GARY MAYZES, Senior Vice-President & Regional Manager, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth
Leadership: Getting to the Heart of What Matters to Clients and Advisors
In the world of business, there are some professionals who refuse to compromise when it comes to their values no matter what the pay-off might be. For Gary Mayzes, Senior VicePresident and Regional Manager with Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, holding steady to his values makes every decision, small or large, clear to see. Last fall, as Gary sought his next career move, those values led him straight to Wellington-Altus.
“I had retired from my 18-year career at CIBC in 2020 and embarked on an eight-month journey to find my next home in a partnership where my values and business vision were shared. My core beliefs are so important to me, I refused to compromise them for any compensation or other draw,” says Gary. “These priorities remained top of the decision-making tree in terms of what I would do next. I was very gratified when I spoke to the key executives at WellingtonAltus over a number of months to be sure it was a perfect fit for me. I needed a firm aligned with my vision for this business and thankfully I found it here.”
Gary’s SVP and Regional Manager roles with the company are a return to his entrepreneurial roots. “I think that’s the essence of our business still today,” he says. “I see a lot of people returning to those roots and looking for that opportunity. It’s what originally drew me into this business.”
Going back to Gary’s entry into the wealth management business begins in Victoria, BC where he earned his Business Associate diploma at Camosun College in 1985. His plan to move on and complete his Bachelor of Commerce degree was derailed when he attended a course with a dynamic instructor who designed a live mock portfolio contest class project. “This teacher was passionate and had a real love for the investment business,” recalls Gary. “I excelled in this course and that portfolio project. The seed was planted, this was what I was going to do. I completed my diploma and got directly into the business.”
That summer, Gary landed an associate role with Prudential-Bache where he met an impactful mentor he appreciates to this day. “He was doing things a lot of people weren’t yet doing at the time but that have become standard today,” says Gary. “There weren’t a lot of people doing seminars, but he was doing them every month. He was also doing in-depth financial planning. Being exposed this early on was so good for me.”
Surrounded by traditional brokers he describes as akin to those portrayed in movies about stockbrokers in the late ‘80s, Gary appreciated the people and the business at the time but is thankful his mentor put him on a different path and approach to the business. That direction includes a pivotal moment that further shaped his foundational values with a difficult client referral from his mentor. “When you’re the junior associate, you often end up dealing with some of these tougher clients,” says Gary. “This lady who had dealt with the practice for a long time was particularly high maintenance. I decided that I needed to bring her in for a conversation to discuss how we would work together and how we could make everything work for her. In retrospect, I had no preconceived notions around that meeting, but I now understand the benefit of what I was trying to do.”
During this meeting, the client emotionally entrusted Gary with her life story including challenges surrounding her veteran husband facing several health issues. “It was all on her shoulders – looking after the household, her husband’s well-being, she had enormous responsibility, plus was trying to ensure they had the financial wherewithal to get the supports he needed and have the life they wanted. She was in tears. For me, this was a moment of getting to know your client, getting to the heart of what matters for them. This is when I truly realized the tremendous difference in terms of what we have the potential to do for our clients when we take the time to understand all of this.”
Further adding to the meaning of this moment, Gary discovered that he and his client had an interesting connection: his grandfather worked for Veteran Affairs and had advocated on her behalf so she could receive the benefits her husband deserved for his service to our country. “She told me the tremendous impact my grandfather had on her and husband’s life,” says Gary. “I made the connection that this was what I could do in my role for my clients. I’ve never forgotten this, and it’s why I do what I do.”
Even in those early days, Gary discovered he had a knack for leadership, starting with his move to Midland Walwyn where he was recruited as a financial advisor in 1990. “Four years into the business, I decided to get into leadership as a branch manager and stayed in this role up until 1998 when I moved to Vancouver to take on the regional manager role,” says Gary.
Working in dual role as both advisor and branch manager, Gary felt conflicted in terms of where his energy could be effectively directed. “I felt like I wasn’t doing everything I could as an advisor and constantly felt compromised as a leader to the advisors I led as well,” says Gary. “It was a fork in the road. I thought, ‘I’m going one direction or the other. I’m going to put my heart into either being an advisor the rest of career, or into being a leader in our business.”
