David Harris, CFP® CIM® Portfolio Manager, Green Private Wealth, Harbourfront Wealth Management
“Financial security comes with prudent investing,
financial planning, and risk management”
Portfolio Manager and Private Client Group Director David Harris is a specialist in Financial Planning for business owners, farmers, and those within five years of retirement. He achieved his Certified Financial Planner designation in 2006 and currently serves clients at Harbourfront Wealth Management and Green Private Wealth. He became a Chartered Investment Manager® (CIM) in 2015 and he is also a Certified Agricultural Farm Advisor (CAFA).
David began his career as a Life Insurance Broker over 22 years ago – clients have benefitted from his passion for helping others reach their retirement goals ever since.
From Lake Louise to Life Insurance
David met his wife Debra while studying hotel management at Canadore College in North Bay. Following college, they embarked on a backpacking trip through Australia and New Zealand where their shared love of travel developed. After returning to Canada, the couple traveled west to the Rocky Mountains to join some friends who were working at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Dave began working for the Fairmont, starting as a bartender. He was promoted to Maitre’d Hotel during the six years that he remained at the hotel. Eventually he moved to a property in Banff to work as director of food and beverage.
During Dave and Deb’s 10 years living in Alberta they were married and moved from Lake Louise to Canmore. The couple welcomed two “beautiful mountain daughters” into the world. While Dave says that his daughters loved mountain living, family would draw them back to Ontario in 1999 so that the children could spend more time with their grandparents in Ontario and Nova Scotia while growing up.
Dave also decided a cross-country move would be a great opportunity to transition to a new career in financial services.
“My father ran a successful life insurance brokerage firm, since 1967,” says David. “I thought the insurance business might be a good fit for me, so I decided to join. Over the next couple of years, I realized that life insurance was a great starting point with clients. It was rewarding to know I was protecting clients on the risk side, and I enjoyed developing insurance strategies. However, I was more drawn to the financial planning process. Incorporating risk management, tax and investment strategies seemed to offer much more benefit to my clients and provided me with a sense that I could help people from a more holistic perspective.”
David pursued his designations over the next few years, planned his long-term career goals, and joined Green Private Wealth in early 2008.
Green Private Wealth
At Green Private Wealth Dave began a journey with his team that has led to a lot of growth over the years. No matter how much the team has expanded over time, he says that financial planning has always been at the core of their business.
“When I joined the Green Team in Woodstock in 2008 the stock market was in a significant downturn,” says David. “Like most Advisors and clients, we had a tough go that year and realized that our process wasn’t protecting our clients as much as we would have liked. So, we looked for a better way to manage money. The old “buy and hold” mantra of the industry was not sounding too good to retirees who just watched the stock market drop 30%. We discovered a solution that utilizes technical analysis to help better manage risk and provide some downside protection. Today we use technical analysis to determine the broad asset allocation of our client portfolios. We will even move our clients from equities into cash if we think that it’s required to protect their money. We further diversify risk and improve returns by using alternative investments that were previously only available to big pension plans and the ultra wealthy.”
David and his team take a case-by-case approach and don’t treat clients with a one-size-fits-all approach to developing financial solutions.
“We definitely don't think there's one solution for everybody,” adds David. “We've got to have a combination of solutions based on goals and technical analysis. We’ve progressed to a place where we know when it’s best to move some money out of the market versus the times that it’s essential to stay fully invested.”
Harbourfront Wealth Management
David and his team joined Harbourfront Wealth in late 2018. He says that it has been a great experience to be part of the firm.
“It’s a group of high-quality Advisors so there is a lot of expertise across the dealer,” explains David. “We share information, and we focus on helping our clients the best we can – and the best way to do that is to share knowledge. We also have some unique investment strategies that we bring to the table. We don't just put client money into stocks and bonds. We have private alternative investments in our client portfolios. Harbourfront Wealth Management is an industry leader as one of the first firms to bring retail clients access to private debt, private equity, and private real estate in their portfolios. Asset classes that have been used by large pension plans like the Canada Pension Plan, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and endowment funds at Yale and Harvard – for years. Historically these asset classes have provided less volatility and improved returns when compared to a stock and bond only portfolio – We can help our clients achieve their investment goals with less risk and more certainty.”
David says that they have a great team in the office. Six Advisors and a support staff of six personnel – including an in-house accountant to help with complex planning situations – ensures his team’s planning work is the best it can be. The firm has expanded by adding an office in Burlington.
