CAMERON ST. AMANT
“Pay Yourself First”
For Cameron St. Amant, finance runs in the family.
“I loved money even when I was just a kid.” He laughs. “I used to call loonies ‘the big money’ and for one of my birthdays, my grandma gave me $50 all in loonies. I was pretty pleased.” Of course, the ever-curious Cam had to count out all 50 of them for himself, which is no surprise.
Born in Penetanguishene, Ontario, Cam watched his father’s career in finance and eventually, upon moving the family to Waterloo, run his own wealth advisory business. His father taught him the value of saving what he earned.
“My first job was at a fencing and decking company,” he explains. “It was the summer when I was 16, and once that summer was over, my dad recommended that I read The Wealthy Barber. So I did, and immediately put $1500 of my earnings into an RRSP. That was the start of my financial savings journey.”
This interest in money management continued as he prepared for University. Now living in Waterloo, Cam chose to stay in his hometown and complete his business degree at Laurier, where he graduated with a specialization in finance.
“To be honest, when I was in high school I really didn't know where I wanted to go with my life,” he says. “I knew that I wanted to help people one way or another, and I initially thought that I wanted to be a doctor. But my mom, being a pharmacist, had worked in hospitals and said, I don’t think that is the career that will make you happy. So I thought maybe I'd help people in a different way. At the time my dad was in wealth management, so he kind of steered me into the finance route, and that was it from there.”
It ended up being a good call. Even during his undergrad, Cam capitalized on financial opportunities. When the part-time job he held at Walmart offered him an employee stock option plan that matched his contributions 20 cents to the dollar, he took advantage. By the time he left, the share price had roughly doubled —- reinforcing the shrewd financial advice he received at home.
“One of my dad’s mantras was always accept free money,” he says. “So if your employer is going to match your contribution to your share ownership plan or pension plan, always max that out because you’ll immediately be getting a 20-100% return, depending on how much they're matching.”
Finances weren’t the only way Cam played to his strengths. In business school and at his part-time jobs, he found a natural talent for making connections.
“I would literally just start talking to customers,” he remembers. “I've always loved learning about other people and what they do. Start by asking how their day is going, and be genuinely curious and the conversation just opens up. You never know what you're going to learn from other people.”
After leaving Walmart, Cam applied the same mentality to his work as a bank teller. It was his first introduction to Scotiabank, and to the banking and finance world where he remains today.
“I was a teller for around two years with Scotiabank, and I loved doing that — just chatting with people about finance. I would always try to help people book meetings to start investing, or open a credit card,” he says. “Wherever it was that they needed help.”
Soon afterward, his combination of talent and approachability was noticed by Scotiabank, who accepted him into their Wealth Management Associate Program following his degree. For the next year, he focused on developing his core skills in financial planning and asset management, honing not just his knowledge of wealth management, but also his ability to connect with clients.
“They even hired an etiquette coach for us,” he remembers with a laugh. “How to dine with clients and properly shake hands.”
It was a fit, and Cam soon found himself in a new role working alongside his father, Brian St. Amant.
“He’s the Senior Advisor on my team. He’s 62 now, so I’m the succession plan – I’ll be taking over eventually, but right now it’s dad, me, and our assistant Jenny. We’re not a big team, but combined, we've got a lot of years in finance. That’s one of the big positives for us, that we have that trust and longevity. We’re well established, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Right now, Cam’s days revolve around financial plans — calling clients to chat about the market, finding the right products to suit their needs, and doing portfolio management. The latter is a job both he and his father share, and one they both enjoy.
“My dad and I both love doing the fundamental and technical analysis,” he explains. “Looking at stocks, and identifying when something is trading at a good level. The other thing that I like to emphasize is the day-to-day trading of the securities, this is called the market action. I always try to get to the bottom of why a stock is moving one way or another.”
It’s this focus on getting to the bottom of things that makes Cam so engaged in his job.
“There isn't one solution to investing,” he says. “You can buy this stock or that stock and they could both do well, one could do well and the other might not, or they could both perform poorly. But I'm always trying to stay on top of things and learn as much as I can — reading up news reports, or finding new technical indicators, whatever is going to give our clients an edge. Because we tend to buy individual securities, we stay on top of the market a lot more. We're always keeping an eye on the stocks in the portfolio to see if something significant has changed with the company and whether it’s time to replace that security with another or not.
Although both Cam and Brian love finding new ways to analyze the market, Cam also enjoys the conversations and connections he makes at his job.
“Honestly, I like everything about my job,” he admits. “I love chatting with the clients, but I also love the data aspect. One of the things that I enjoy the most is creating financial plans because that combines both learning about clients and putting the data into an easily digestible format. Doing discovery meetings where I sit with clients and learn as much as possible like — what they do for a living, what they have done in the past, who their loved ones are, what things are important to them, and how they built their wealth. And then I turn all of that into a plan. Most of the time it gives the clients peace of mind, and clarity about their finances. That really makes me feel that I'm doing the right thing with my life right now.”
A hands-on portfolio manager, Cam also enjoys getting to the bottom of things in his personal life.
“Since I bought and moved into my house in January 2020, almost every single one of my appliances have broken. Rather than calling a repair company, I just watch a video online or pull up the user manual. I've managed to fix all of my appliance problems at a fraction of what it would have cost me to pay somebody else. That's just how I am. I like to open things up and figure them out from the inside out.”
This mentality has helped him in his charitable pursuits as well: he and his branch recently did a build day with Habitat for Humanity, where he put his early deck building skills to work. He’s contributed over 200 hours to the organization overall and enjoys staying active in his spare time as well. Cam plays ball hockey, golf, and pickleball multiple times a week, in between spending time with his girlfriend, Alex, and their three cats.
“We were also fostering some cats for a while,” he says with a laugh. “So we would have up to five cats in the house at once, which was getting to be a little bit crazy. So we might wait until we buy a bigger place to do that again.”
As for his finances, Cam’s advice on making ‘the big money’ is still the same:
“Pay yourself first. Start investing early, but it's never too late — the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. And have a plan. If you set attainable goals and stay the course, you’ll get there.”
Kristen Campbell holds a BA (Hons) in Political Science from McMaster University and spent a year in the University of Calgary's MA Political Science program before completing her BComm in Accounting. She enjoys blending her research & financial background with her passion for telling stories and creating content that's as fun to read as it is to write.
Cameron St. Amant, BBA, CFP®, CIM®
Scotia Wealth Management™ | The Bank of Nova Scotia
St. Amant Portfolio Management
115 King Street South, Suite 210,
Waterloo, ON, N2J 5A3