- GARY MILAKOVIC
GREG FLOWER, CFA®, Founder and Portfolio Manager, Red Barn Investment Counsel, Calgary, Alberta
"A different kind of investing"
Greg Flower, CFA, Founder and Portfolio Manager, Red Barn Investment Counsel* is a discretionary Portfolio Manager, who actively manages his client’s assets. He is responsible for financial decisions related to the assets he manages; what to buy, and what to sell.
Greg has access to products and has flexibility in portfolio management. He has access to an array of options strategies and Alternative Investments that give him, and consequently, his clients, access to investments that other firms may not have access to. An Alternative Investment may provide greater diversification, which may reduce the volatility of the portfolio because they are not necessarily correlated to the public equity market.
The flexibility and access are why he started Red Barn Investment Counsel almost three years ago.
Building from the ground up
Greg started Red Barn because he wanted more freedom to provide reliable and effective service for his clients. “I got tired of working within an inefficient system,” he recalls. “Colleagues who were far less experienced, some who had just graduated from finance school, were trying to set the parameters for how I could serve my clients.”
The final straw for Greg was when he wanted to introduce a risk-management strategy using options, but it was not allowed. It felt like he was handcuffed and unable to leverage his experience to make what he viewed as the decisions required to manage risk more effectively. For Greg, his clients come first. He wants to seize opportunities to meet their goals and expectations. That’s when he knew he needed to make a change. There’s so much that goes into building a successful practice, including compliance, research, and support. All the major firms, banks, and large independents build divisions within their organizations to support the needs of their advisors. Could a small shop compete?
The answer is yes.
Red Barn is an example.
Whatever he can’t do himself, he outsources within or outside his firm – whether it’s research or compliance. Whatever he needs, there’s a partner who can provide it. In fact, because his budget isn’t weighed down by the bloat that comes with hosting large divisions, he firmly believes that he is getting more value for his money.
The right name
Most entrepreneurs recognize that hitting on the right name for a new business is important but isn’t easy. So much goes into it. A name must be memorable, and it should also reflect the essence of the business. It should be more than just catchy; it should mean something.
Red Barn Investment Counsel does, and Greg tells the story of why it was chosen:
“We brainstormed many different names. Red Barn just clicked. It makes me think about how our ancestors came to this country and built what we have now. Suffering. Sacrificing. Farming was such a huge part of that transformation, and the barn was celebrated by the whole community. They’d build it together and then they’d have a party. The barn, and the farm it is on, became the place where they’d sow the first seeds – reflective of meeting a client for the first time. Then with love and care, the seeds begin to grow – building and managing a portfolio. Next, the crop is maintained, fertilized, and managed, ensuring the yield is healthy – that’s portfolio risk management. Finally, we harvest. That’s the goal. The harvest goes into the Red Barn and is stored. Then the farmer (client) begins to benefit from that hard work. It was the perfect name because it represented everything I wanted to build.”
“The other thing that wasn’t something we considered at the time but has turned out to be fun for us and clients, is the free advertising. Every time a client drives past a red barn they’ll think of me and send a picture. I save them all.”
Greg’s approach to business has changed considerably since he first started more than 25 years ago.
As a young Advisor, he was focused on attracting new clients, hungry to build a book of business that would make his colleagues envious. However, as the years have passed, and he’s built a stable (excuse the pun) of clients with whom he’s built strong relationships, Greg has become more selective about new clients. It’s important.
“The longer you work in the business, the more likely it is you will have an unpleasant experience. I’m fortunate that I’m in a position now where I can collaborate with clients closely aligned with my values. You can usually tell quickly if your style meshes with a client’s, and it’s better for both you and the client if you’re upfront about that. My current clients have a similar outlook to mine, and we’ve built a strong relationship on trust and shared principles.”
As a Portfolio Manager, he isn’t a salesperson. He’s a manager.
Greg isn’t getting paid on every transaction; he’s paid on a fee basis. If a client’s portfolio increases in value, Greg will earn more money because the client is doing well. Conversely, if a client’s portfolio decreases in value, Greg’s fees follow the same trajectory.
It’s in Greg’s interest to maximize the value of a client’s portfolio. If he does, everyone wins.
“A lot of people throw around the word ‘fiduciary.’ For me, that’s the beginning and the end. I have a responsibility to steward my client’s best interests. Too many people say it, without really understanding it. I live it.”
Of course, trust is significant for Greg’s clients. His father always stressed the value of honesty and integrity, being forthright, and not beating around the bush. He remains grateful for his father’s mentorship to this day. It’s why Greg's engendered such loyalty amongst his clients over the past two and a half decades. Many have been with him since he first started in the business.
It’s a huge responsibility to manage money for people with whom you’ve developed a strong relationship over the years, and Greg has no regrets about founding Red Barn. Finding the best solutions for clients has made the hard work worthwhile.
Many clients come to Greg because they are looking at their financial future and want a comfortable retirement. Ironically, that isn’t exactly what Greg wants for himself.
“Me? I never want to retire. I love this work. I want to die with my head on my desk in my nineties. That’s my goal. It’s the same advice I offer my clients: find something you love and do it. I never want to stop. Of course, my wife would get rid of me if I spent too much time around the house, so spending time at the office will help my marriage!”
Gary Milakovic is a veteran writer with more than a decade in the public sector and corporate communications. He has covered a wide spectrum of topics and his work has been featured by large and small organizations across Canada. Gary is passionate about communication, his writing often focuses on uncovering the “story behind the story.”
*a division of Vesta Wealth Partners Ltd.
GREG FLOWER, CFA
Founder and Portfolio Manager
RED BARN INVESTMENT COUNSEL*
Bankers Hall West, Suite 3000
888 3rd Street SW
Calgary, AB T2P 0L4
587 - 392 - 9042