- JANICE TUFF
ANDREW SUTHERN, CFA® CFP® FCSI® CIM®, Senior Wealth Advisor, IPC Securities, Winnipeg / Calgary
"Going over and above for clients and raising the bar for industry"
“I am an analytical geek.”
This is how Andrew Suthern describes himself – and he does so somewhat proudly and slightly apologetically. The clients who have benefited from his passion for analytics, however, would likely argue that no apology is necessary. His thoughtful, analytical and, yes, almost obsessive approach to money management and investing has helped clients reach their goals for more than 25 years.
It's an approach that continues to evolve. Andrew, a Portfolio Manager and Senior Investment Advisor with Suthern Private Wealth Management, a part of IPC Securities Corporation in Winnipeg, has never been a fan of sticking with cookie-cutter approaches. In fact, he’s on a bit of a mission to raise the bar and move the financial industry past that traditional, yet still common, linear approach to financial planning.
The Monte Carlo method
“How my planning differs is in terms of depth,” says Andrew. “Lots of Advisors do full financial plans, but I do something called Monte Carlo. I have heard that not a high percentage of Advisors in Canada use it.”
Using a Monte Carlo simulation, Andrew can determine the likelihood of different outcomes based on a set of assumptions and how they respond to random variables. The Monte Carlo method helps financial planners model how a particular portfolio will perform under various market conditions, a real benefit given the volatility of markets. “If I’m doing a financial plan for you, you say, ‘here are my assets, here’s how I want to live. I want to live on $5,000 a month plus vacation every year, retire.’ I put in Canada pension, OAS, all these variables, plus assumptions, like inflation and the rate of return, and I project it out.”
Andrew does between 500 to 1,000 variabilities on a rate of return, then shows clients their success rate for achieving their retirement goals based on those variabilities. Some are within the client’s control, like the date they retire, how much they save before they retire and how much they want to spend in retirement. Their investments’ rate of return is also a choice, depending on how much risk a client is comfortable with.
It’s a system that works. “In the last 25 years, as long as a client runs their Monte Carlo above an 80 per cent success rating, I’ve never had to tell them to go back to work in retirement or that they’ll outlive their money. Not even during 2000, 2008, 2009 or when COVID hit and markets were down.”
Your wealth should be in the hands of a professional
Andrew has always sought out better ways of doing things. When he started in finance, he’d already earned his Bachelor of Commerce honors degree from the University of Manitoba, but knew he wanted to learn a lot more to be a Financial Planner – and a professional – who could really help people. He attained his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) in 2022, his Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®) designations in 1998, and his Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation in 2000. In 2005, he earned the Fellowship of the Canadian Securities Institute (FCSI®), the highest honour and most senior credential in Canadian financial services.
Being a professional is something Andrew takes to heart. “I felt I could best help people if I got all these degrees. You would never go to a doctor who had taken a two-month course,” says Andrew. “I agree wholeheartedly that health is more important than wealth, but I would say wealth is a close second. Financial planning, money management should be seen as a profession, no different from a doctor, accountant, or dentist.”
Analysis and alternative trumps traditional and cookie cutter
On top of his many designations, Andrew is a Portfolio Manager, so he has the discretion to manage clients’ money in a manner he knows will best serve their interests. For Andrew, that means, once again, straying from a more traditional approach. “Portfolio management hasn’t really evolved since the 1950s. Primarily, portfolios continue to be managed traditionally with a mix of stock and bond ownership.” he says. While they used to balance each other out – if stocks went down, bonds would go up – stocks and bonds in recent years are more often going in the same direction.
To better protect clients’ assets, Andrew has become a proponent of alternative investments, particularly alternative investments not highly correlated with stock and bonds. “I have 25 per cent of clients’ money in alternative investments,” he says. “Bonds could go down, but one of the investments in the 25 per cent could go up.”