Taking the leadership path, Gary feels strongly today he made the right decision. When Midland Walwyn was acquired by Merrill Lynch in 1998, he moved into the Resident Vice President position, helping develop and evolve the company’s integrated wealth offerings as well as lending his skills to recruit top advisors. “This was another key career moment for me from a leadership standpoint because I was surrounded by a very entrepreneurial culture,” says Gary. “It was a different approach than that of the traditional business model. As leaders, we worked more as partners, not dictators. That style has served me well ever since.”
Gary’s time at Merrill Lynch further added to his core beliefs about the wealth management industry and what it means to be a leader. “This work really taught me the value in having clearly defined culture, principles and purpose around the organization. At the time you could not be more clear in terms of who this company was and what they expected from their advisors. This approach encompassed all those things that were already so important to me in terms of client-centric focus, integrity, and all these critically important values necessary to this business. It showed me that we don’t have to compromise our ideals for fear of having any issues. We can be very comfortable when we define what those standards are, and who we are as well. It makes our job very easy because we can measure every decision, even the more difficult ones, against that. When we hold steady to our purpose and principles, and we don’t bend on these things, it makes life easy. I experienced so much alignment in our team of advisors and what was going on. It was such a powerful thing at the time.”
When Merrill Lynch moved out of Canada, Gary went to work with CIBC Wood Gundy for nearly 18 years in a variety of roles including Regional and Managing Director as well as First Vice President, working out of both Vancouver and Toronto over the years. At the regional level, Gary helped the company expand into western Canada, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. At the national level, he worked in talent management. “This ultimately became a standalone strategic advisory program role I did out of Toronto for four years, working on talent strategies and acquisition, succession planning, leadership development and support, and practice management,” says Gary. “This was a great role and we were able to put a lot of programs in place to support the advisors.”
Unfortunately, through an organizational restructuring, this position was eliminated, but Gary remains proud of the work he and his team accomplished during that time. “Being in a position to drive strategies around all of those things was incredibly gratifying,” he says. The changes in structure ultimately landed him in Calgary as CIBC’s Managing Director and Region Head, contributing to their overall vision and strategy as well as taking on responsibilities for Wood Gundy, private banking, trust, and CPIC. Gary enjoyed this work until he retired from CIBC last year and found a place to hang his hat for the long-term at Wellington-Altus.
“I haven’t found anything in this company that feels even a bit out of alignment with those same values I’ve held since my early days in this business,” says Gary. “Everyone here is also an owner and we’re all on the same page. It’s incredible to see the support within the advisory teams. When onboarding clients and advisors, this company makes sure they have a great experience.”
This year, Wellington-Altus was rated the number-one overall investment advisory firm in Canada by Investment Executive for the second year in a row. “The growth rate we’ve seen at 70 percent per year, of course it’s not sustainable at that level, but it’s an extraordinary accomplishment,” says Gary. “We’re working on putting the infrastructure in place to support our continued growth and our ability to pivot more quickly than some larger institutions. We can be so much more nimble. What’s also exciting is how this will all look down the road as we have a tremendous impact on this business. By not compromising our values and delivering towards our client-driven demands, our business is evolving. Today this is a very transparent business. It is a purely client-focused business and there’s no room for error from that standpoint.
“Where I am today, I’m responsible for the Prairie provinces in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Staying in Calgary is great and I’ve always enjoyed the people when I’ve traveled across the Prairies,” adds Gary. “I think we can write a story that at its essence will show our competitors what people can do when you have an incredible team of like-minded, clientfocused individuals all rowing in same direction. I believe we can be the wealth management story of the new roaring 20s we’re coming into.”
Natalie Noble’s love of writing stems from her passion for hearing and sharing people’s stories. Over the years she has written for various business, real estate, and agriculture publications. At the heart of her work is a desire to continuously learn and connect.
Gary Mayzes Senior Vice-President & Regional Manager,
AB, SK, MB - Wellington-Altus Private Wealth
Calgary, Alberta, Canada