also part of the Italian Students Association. I was offered the position as their treasurer and later, in my final year became their president.”
Ben opted to complete the Canadian Securities Course (CSC) and Conduct & Practices Handbook (CPH) during his final year at Western. With this knowledge, he was ready to start working in Canadian Banking soon after graduation.
“In my heart and in my head, I knew I wanted to become a Financial Advisor,” explains Ben. “So, I became an Advisor at CIBC at the age of 21. I was working on Bay Street and I thought – wow I made it – this is great.”
In total, Ben would work for CIBC for approximately 15 years, spending 7 of them as a Financial Advisor and a Small Business Financial Advisor. Ben experienced all aspects of financial planning from investing to lending both in the personal and business sides of banking. Half-way through his tenure at the bank he was asked to become a Branch Manager. At the end of his time with CIBC, Ben became a General Manager and spent 5 years managing a team of financial advisors operating within the downtown Toronto core.
“During this time, I decided to complete my Executive MBA at Queen's University who was partnered with Cornell Johnson Graduate School in New York,” says Ben. “I studied for about 18 months and then began working for a company called MD Management which was owned by the Canadian Medical Association at the time. We provided financial services to physicians and part of the arrangement was that a doctor, client, or resident would pay annual dues and have access to our specified expertise and financial management. I became the Regional Manager for their downtown Toronto office (the largest office in Toronto and in Canada).”
Ben’s next move came four years later when he was recruited to join a much smaller company that also specialized in advising a select group of professionals. Joining Educators Financial Group in 2018, his team of Financial Planners provided advice to teachers, teaching support staff and members of the educational community.
Ben prides himself on a breadth of industry experience that spans the largest of enterprises (the bank), to a mid-sized national company and finally to this much smaller business where he acted as Vice President and reported directly to the CEO. With all of this expertise he has now decided to shift his focus, become self-employed and return to his roots on a more personal level with clients once again.
“During my career, I have always kept up with education and accreditation. In 2014 I became life licensed, completing the Life License Qualification Program (LLQP),” explains Ben. “I’ve also completed two levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program and am one level away from attaining my charter. I have many designations including the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®), Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), and I’m a Fellow with the Canadian Securities Institute (FCSI®). I wanted to take these designations plus my management experience and make them work together. After spending so many years working with other financial advisors and growing with successful teams, I decided it's about time I get back to where it all began, advising clients. Now I'm a Financial Consultant with IG Wealth Management.”
Ben will also be putting his many years of mentorship expertise to good use. Within his role at IG Wealth Management he plans to transition into what’s known as a Divisional Director role and will be mentoring and helping other Financial Advisors to get their practices set up while building his own practice. “I'm self-employed right now and I've never been self-employed before,” adds Ben.
“I'm loving it that I'm back managing clients, but also that there is a lot of autonomy in this role. I'm probably working the most I've ever worked – but now it's on my time and IG has been a fantastic place to explore this opportunity.”
Making the Transition to IG Wealth Management
At this stage in his career Ben is excited to bring his wealth of experience full circle. While he understands that the big banks may have access to the most resources, he also knows that this doesn’t mean Advisors at the bank level are able to offer their clients the most comprehensive plans. Based on his experience, the high demand for Bank Advisors to meet their deliverables can mean sacrificing details that independent Advisors are motivated to include.
“Bank financial plans can be very watered-down,” explains Ben. “A Bank Advisor may ask questions such as, when do you want to retire and how much do you need? I believe that an Advisor should be telling clients realistically when they can retire and how much they can afford. The answers should be based on a series of questions that you're asking while getting to know a client. No offense to the banks and mid sized companies, but it's a mandate of volume, volume, volume, that I lived and breathed as a leader. At IG it's more about the interaction and getting specific with clients. The bank got me to this point and it's valuable experience that gives me a well-rounded perspective as an independent advisor.”