He also runs his own stock portfolio. His process begins with a number of quantitative algorithms that dig deep into investment research and trends, and provide him solid analysis on which to make informed decisions on buying or selling stocks. He overlays a program that utilizes artificial intelligence to help determine stocks that have higher odds of performing well over the next year. It’s a thorough process that adds value for clients who have a portion of their portfolio in his quant. “I do not charge extra fee for clients to have access to the stock portfolio and it’s a lot of extra work. But because of my analytical nature and my passion, I love doing it.”
Andrew’s analytical approach to money management is likely why many of his clients are engineers, most of whom come from the oil and gas industry. They share Andrew’s interest in the analysis and they want to see the charts and the spreadsheets. His second largest clientele are divorced and widowed women. “It’s the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of style,” says Andrew. “They really want to know that they’re going to be ok. They want to make sure that they’re not going to outlive their money.”
Keeping clients on track
Whoever the client, and whatever their level of interest in the process and details, Andrew believes it’s his job to keep his clients’ wealth on track by keeping emotions out of their investment decisions. That means not buying into what looks like the next best thing -- but is often short-lived excitement. “In 2021, the narrative was pretty much, buy anything that goes up. The number of conversations I had with clients about, I want to own Bitcoin, Tesla stocks, GameStop,” he says. “When interest rates were low, it promoted a gambling mentality. I refused to participate in the emotions of that.”
What Andrew does want to see is clients reaping the rewards of his guidance. “Just this morning, I met with clients where we’d been doing plans for a decade. And every single year they listen to me,” he says. “Our whole conversation today was about how excited they are that they can retire at 60. I like to feel I had a part to play in that.”
His greatest reward comes when he sees that all of his planning and projections, and all of his analysis and his algorithms pay off for his clients. “We built a plan 20 years ago. And as much as you put assumptions into it: inflation, interest rates, rates of return, it’s amazing if I go back over it with people who have been with me 25 years, and see how closely the reality of their financial plan follows the projections we made 20 years ago.”
Simply put, his process works.
Setting the next generation on a path for success
Andrew wants to put the process to work for more younger people. He already works with the children of many of his clients; 20-somethings who may be planning a family or buying their first home. Most of them already have a strong base of knowledge before he talks to them. “I can tell pretty quickly by the questions they ask and the answers they have, they know what they’re talking about,” he says. “They realize I’m not trying to sell them anything. I’m just trying to help them build their net worth as efficiently as they can. I can stand back and be objective about their money and say, have you thought about this or that? If I can get them young enough, get them on a savings plan, get them to see what buckets are best to help them build their wealth, they’re set.”
Andrew has plans to reach a wider audience of young people by sharing his knowledge and experience through social media. Helping to build that solid financial foundation is an important way he feels he can give back to the community, and he’s working towards creating short videos on wide-ranging financial topics that he will post to YouTube and Instagram. “Anyone can google anything,” he says. “There’s so much out there, it’s confusing. I might show how I analyze a stock, how to get a strict buy, strict sell discipline. If you want to manage your own money, this is how you do it. I have 25 plus years knowledge and I want to bestow some of that on people who have two-minute attention spans.”
When he’s not looking after clients in Alberta, Manitoba and B.C., Andrew focuses on his family. He spent a few years living and working in Calgary, but moved back to Winnipeg after his dad passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2009. “My dad died young at 64,” says Andrew. “The next year my son was born, and I like to think he had something to do with it.”
Andrew’s family includes his wife, her two grown stepsons and his son, now 13. He’s also a devoted pet-parent to three dogs and two chinchillas. Maybe not the most expected combination of pets, but for Andrew it fits. It’s just another nod to his non-traditional approach to life and career.
Janice Tuff is a professional writer and communicator who got her start in radio copywriting.
Three decades later, she continues to draw upon the valuable lessons learned in her radio days: grab your audience’s attention quickly and always tell an engaging tale.
Andrew M. Suthern
Portfolio Manager, Senior Investment Advisor, CFA®, CFP®, CIM®, FCSI®
IPC Securities Corporation Suthern Private Wealth Management
1230-1122 4th Street SW,
Calgary, AB, T2R 1M1
2nd Floor, 749 St. Mary's Road,
Winnipeg, MB, R2M 3N6