DARREN PASTRO, CPA, CIM®, Senior Investment Advisor, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth - Kelowna, B.C
“We measure our performance based on our clients’ success”
Investment Advisors are generally not known as gamblers. Neither are accountants. Darren Pastro is a Senior Investment Advisor and Portfolio Manager with Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, under the MP Wealth Advisory team in Kelowna, as well as a Chartered Professional Accountant, so he fits both profiles. True to form, he’d never gamble with the trust of his clients – and certainly not with their wealth.
The thinking among most Advisors is that investing is a long game, and the best approach is to hang on when times get tough. But it’s not always the best advice, says Darren. At least, not anymore.
“Risk management is becoming a really key component.”
“Traditionally, managing risk is, you own stocks and bonds, but I don’t think that sort of approach is going to work going forward,” says Darren. “You need to understand the different asset classes and their current prevailing trends. And then only try to hold them when they are in intermediate uptrends. You can’t be afraid to go to cash if you need to. We’re telling our clients the most important thing is to tactically reduce exposures during negative periods and not just hold on when it’s going down.”
With a front row seat to the market meltdowns in 2000 and 2008, along with the volatility that continued to emerge in the years that followed, Darren and his partner Scott Marshall created a business that focused on protecting capital at certain points in time. “We have a history of being able to help our clients manage through bad periods in the market,” says Darren. “That’s mostly because we have an excellent tool, a proprietary algorithm I created called Pivot™, which helps us get out of the way when things get rocky.”
This year was a good example of that. Darren says that bad markets tend to cluster, and that’s exactly what they did in the first six months of 2022. The team’s approach not only protected their clients from bad returns, it also freed up more cash to put into more promising investments. “Not holding high levels of equity at certain points makes the ride a lot smoother for clients while also creating higher future return potential. After the first six months of this year, we had more client capital to put to work than other managers. We had $95 out of every $100 to invest while others only had $85.”
And that, says Darren, is what differentiates his practice from most others.
Bringing that extra level to financial planning
Before moving into the finance industry, Darren worked for years as a CPA in Calgary and in the Kootenays, where he was born and raised. He moved into the finance industry because, as an accountant, he was seeing only one side of a client’s financial situation and saw that nobody was integrating the other aspects. “I would see their taxes but have no ability to look into what was happening in other financial areas for clients,” he says. “It was like they were trying to have people balance on a stool with two legs. When I moved into the industry, I wanted to add that third leg: the tax side of the decisions they were making.”
Darren moved into the brokerage business with Midland Walwyn in 1997. With his associate Scott Marshall, Darren established MP Wealth Advisory, and in 2019, it became a part of Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, with offices in Kelowna and Trail, B.C. Their assistant, Deb Baines, has been with them since the very beginning. And about eight years ago, the team added Craig Adams as an Associate Portfolio Manager. “We’re proud of the capabilities we have as a team,” he says. “Scott and I are Portfolio Managers. Deb is the point of contact for everyone, and she’s been a great resource for clients that’s second to none,” he says. Combined, the team has more than 70 years investment experience.
MP Wealth Advisory works with clients in a number of provinces across Canada. Most are nearing or already in retirement, so the team specializes in helping them retire comfortably and managing their risk so they can maintain their comfortable lifestyle. Ensuring everything is taken care of from an estate planning perspective – from taxes to passing assets on to the family – is a large part of the team’s work. And guiding them through their financial journey and helping them improve their financial situation is one of the most rewarding aspects of Darren’s practice.
“Whether it’s helping them gift money to the next generation, helping them put together their estate plan so they understand that all their ducks are in a row, or generating good return for them in terms of what they need, that’s really rewarding. A lot of our clients have been with us for a long time. Those are relationships we really cherish.”
Equally rewarding is knowing they’ve provided solid investment and risk management, and protected their clients’ money when markets turn. “Before the 2020 market meltdown we were able to protect the bulk of our clients ahead of time,” says Darren. “We de-risked portfolios in February 2020 and were able to avoid a significant part of the COVID market draw down. Ultimately, that brought better returns for our clients for the rest of the year without a lot of volatility.”
The team also specializes in discretionary investment management, something Darren believes brings the most value for their clients. “We’re making decisions day-to-day inside the client portfolios for them. It allows us to de-risk really quickly or get in front of opportunities really quickly,” he says. “In a single morning, my entire client base could be protected, and my entire client base could own the NASDAQ if we wanted to. There’s an efficiency to what we’re doing right now that we didn’t have before we were discretionary managers.”
Our client relationship is founded on three tenets
Darren and his team have built long-lasting client relationships by committing to three main tenets. They provide unparalleled service by understanding and empathizing with their clients and their financial goals and providing advice that adds value while achieving their goals. They work hard to communicate well – ensuring clients are fully informed and confident about their investment approach. And they take a focused, hands-on approach, regularly monitoring client accounts so they’re ready to make changes when opportunities arise or circumstances change.
That solid commitment to their clients has been recognized formally. This year, Wealth Professional named MP Wealth Advisory one of its 2022 Five-Star Top Advisory Teams, an award that honours teams that offer outstanding service and contribute meaningfully to their clients and the finance industry. “We're really proud of that,” says Darren. “It's a culmination of 20-plus years of us working together as a team. It was a nice accomplishment and it was recognition for us as a team, which is even more important.”
Going forward, Darren sees the team continuing to grow and adapting approach to serve the next generation of clients. “I think the challenge our industry has is to demonstrate the value to younger people,” he says. “We see millennials and that next generation as an interesting growth area, so we’re structuring our mandates and investment approach. They have a different mindset than previous generations.” They will also be the generation with the money, as wealth from the “boomers” is transferred over. “It’s eventually going to land in those hands, and we better have some solutions for them.”
On the water and in the community
Darren’s own “next generation” is his son, a lawyer in Vancouver. Darren and his wife, who will be celebrating 31 years of marriage this year, live in Kelowna, just 15 minutes from Lake Okanagan and their beloved sailboat.
Spending time with his family on the lake is important to Darren. But when he’s not sailing, enjoying the outdoors, or helping clients stay a few steps ahead of any downturns, Darren finds time to give back to his community. He’s sat on the Board of Community Futures in Trail, BC, an organization that provides guidance and financial support for small businesses. And he’s currently on the board of Living Positive Resource Centre (as treasurer, of course) which provides resources and supportive services that focus on men’s health and wellness in the Okanagan area.
Darren may not be a gambler, but he knows when he’s been dealt a good hand. Life is good in the Okanagan and his nearly three-decade long career continues to help people achieve their dreams. He’s part of a team he’s proud of and, with them, he continues to do his absolute best for his clients.
It’s a good bet he won’t be folding ‘em anytime soon.
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.
Darren Pastro, CPA, CA, CIM®
Senior Wealth Advisor, Senior Portfolio Manager
MP Wealth Advisory
Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc.
1700 Dickson Ave, Suite 2300, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 0L5
1277 Cedar Ave., Trail, BC, V1R 4B9
Office: 250.368.3838 Toll-Free: 855.368.3838
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