In late 2006, U.S. Vice President Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Even before his award winning movie, analysts often paid attention to a company’s commitment to Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) principles.
In 2015, Dr. Tess Hebb, a research fellow at the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation presented her research at the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) AGM. Dr. Hebb’s research indicated that ESG equity mutual fund investors had a 63% chance of earning returns at the benchmark or above. This increased to 67% for ESG Balanced and Fixed Income investments. ESG is also shown to reduce downside risk when compared to their non-ESG counterparts.
In a November 2017 article in Psychology Today, author Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D., writes that mindfulness involves being purposeful, and, provides a counterbalance to our automatic pilot default. In other words, investors need to be mindful/purposeful when making money decisions.
“When I first started in the industry I wanted to emulate Gail Taylor. Ten years before we met, Gail had transitioned her book to portfolio managers that could demonstrate their commitment to ESG principles. She thought her business would shrink. Instead it grew by 30%,” Donna Gehmlich explains.
"Green has become the new black. Operating under ESG principles helps members make more money, take less risk, and make the world a better place,” the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® adds.
Donna’s Financial Services Career
Donna’s first job was as a server. “One year, I received what I thought was a large tax refund. I marched into the bank and told the teller I wanted to open an investment account with my refund. It turned out that what I thought was a “large” amount wasn’t “large” enough to purchase a GIC,” she says with a smile.
“Some time later I met with one of the bank’s licensed mutual fund advisors. We talked about risk and the investments that I could purchase. I realized there was so much I didn’t know. That prompted me to focus on my own financial literacy.”
Donna’s first corporate job was as a bank teller. Her manager encouraged her to consider a financial services career. “I’m so glad I listened. For the last 20 years I have had a career that I love.”
In addition to her mutual funds license, Donna earned several other industry designations including the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, the industry gold standard (2008), the Responsible Investment Advisor (2014), Elder Planning Counselor (2017) and, Advanced Investment Strategies (2018).
Servus Wealth Strategies
Servus Wealth Strategies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Servus Credit Union and is affiliated with other international credit unions. Servus is a sponsor of the RIA, and has close working relationships with a number of ESG portfolio managers. This gives Donna the resources she needs to mindfully invest members’ money.
“Their researchers talk to the heads of companies, go to their plants, attend their AGMs, go to quarterly Manager/Analyst meetings, evaluate CEO
compensation packages, and confirm companies conduct their operations in accordance with ESG principles and the UN Principles of Responsible Investing.”
“Servus allows me to provide members with unbiased advice and guidance as they make their way through life and through retirement. I spend time getting to know everything about members, including what keeps them up at night, as well as their priorities, goals, dreams, and values.”
Donna works closely with Senior Wealth Associate, Lesa Mueller. “Originally Lesa was my internal investment specialist. Wanting to make a career change while continuing to work with clients, Lesa joined my team in 2018. She has great people skills, is extremely kind hearted, and is active in Rotary. We are not only work colleagues, we are personal friends – in 2019 we went on a 4-day trek to Machu Picchu and spent 21 days travelling around Peru together.”
“Lesa and I spend a lot of time talking about what members need from their money. We talk about what members already have in place, how to structure their income stream, risk, taxes, and transitioning wealth. We need this information to figure out the appropriate strategy.” If there is ever anything Donna or Lesa don’t know how to handle, there is a plethora of internal and corporate experts and estate planning and insurance specialists that can assist.
For example, Donna and Lesa work closely with Trust and Estates Officer, Murray Paszko (Murray provides information about estate planning and how to most efficient transfer assets from one generation to another); Wealth Protection Specialist, Greg Ung (Greg assists in analyzing risks and providing solutions to address any gaps) and a host of external partners including accountants, lawyers, mortgage brokers, and realtors.
“We don’t try and ram anything down anyone’s throat. Of course, Lesa and I want to grow assets under management. But, we don’t focus on that. We are more interested in relationships, and in becoming friends with members and their children. We often work with several generations from the same family and encourage members to include other family members in our financial discussions.”
Does this approach work? According to one member, “…There's a clear and unhesitating line that marks where (Donna’s) expertise and responsibilities lie and where she feels we're best looked after by someone else. In that case, she makes introductions, attends meetings, and transitions everyone while remaining informed about all aspects and coordinating tasks and outcomes. We can't overstate her ability, knowledge of her company in particular and the market in general. Her caring elevates what might have been impersonal dealings into a true relationship.”
Another member says, “Donna…has an awesome sense of humor and that makes any "meeting" more of a coffee break with a good friend. She is very knowledgeable about the products offered by Servus Credit Union…and has made planning for our future goals and retirement simple, informative, and realistic. Any time we have had questions in regards to our accounts or portfolio, she has been quick to respond. If she did not have the answer she would reach out to someone who may and reply to us. Would I recommend her to others? In a heartbeat...”
Up Close & Personal
Donna’s commitment to ESG extends to her professional memberships including the RIA. “Every product on my shelf has been analyzed through an ESG lens. I am also mindful about ESG concepts in my personal life and purchase locally made goods and food from local farmers, compost, and recycle. In the words of Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Donna authors a weekly newsletter, regularly hosts education seminars, and is very active on social media. If you want to receive her newsletter or to participate in an upcoming workshop, simply email her at email@example.com.
She has one daughter, Cassidy, who is an artist on the west coast. Cassidy re-purposes and reinvents everyday objects that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Donna loves cats, motorcycle rides, and travels whenever time permits. Her own retirement plan involves living closer to nature and continuing to be philanthropic.
As a last word, Donna says, “It's becoming more important to find that balance between staying mindfully in the present and looking ahead to the future. Now is a good time to examine your financial strategy, and to refocus on your short and long-term goals to ensure you are well-positioned to take advantage of all opportunities.”
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 Category
Donna Gehmlich CFP,RIAC,EPC
Investment Advisor | Delton Branch
Servus Wealth Strategies | Credential Securities
T: 780.638.7179 | C: 780.977.3914
servus.ca | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
12809 - 82 Street
Edmonton, AB, T5E 2S