“Harbourfront is at the forefront of integrating technology into our practice,” adds Dave. “We’re always adapting new technology and making sure our systems are up to speed. Our office was decentralized at the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve relied on technology to help us work from home which has also helped us to expand.”
Outside of the Office
Dave and Deb’s daughters have now finished University and are following their respective paths back towards their roots in western Canada. Dave spends his free time living an active community life. He has been a member of the Rotary Club of Woodstock since the year 2000.
“I’ve managed the Rotary Club’s annual Dragon Boat Festival for the past 18 years,” he says. “We have raised a significant amount of money for our local and international community through Rotary. It’s a big part of what I enjoy spending my time doing. I’m also the treasurer for the United Church in my hometown.”
Dave and Deb also like to sail; they own a sailboat and are members of their local sailing club. They love to travel and try to make a trip to the mountains at least once a year to do some skiing.
Risk Management and Retirement Planning
Dave says that Harbourfront Wealth is not a “buy and hold” firm.
“We believe that clients need alternative investments in their portfolio, things like private debt, private real estate, and private equity investments are key pieces of the puzzle for us when it comes to managing risk. While that's an important part of our process, the other piece is financial planning. We have a three stage, eight step program that we like to introduce every client to. We like to form a partnership with our clients.”
Dave says that his team is not just looking for client partnerships, but for long-term commitments.
“We’re not looking for a two-year term, we're looking for a 20-year relationship with our client,” he explains. “For me – the most satisfaction I get is working with a client who I’ve known for 10 years and helping them plan for retirement. We help them achieve their goal of retirement – when they want it, and in the way that they want it. I find it extremely satisfying to help people transition through that stage of financial planning.”
Dave says knowing the “when”, “how”, and “to” of retirement is essential to longevity and health.
“Maybe age 65 isn’t the right time,” he adds. “Maybe you want to do a little part-time work to keep busy or try something new. Maybe you want to stay on at your current job and work another 10 years but with more flexibility. Many people work their whole life with retirement as a goal. You also need to know what you are retiring to – what are your plans? Our process helps them map out what retirement looks like for them in terms of how they will spend their time. This can be challenging but also give you a better understanding of why you are retiring.”
Risk Management and Travel Insurance
David says that every financial review includes a risk management review of the insurance products a client has in their portfolio. Insurance comes up in every single review.
“We make sure they have adequate coverage, and if not – we help correct that,” explains David.
Travel insurance is part of that same review and Dave says this has become even more important since the pandemic began.
“Right now, travel comes with a lot of what ifs,” he explains. “If I take a trip, will insurance protect me? The answer is we must be on top of a constantly changing landscape and pay close attention to what insurers are saying.”
David adds that for many clients the question has been – can I even get travel insurance right now? He recalls a situation where a family friend took a trip to Mexico (prior to the pandemic) and was hospitalized. The insurance company his friend signed with had decided they weren’t going to cover him based on an error in the application he made directly with the insurance company.
“Not being sure can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s better to know you’re covered if you’re going to go. In this case, over $35,000 US was paid to be flown back to Canada. We ensure that our clients don’t have any surprises.”
Coming Full Circle
After 22 years in the business, Dave is now seeing some his earliest clients retire successfully. He knows that their success wouldn’t have been possible without the work they have done together over the years.
“I am energized every day,” he says. “I get to meet with clients or prospective clients and gain an understanding of what their core concerns and goals are. I get to apply my knowledge to provide solutions and now I’m seeing many of my oldest plans play out as intended – it’s truly rewarding.”
Dave says that even when he worked in the hotel industry, he was big on helping others and building relationships. When he chose to leave, he knew he wanted a career where he could help people for longer periods of time and establish long, meaningful relationships with people – he has found that career working with private clients.
“I definitely prefer a long stay to a short stay,” jokes David. “People have asked me if I call on my hotel experience to help others today – and I think I do. At the end of the day, no matter what you’re doing it’s providing a service – most of us are always providing a service. The distinction comes when the service you deliver is truly valuable for others to receive. I believe success is measured by the value you bring to others.”
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April Potter is a veteran writer with expertise in financial services including nearly 15 years in debt restructuring. April has written for multiple online publications on a variety of subjects. Also a painter, her background in finance is balanced by her artistic endeavors.
David Harris CFP®, CIM®
Portfolio Manager, Senior Advisor
Green Private Wealth
112 Springbank Ave.
Woodstock, ON N4S 7P8
T: 519-539-8212 Ext. 242
TF: 1-888-539-8212 Ext. 242