"True success in wealth management to me, is genuinely caring
about my clients and their well-being"
The story of Al Verma, Senior Investment Advisor of Verma Private Wealth/CG Wealth Management (CG), is a captivating journey that demonstrates how a passion for one field led to unexpected opportunities in another.
“I considered myself more of an analytical individual,” Al mentions. Upon graduating from the University of Waterloo with a mechanical engineering degree, Al worked as an engineer at Ontario Hydro. “After a couple of years, I realized that my true passion was in business and capital markets, which led me to pursue a career in the financial services industry.”
This marked the turning point in his career. Armed with ambition, Al took a leap of faith and dove head first into the financial sector by signing up for the Level 1 Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, to be written in Ottawa. “I had a choice between going back to school for an MBA or getting my CFA charter with the goal of becoming a financial analyst. In the end, I opted to begin my career as an investment advisor at CG in 1998, driven by my desire to gain valuable practical experience without any delay.”
“As I progressed, I discovered that I really enjoyed the advisory role as it offered more independence, and I was accountable primarily to myself,” he mentions. “It provided me with an opportunity to help people, which I found very fulfilling. Al received his CFA charter in 2000, which enabled him to transition to a portfolio manager role which would allow him to provide discretionary investment management services for his clients.
The Intersection of Sports and Success
In 1975, Al’s family moved to Canada from India, which forced him to navigate the waters of a new culture and environment. One memorable experience he recalls from his early days was playing baseball shortly after arriving from India. “I was the kid who would hit the baseball and run to first base with the bat,” Al says. “Back in India, the only sport I played was cricket, where I had to run to the wickets with the bat. So, naturally, when I started playing baseball, I couldn't undo my habit of running to first base with the bat, like a true cricket player.”
Fast forward a few years, Al recalls two of his favourite memories growing up in Ottawa. “I really enjoyed going to Ottawa Rough Riders football games with my dad and playing shinny hockey at the outdoor rink down the street to get through the long Ottawa winters,” he says. “Football and hockey continue to be my favourite pastimes even today.”
Among many of these cherished moments, sports played a pivotal role in shaping Al’s professional journey. “Many of the activities I enjoyed when I was younger, particularly sports like tennis, golf, hockey, and baseball, are what enabled me to create closer bonds with my clients today.” What began as a simple affinity for sports evolved into a unique networking opportunity, where business and pleasure naturally coalesced. This fusion of passion and profession enabled Al to cultivate a deeper rapport with his clients, fostering trust and comfort far beyond the typical advisor-client relationship.
The Path to Excellence: A Holistic Approach to Financial Success and Personalized Service
Al's unwavering commitment to excellence has fueled a journey of continuous growth, elevating his offerings from humble beginnings to an impressive suite of services. One standout feature that distinguishes Al is the comprehensive scope of services he provides. “The biggest difference is that I now have a team,” Al mentions. “I've carefully selected three experienced individuals to form a cohesive team at CG. This allows us to more effectively handle portfolio management, financial planning, and client communications, to offer a higher level of personalized service. My skilled team and our strong culture help us achieve our goals, which are the goals of my clients.”
Al's engineering background adds a distinctive perspective to his approach as a finance professional. “My background shaped my investment approach, making it highly analytical and process driven,” he explains. “I combine analyst research and different viewpoints to perform thorough analyses and build a more customized and efficient portfolio for each of my clients. The overarching investment goal is to optimize the combination of dividend and growth strategies to maximize total return for my clients.”
From the very outset of the client-advisor relationship, Al emphasizes the importance of meeting and, if possible, exceeding client expectations. “Our number one priority is not to enter into a relationship with unrealistic goals,” he says. “If circumstances change, we communicate openly with our clients and take a forward-looking approach to ensure their objectives are achievable. We consider industry benchmarks, effective withdrawal rates, target rates of return, and inflation forecasts when setting goals.”
Honesty, transparency, and clear communication are at the forefront of his belief system, shaping every interaction with clients. “I feel very confident about what I bring to the table and believe that I can make a significant difference in people's lives. I strive to be honest, transparent, and direct when discussing what I aim to accomplish for my clients.”
Another cornerstone of Al's approach lies in his forward-looking investment process. “I strongly believe that one of the reasons many people are not more successful with their investments is because they fixate on past performance, believing it to be an accurate predictor of future results,” he explains. “However, I firmly believe that a forward-looking view is critical in order to identify potential thriving markets and secular investment themes before the masses catch on. The next decade may not mirror the previous one, so it's essential to look ahead and adjust strategies accordingly.”
