MARK MCGRATH, CFP®, CIM®, CLU®, Wealth Advisor, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, Squamish, BC.
Mark McGrath, CFP®, CIM®, CLU®, Wealth Advisor, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth was born to be a planner. Well, almost. From a very young age, Mark was drawn to games of strategic complexity. He was playing chess, while his friends played monopoly. He was always thinking about the optimal move, the best scenario; minimizing risk; advancing your position.
Mark was introduced to money and finance early on by his father. His father was an entrepreneur with a passion for the stock market and taught him to read stock quotes in the newspaper at the age of ten. Mark embraced it. He was excited to learn, taking a slow, methodical approach to understanding the complexities of the subject matter.
“I learned about money from my father very early in life. He was always extremely frugal, and I frequently ribbed him about it. My Dad didn’t care. His primary concern was value for money, maximizing the power of his dollar. ‘Control your money, or it will control you,’ he used to say. It was something I didn’t fully understand at such an early age, but it’s a lesson that has stayed with me.
He also learned that investing and sound financial planning are about thinking ahead. And, like chess, about evaluating every move and its potential outcome.
That was one lesson Mark picked up quickly. Mark’s elementary school designed a stock market competition to introduce students to investing and finance. The program allowed you to pick any stock and the student with the highest returns at the end of the month was declared the winner.
They had no idea there was a ringer in their midst.
Most of his classmates picked stocks like Disney or Coca-Cola. Brands they’d heard of and knew well, and thought would be “cool” to own. Mark, however, did extensive research and instead picked a penny stock that was averaging six to eight percent growth per day over the previous few weeks. He wasn’t competing based on a name. He was competing with an edge.
Mark’s selection had increased more than 400% by the end of the month. But his teacher, for reasons unclear to Mark at the time, did not allow him to win the prize. “That was a hard lesson to learn about the market. It was a good lesson, but it wasn’t a fun one. Even if you succeed, you don’t always win.”
Mark’s zeal for strategic planning, and his early lessons in taking a well-researched optimal approach, would serve as a foundation for his future career success.
Mark believes you should never stop learning. Financial planning is a continuous process, it doesn’t stop when the initial plan is completed. “The industry has a lot of work to do to ensure the plan reflects not only where the clients were when they started, but where they are now. The route can change, with new information, even if the destination doesn’t.”
Many of these changes are client driven.
There are so many variables that can require review and revision. Perhaps a birth or death in the family; a new job or business; an unexpected inheritance. Mark is committed to working with clients for the long run. He doesn’t want to create a plan and never contact a client again. It isn’t about creating a portfolio and following up in a year.
Financial planning is a living process, and to be successful, it needs to grow and change with the client.
And that’s how Mark does business.
Mark has been a financial planner for more than a decade, but about six years ago he realized that how he worked needed to change. It was challenging, but he knew it was necessary. Mark moved his practice to an evidence-based approach to portfolio management and financial planning.
“You do things a certain way for so long; sometimes it’s tough to make that adjustment, even if it’s necessary. One of the most difficult elements was telling clients about the shift in the approach. You’re doing it for their benefit, but will they understand? It was hard. The alternative is to keep doing it the old way, even though you know it isn’t the most effective. And that wasn’t acceptable to me at all.”
It was humbling for Mark, even though he knew it was the right decision.
For Mark, a good planner should constantly be striving to provide the best experience possible for clients. They should be actively engaged in learning, whether it be through education or research.
“It can’t just be about accreditation, either, about those extra letters beside your name. You need to be there to learn, challenge your current understanding, and make yourself better. And if you learn things that undo what you previously understood to be true, so be it. You should challenge your own opinions to make sure you are taking the best approach. Otherwise, you’re doing everyone a disservice, including yourself.”
Too often, the status quo wins out. It’s the path of least resistance.
Not to Mark. Mark wants to challenge his assumptions and ensure that the strategic foundations on which he’s building his plans are as strong as possible.
“The more you know, the less you think you know.” It’s a phrase that’s always resonated with Mark. It rings true to the experience his father taught him and feels as relevant to him today as it did so many years ago.
Check up for financial health
People’s financial health is like their personal health: far too many people ignore it until there’s a problem. Preventative measures go a long way toward better outcomes. There are things you can do to improve your situation; eating well, exercising; and getting enough sleep, for example.
Similarly, people’s financial health improves with efficient planning for retirement, taxation, estate, and insurance.
The health analogy is a great one for Mark because the core of his clientele are Doctors.
Physicians have a unique career experience. They’re dedicated to their craft and to the public good. With a decade or more of education in their fields, they become highly specialized. Many are working long hours literally saving lives, so they often do not have the financial experience of others.
They just don’t have the time.
It’s why they hire an expert team to help them navigate the intricacies of financial planning.
Mark works tirelessly so they have all the pieces in place working towards their financial success, and by specializing in a specific market, he’s able to see the similarities in needs and goals across his clients that allow him to become an expert in his field.
It’s challenging to become an expert in high-net-worth planning because there’s simply too much diversity: booming business, inheritance, lottery win, executive compensation - each requires something different.
By focusing on a segment, in his case, Doctors, Mark can focus on what’s important to them and provide insightful advice based on extensive experience.
There’s a specific rhythm to their needs, which Mark recognizes acutely at this point in his career.
He loves his work.
The opportunity to support Doctors and health care professionals achieve their financial goals, given how much they do for the public good, is a dream come true.
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.”
Mark McGrath, CFP®, CIM®, CLU®
Sweeney Bride Strategic Wealth Advisory
Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc.
38145 2nd Avenue,
Squamish, BC, V8B 0A6
604 - 359 - 1683