CHRIS DURNO, Investment Advisor, Cresco Wealth Management, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, Calgary
"Delivering high-end service every single time"
If Cresco Wealth Management were a hockey team, it would have a large enough roster to dress for a game.
With 18 team members, including seven Advisors, it’s likely no surprise that one of Cresco’s major strengths is its team-based approach. And with every member a first line player, it’s fitting that Chris Durno, a former professional hockey player, joined Cresco when his sports career ended in 2013. He had, after all, spent much of his life in a team environment.
From a forward to a Financial Advisor
“As a young child, you have these dreams. Mine was to play professional hockey. I started in the lower levels of professional hockey, worked my way to the American Hockey League and eventually the NHL,” says Chris. After a decade, and with his hockey career winding down, Chris went to Europe to play hockey and decide what his next steps would be.
Those next steps took him to Calgary…and finance.
“I started going door-to-door with a bunch of the big banks to see what kind of opportunities were out there for me. I quickly realized wealth management piqued my interest, and at that point, it was about finding my path.”
Chris came close to joining one of the big banks’ rookie programs; however, he was more attracted to the team approach and the competitive advantage over sole proprietors or small teams. He met Dean Bradshaw and knew that this was what he was looking for.
“I was introduced to Dean Bradshaw (Cresco founder) in 2013, and we hit it off. He had grown a very successful practice and was looking to grow Cresco,” says Chris. “We had six staff including our own Financial Planner and a ‘put the client first’ mentality. The focus on clients – and more specifically, service – aligned with my own beliefs. We had the four key pillars of our business: service, planning, behavioural finance, and portfolio management in place. We were prepared for our next step of growth.”
Chris has been part of Cresco for nine years along with Dean and Peter Kollias, and Cresco has been part of Wellington-Altus Private Wealth since 2019. The team takes a complete view of clients’ unique circumstances, and that means having the resources in-house to provide any of the services a client might require. “This is a relationship business where the goals of clients are paramount and the focus of our practice, so we have built the services required to meet those needs,” he says. “At Cresco, we have that infrastructure in place. We put a big focus on doing what we say we’re going to do.”
“We walk clients through the many complex aspects of wealth management, whether it's financial planning, insurance, tax strategies, real estate needs, or introducing accountants or lawyers, just to name a few.”
Cresco’s promise is to have a detailed wealth plan as the backbone of everything they do for clients or prospective clients. This plan becomes a living, working document that the team reviews annually or when circumstances require adjustments.
“When clients go through their biggest life moments, we have the ability to reassess the situation in a very timely manner,” says Chris. “We have the resources to adjust the plan or the tax strategy, as personal circumstances change.”
The team includes seven Financial Advisors (Chris, Dean, Peter, Jennifer, Sheena, Dimitri, and Rod), a financial planning division overseen by Wayne De Boer, and a team of associates and service experts to ensure all client needs are met.
“The clients who work with us become part of the Cresco family. We want to have that personal approach, where we know both spouses, their kids, and family. We want to know what's going on in their lives to recognize success and provide support through difficult situations. Clients know they can come to Cresco and if we don’t know the answer, we will find it for them.”
Ready to help in any situation
Cresco’s seven Advisors work with approximately 450 families. Each Advisor looks after no more than 70 or 80 families to ensure a personal approach and quick turnaround. They want to find opportunities where others have missed to minimize taxes, avoid the pitfalls of unforeseen health concerns, facilitate wealth transfers, or to make sure a family is protected in the future.
“Recently, I had a high-net-worth family come onboard who had not prepared an estate plan,” says Chris. “We can't write those documents, but our job as total wealth managers is to get those experts to the table and really hold the clients’ hands, sitting in those meetings with them to ensure estate documents were completed in a timely manner. It turned out to be critical for this family, unfortunately, as some health issues popped up soon thereafter. The client’s family was so grateful and well taken care of because we were able to get this work done efficiently.”
For Chris, being able to help families through challenging circumstances is one of the most rewarding aspects of his practice. So too is seeing clients accomplish goals they’ve set as they move into retirement.
“What hockey taught me about finance – and people”
Like any good hockey player, Chris credits his Cresco team for enabling him to give his very best to clients. He also knows that much of what he learned during his hockey career has helped him become the advisor he is today.
“I look at the skills that made me successful in hockey: dedication, perseverance, and probably grit,” says Chris. “In coaching my kids’ (hockey and soccer), I try to ingrain these characteristics in our day-to-day lives. Very few will be as lucky as I was to play sports professionally, but from my experience, the ones who continue to do the work behind the scenes will be successful. I certainly wasn't the most talented hockey player, but I committed myself and worked hard.”
“Communicating, listening to clients when they have concerns, and working through those challenges is critical. In sports, when you play on big teams, there’s a lot of challenges, a lot of personalities, and people from all over the world that you work with. It’s similar in a lot of ways in this business. You work with a lot of different people and personalities, and different careers. Different things are important to them and it's hearing those concerns and understanding and being compassionate to those concerns. Whether it's in sports or in finance, it's communicating, it's understanding.”
Priorities: paying it forward and putting family first
It’s also important for Chris and his team to give back to the community through volunteering and donating to charities. Cresco chooses a charity to support each year, and for 2022 their focus was on the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and building their new mental health facility. Together with his team members, clients, and industry partners, they raised over $20,000 for the Foundation.
Chris also volunteers with the Calgary Flames Alumni in their charitable endeavours, at least, when he’s not on ice with his own kids. With three young kids actively involved in sports – two girls in soccer and a son who plays lacrosse and hockey (of course) – Chris and his wife spend most nights and weekends either watching or coaching.
As for the future, Chris intends to continue growing Cresco while maintaining the high-end service and high-end performance their clients are accustomed to. “We want to bring on a few new relationships each year where we make sure we don’t dilute what we provide to the families we currently work with.” He adds, “We want to work with their kids, their parents, and their friends. Most of our business comes from these relationships, so we want all of our clients to be raving advocates of what we do.”
To put it all in hockey speak, Chris and the team are going to continue playing the full 60 minutes, and they’ll keep on giving 110 percent.
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.
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