Emphasizing the importance of looking ahead, Al encourages his clients to limit their focus on the short term in favour of envisioning their path 12 months ahead. With unwavering confidence, he advocates adopting a three-year view, believing it to be crucial to becoming a proficient investor. “If you don't adopt such a perspective, you might find yourself doing something more akin to gambling or speculating than investing,” he explains.
Al's values go beyond the financial realm; personalized service is of immense importance to him. “Money is one of the most important aspects of people's lives, second only to their families. Establishing a personal connection with clients and gaining their trust is vital. By knowing my clients on a deeper level, I can provide an enhanced level of service that gives them peace of mind and comfort to focus on their lives without having to worry about day-to-day or monthly fluctuations in their portfolio's value.”
Navigating Retirement with Expertise
Al mentions that his clientele consists predominantly of individuals approaching retirement or those who have recently retired [within the last five years]. “It became clear to me that to meet our client’s needs, we would have to become skilled at cash management, using GICs, high interest savings accounts and bonds, as well as maximizing after-tax retirement income,” he said. “One of the ways we are different is our specialization in cash management and retirement income generating portfolios.”
He recalls a standout success moment that holds immense significance for him, far beyond monetary gains.
“In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I had a client who had just retired. As the markets were plummeting, they became very nervous and wanted to sell everything. I advised them to take some time to think about it and call me back after they’d done so. After careful consideration and understanding their financial situation through a carefully laid out financial plan, I felt that crystallizing those losses would jeopardize the retirement they wanted. It was stressful for me too, as I am fully accountable for my recommendations. However, I remained confident and advised them not to sell. Thankfully, the market rebounded the next week and the client regained faith in the plan we’d forged together. Guiding people through tough times like these, knowing it can make a material difference in their lives, is something that stands out for me.”
The Power of Mentorship
For Al, mentorship holds a special place in his heart, as he believes there's always something to learn from everyone around him. Throughout his career, Al Verma has been fortunate to have worked with numerous incredible mentors who played pivotal roles in shaping his remarkable journey. Among the many influential mentors, one who really stands out is Glen Milne.
“I met Glen in 2001 when he left the institutional desk at CG and moved to an office down the hall from me,” he recalls. “Glen started in the business in 1971 with Pitfield Mackay Ross and was one of the first employees when CG opened a Toronto office in 1992. He specialized in the mining sector and had strong relationships with most of the top fund managers on Bay Street. Glen impressed me with his knowledge of mining stocks and had the most amazing stories of fortunes made and lost in that sector.”
Glen embraced the entrepreneurial culture at CG to become one of the most successful advisors in the firm’s history. “Even though I don’t focus on a specific sector in my practice, Glen taught me how important it is to find great ideas, take the time to learn all the big and small details, and be transparent about the risk versus reward of any opportunity when making recommendations to clients.”
With mentorship, team building, and continuous professional development, Al learned the significance of genuinely caring about his clients and their well-being. He understood that money holds immense importance in people's lives and that being a financial advisor goes well beyond numbers and investments. It's about building strong relationships with clients, understanding their goals, fears, and aspirations, and guiding them through both financial challenges and opportunities.
A Journey of Impact, Passion, and Future Possibilities
In the world of finance, Al is not only driven by professional success but also by a strong sense of responsibility to give back to his community. Through his volunteer work and philanthropic initiatives, Al strives to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. “One charity that I support is the Aga Khan Foundation through their World Partnership Golf event. I have been involved in this cause for the past 10 years, which works to combat global poverty and empower millions of people to improve their quality of life,” he mentions. “I also believe in giving back to the local community, and one of the organizations I actively donate to is the United Way here in Toronto.”
Outside of his professional and philanthropic endeavours, Al finds joy and fulfillment in pursuing his personal interests, including tennis, golf, skiing, and attending live sporting events. Al is a proud season ticket holder for both the Buffalo Bills and the Ottawa Senators even though he lives in Toronto. His love for sports is complemented by the peace he finds on the waters of Toronto Island, where his boat serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Balancing a successful career with meaningful personal pursuits, Al remains humble and grateful for the opportunities life has granted him. “Work has been a significant part of my life, and I want to strike a balance between professional engagement and personal development,” Al says.
For Al, the recent venture with CG Wealth Management marks an exciting new chapter in his career. “As an entrepreneurial firm, it empowers advisors like myself to shape our businesses in ways that best serve clients,” he says. “Though we only embarked on this journey a year ago, I believe there is so much more to explore and achieve, with countless opportunities awaiting us. I am excited about what the future holds for everyone who is part of the Verma Private Wealth team.”
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Al Verma, CG Wealth Management
Senior Investment Advisor; Portfolio Manager
40 Temperance St, Suite 2100
Toronto, ON M5H 0B4