KERRY RIZZO, CFP®, CIM® & Senior Investment Advisor, Harbourfront Wealth Management, London, Ontario
“Investing like it’s the year 2030: putting the client first
by working with the most innovative products and practices”
Kerry Rizzo, CFP®, CIM® and Senior Investment Advisor with Harbourfront Wealth Management, waited a long time to take her investment advising services out on her own. So, when she made the leap, it had to be to the right firm that shared her priority in putting the client first by working with the most innovative products and practices.
“I invest my clients’ money the same way I do my parents’ money and my own money,” says Kerry. “I have a fiduciary duty of care – an ethical responsibility in doing what’s right in my holistic planning and investing services. I’m also passionate about leveraging more modern investing strategies. I like to call it, ‘investing like it’s the year 2030, not the 1990s or 2000s.’”
At Harbourfront, Kerry found a team that shared those priorities and welcomed her way of managing clients’ needs. “There’s great appeal in this independence to run business in the way I feel is right,” she says. “I would always rather do what’s in the interest of my client first and get rid of all the other noise. I have skin in the game too. If I’m trying to make you a millionaire, I’ve already done it for myself in my own path to being financially independent.”
That journey began 23 years ago as Kerry, then a mom of three children under five, found herself working solely to build a pension. “My paycheck really just covered daycare. I get how tough it is to work your way up. I always wanted to get myself to a place where I could work because I wanted to, not because I had to,” she says.
When a car accident put her out of work for nine months, she started work as a teller at a local bank in London, Ont. “I worked my way up through the system there and then at several banks getting to know the many different parts of the business,” says Kerry.
After working her way up to financial services manager, Kerry worked in two other big banks as a financial planner for 10 years, and then spent five years as an Investment Advisor before going out on her own. “I should have gone the independent Financial Advisor route 20 years ago, but it took some time to build up the courage,” says Kerry. “There was security and benefits in those positions, but I was looking for something different.”
Taking her time to find the right fit, Kerry interviewed with 20 different investment firms. “Harbourfront just blew me away as to how amazing it was on all fronts – the culture, the investments, the technology, it’s all very fresh, and always focused on the client, not the shareholder,” she says.
In an evolving industry, Kerry says Harbourfront flips everything upside down in their clientcentric philosophy. Where she prided herself on her fiduciary responsibility before, she’s now surrounded by an entire company that holds that responsibility to do what’s right. “I’d never come across a fiduciary company before,” she says. “And then, the investments we are using are so cutting edge, there’s really nothing out of our limits when we execute on financial plans.”
Amongst Kerry’s holistic service offering are intensive planning, debt and asset assessment, as well as wealth accumulation and deaccumulation planning for retirees as a Certified Seniors’ Advisor. Always embracing new products and technologies, she also focuses on visual tools that illustrate to clients what’s happening with their financial position. That includes probability testing for any given strategy around taxes, investment returns, inflation, divorce, or any other life event thrown their way.
As she works closely with her clients, it’s all about getting to know what their unique needs are. “I’m curious, I love to hear people’s stories, and to find out how they feel about money,” she says. “It all helps put the puzzle together, how we’ll proceed as lightbulbs go off in my mind to identify problems and opportunities as I begin to put strategies in place to consistently improve their position.”
A skilled and trusted Advisor to her clients, Kerry says it’s critical to bring both solid planning and investing skills to the table, as well as understanding tax implications and working with third-party experts. “People need a good accountant and lawyer and we all need to talk to each other. There’s a lot we can do for those who want to listen.”
Harbourfront offers all these resources in-house where needed. Whether clients continue to work with a trusted outside source or use the internal team, collaboration is key. “When we have everyone on the same page, we can achieve so much more and more efficiently, too.”
Kerry’s commitment to continued learning is also appreciated by her team. Each year, the industry mandates a minimum 20 professional development credits and 10 hours compliance. This is no problem for Kerry and her voracious appetite for new innovation. Last cycle, she completed 75 professional development credits.
For instance, many professionals consider using an absolute rate of return a new concept, but Kerry’s been studying and applying it for years. “The idea is to get the client a regular rate of return every year consistently,” says Kerry. “Losing 15 per cent one year and making 15 per cent the next year means you just lost two investing years. Add to that a strong equity position, including both public and private equities and the results are better than anything I have seen in my 24-year career. Maximum return, minimum risk, and reduced volatility.
“Previously clients had to choose,” adds Kerry. “Now they can have it all in one portfolio.”
To achieve this consistency, the ability to leverage both private and public investments at Harbourfront is key. There’s also Kerry’s strong belief that the industry has changed. “The market doesn’t perform the same way it did in the 1990s and 2000s. Stocks and bonds used to perform opposite to each other and that’s how people created balanced portfolios,” says Kerry. “More currently, the bonds have gone down with the stocks. Modern investment strategies use private investments, such as private debt, equity, or real estate, to give that floor to the portfolio as a fixed, secure portion.”
To put this into perspective, over the last two years, clients holding bonds lost five per cent each year. “If we return seven where people have lost five, that’s a 12 per cent difference and that’s huge,” says Kerry. “People are keeping those old school traditional investments even though they’re losing money on them.”
Kerry is working to change the narrative and encourage people to turn to advanced alternatives that give a positive rate of return in today’s new environment. “We have to be very innovative. I’ve already been using these practices and products despite many in the industry perceiving them as new,” she says. “It’s been amazing to have so much more flexibility to overcome volatility in the markets and using investments that hold up through fluctuations. It’s exciting for the client, too, especially when they don’t give up any of their returns or pay extra fees for these options.”
In fact, in March of 2020, the typical balanced portfolio would have lost 15 per cent in value while the market went down 35 per cent. “At Harbourfront, we went down 1.97 percent, a 13- point spread we avoided dropping,” says Kerry. “At year end, instead of gaining six points, we made 19 because we didn’t lose that 13 and we gained at the end of the year.”
Underneath all these numbers and complex strategies is a foundation built on comprehensive financial planning. “Everything I do is based on financial planning,” says Kerry, who’s held her CFP designation since 2007. “There has to be a reason “why” you’re doing things. I look at the debt, the assets, risk management, and I’m insurance licensed as well. I’m constantly considering what the reason is we’re buying something and what the purpose behind it is in the end. All the while, we’re minimizing tax at every step.”
In her experience as a woman climbing the ladder in an industry that still only sees 25 per cent female representation, Kerry is passionate about encouraging diversity. “It’s really important to bring up the next generation of female advisors, especially to ensure they don’t limit their aspirations and know they can sit in any chair they want,” she says.
She’s also working to empower clients through education. “I always want my clients to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what it means,” says Kerry. “When they’re out there in life, I want them to feel confident joining these conversations.”
Twenty years away from that first teller job, Kerry continues to bring clients along on the path to financial independence. “I choose to work because I love helping people. I want to help them in the same way I’ve helped myself, which is to build a safety net for their families.”
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.
Kerry Rizzo CFP, CIM, FCSI
Senior Investment Advisor
BlueRidge Private Wealth Management
1003 – 148 Fullarton Street
London, ON N6A 5P3 Phone: 519-281-4787
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