Ben believes in striving for a client experience where a plan becomes specific and strategic, a plan like this cannot be a “cookie-cutter” one-size fits all plan. IG is an exciting environment for Ben because an IG plan offers clients complex financial planning strategies that are sophisticated. He appreciates that it takes many hours to prepare for just one client and that he needs to know clients’ information inside out.
“At IG I’m not reading from a script,” explains Ben. “I'll commit to getting the information they need. I'm also able to assist with life insurance, disability and critical illness and I get into things like estate planning. What I can offer clients now is holistic – a one stop shop. We even talk about the borrowing needs of an individual, it's all encompassing, and I like that. I also like that at IG we have many great partners to work with including partnerships with worldwide investment companies. I'm very proud to talk to clients about our partnerships and I believe that before you get to know me it’s important to get to know the company and our resources.”
Changing Industries, Changing Lives
Ben is uniquely positioned in the industry to understand the pressures business owners may be under as industries shift and change to meet the demands of a world facing new challenges. With his background in people management, Ben is accustomed to navigating change and helping guide others. As a Financial Advisor, this means he is sensitive to the needs of clients and happy to provide information, whether it is an important reminder that he is here for clients and sometimes that is more than enough to help reassure them during times of change, needed or not. He knows that sometimes a touch-point is simply an important reminder that he is here for clients and sometimes that is more than enough to help reassure them during times of change.
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic I sent a video to all clients, including one who works in financial services,” explains Ben. “The video was of our VP of strategy talking about coronavirus and some of the important things to think about during this time. Even though I know some clients may know this stuff, I don't want them to feel left out or forgotten about at this time. Even a reminder can lead to a conversation during a crisis.”
Ben also understands that every situation is different and that making a change in someone’s life doesn’t have to mean representing every expert they need. For example, tax planning. Ben believes in working in tandem with a tax professional to ensure that clients are making the right decisions about their finances.
“We are starting to ramp up planning and reviews because people are getting ready to file their taxes,” explains Ben. “While investment contributions are already in for the current tax year, it’s a great time to start to think about the next tax year. Investment planning for next year is important, it will come around the corner pretty quick. I don’t claim to be a tax expert, but part of my certification is to highlight how to identify tax savings. My advice could be as simple as shifting a non-registered account to a registered account. I want to work in concert with a client’s accountant so that all bases are covered.”
From a Dream to a Plan, and Giving Back
Ben’s start in finance began long before he had a family of his own. Now, a father of twins and a husband of 10 years, he likes to hang out with his family as much as he can and considers himself fortunate to be where he is today. An advocate for an active lifestyle, he participates in triathlons, and half-marathons whenever he can. He is a long-time supporter of the United Way and was one of the top fundraisers when he worked for CIBC. During his time with MD he became the chair for the United Way committee and had a team of people across Canada who would try to boost donations and spread the word within the company. He believes in giving back to his community as well as empowering clients to strive for the success he personally enjoys.
“I try to advise clients to go for prospects that they want,” says Ben. “I believe that with a well-executed plan of attack you can get there – you just have to stick to a plan and believe in it. Get into the habit of saving now, especially with the way the markets are, in order to average the ups and downs. When the market rebounds you'll be surprised and you won't realize how much money you have. As long as you've been contributing to pay yourself first, and you rely on the expertise of individuals who can give you that holistic plan to get you where you want to be, you'll get there. I want people to understand that they can do big things. Even if you think it's outside of the realm of possibility, it’s ok to dream big.”
This is a general source of information only. It is not intended to provide personalized tax, legal or investment advice, and is not intended as a solicitation to purchase securities. Ben Manzo is solely responsible for its content. For more information on this topic or any other financial matter, please contact an IG Wealth Management Consultant.
April Potter is a veteran writer with expertise in financial services including nearly 15 years in debt restructuring.
April has written for multiple online publications on a variety of subjects and offers a range of social media.
Also a painter, her background in finance is balanced by her artistic endeavors.
Ben Manzo, MBA, CFP®️, CIM®️, FCSI®️
Investors Group Financial Services Inc.
700-295 The West Mall, Etobicoke, On. M9C 2Z4
Office : 416 5437414