MICHAEL GIBBS, CFP, FMA, Wealth Advisor, Baun Investment Group, Wellington-Altus Private Wealth
"Meaningful connections, an ever-lasting love of finance, and the reward in helping others"
On an early morning in Calgary, Michael Gibbs, CFP, FMA, and Wealth Advisor with the Baun Investment Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, filmed his first segment of Global News Money Matters, recapping market numbers and their relevancy for Canadians. Along with his wife Vicki, his two young children watched from home, delighted to see their dad on TV, their pictures in the background, and the anchor identifying each by name. Other viewers might have assumed working in the financial world was something Michael always planned on, but he tells a story of meaningful connections and relationships that shaped his path, with an everpersisting interest in money and how it works.
“Some people have a very defined career path. I did not. It’s been a life of coincidence in line with the relationships I’ve made along the way and what’s ultimately unfolded from that,” says Michael. “There’s no single influencer, there are many people who have influenced my path and I truly believe that’s because I’ve had so many great relationships along the way. These were all people who’ve had a formative impact on the direction of my career in ways I would have never anticipated when I first met them.”
It’s a story that goes back to Michael’s early youth. “My mom would tell you she knew I’d end up somewhere related to the finance industry,” recalls Michael. “From the age of 10 through 14 I had a paper route delivering the Toronto Star in my neighbourhood. From time to time I would take the proceeds and lend money to my mom, telling her she owed me interest.”
Moving forward to 2001, Michael earned his Bachelor of Commerce degree with a finance major at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. It was an interesting time as he entered financial services at the end of the tech bubble meltdown. Michael’s first role was assisting a couple of ‘old school’ stockbrokers who worked primarily in mining stock investments at a small firm. “When I moved to Toronto after university, by chance I moved into the main level of a rental house. The person living above me, Dan Cotton, happened to be a financial planner in the investment industry and was responsible for helping me land my first job,” says Michael.
In 2003, Michael moved on to the role of investment advisor with Raymond James Ltd. “I ended up working with Dan and his team for a number of years,” says Michael. “His business model and approach were an exposure to a different side of the business than that of the small brokerage firm.”
At the time, Michael grappled with which industry direction to take– the more analytical investment side, or people-centric financial planning, both of which he enjoyed. “In the mid 2000s, I started working towards my Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation,” says Michael. “I quickly discovered I was more interested in working directly with people rather than analyzing spreadsheets. That investment side is just as important but incorporating that financial planning piece into my practice gave me a better understanding of clients’ goals, objectives, circumstances, and everything else that plays into comprehensive planning and portfolio creation. That really appealed to me and it was a big eye opener back then.”
In 2007, Michael made the shift into a people-focused role as national manager for strategic account management at Franklin Templeton Investments Canada, although he dealt more with advisors than end clients. “This was great in terms of the content creation and planning-oriented information that I would go out and talk to advisors about,” says Michael. “My work involved a lot of presentations to large groups of advisors, talking about markets, tax, and various planning strategies for both personal and business wealth management, and it was a lot of excellent exposure to great ideas.”
During this time, Michael worked a lot with Robert Ruzza, Alberta’s regional director for CIBC financial planning at the time and the two developed a great working relationship. “He was an excellent leader and mentor from a career development perspective over the time we worked together,” says Michael. “When the opportunity came up to work directly with him at CIBC, I took it.”
So, in 2010, Michael moved on to CIBC for over a decade. As a financial planning consultant and investment specialist, he found himself enjoying both ends of the financial spectrum, working with branch-based advisors and assisting with financial planning and portfolio creation for clients on a consulting basis. True to his patterns, Michael soon developed another formative relationship, this time with Craig Baun. “I often worked closely with Craig while he was with CIBC Wood Gundy,” says Michael. “If I couldn’t put together portfolio solutions with what was available on the bank platform, I would bring in partners such as Craig from the organization’s full-service investment arm, creating many unique solutions for our clients, and working collaboratively a lot over that decade plus.”
Which brings us to today, as Michael joined Craig’s team at the Baun Investment Group with Wellington-Altus Private Wealth early this year. “We are a younger independent firm in the industry built by advisory teams, many of which have moved from the large bank firms,” says Michael. “When the opportunity came for me to pivot beyond a purely consultative role, join the established wealth management team here, and continue to build a practice under the strong team and framework here, I was excited to take it. Craig and I already have an established understanding around each of our professional acumens, how we talk in meetings together, and we have aligned perspectives with similar approaches around the service and portfolio construction side of this industry.”
Wellington Altus’ independent platform allows Michael and his team to ensure everything they do is purely client-focused with their interests first. “From a product perspective, we have access to a large selection of products, including full financial planning capabilities,” says Michael. “We have a strong track record of investment portfolio management and so much more flexibility through this independent platform.”
Much of Michael’s work is listening and working to understand what matters to clients at any given point in time. “These are often the things happening outside the investment portfolio,” says Michael. “We’re an industry that’s expanded around managing money for clients but at the end of the day, the value we deliver goes far beyond that. It’s a combination of having the investment experience, but also helping people navigate the everchanging landscape of their lives.”
Working with professionals, business owners, and families to provide holistic wealth planning, investment, and risk management strategies, Michael has a knack for integrating the corporate side of clients’ needs with the personal aspects. “It’s exciting to make these things coexist as people grow their businesses,” says Michael. “Ultimately, we’ll work to help transition that business through either the next generation of family or a sale to external parties. That’s a big area of focus, but it’s just as rewarding transitioning people through retirement and helping them navigate everything coming at them rather quickly.”
While Michael does not hold an accounting designation, he is a tax generalist and has become well versed in tax related issues and conversations with clients. “When I think of working with business owners, as an example, and the differences between how investment income streams and returns are taxed versus active business income in the corporation or helping to consider the timing of when that income is withdrawn to personal, I have become very familiar with all these nuances.” When Michael recognizes it’s time to bring in external advising, such as an accountant or lawyer, he looks to collaborate with the clients existing team or provide introductions where necessary.
Through all of this, two decades’ experience means Michael has a good understanding around the different expectations to prepare for at various life stages. “We’re here to help clients understand all these moving parts, preparing them for and adapting to these changing situations,” says Michael. “We work to demonstrate how it all ties together. Eventually, people have to start replacing paychecks with income streams from various sources. When we help people through this, especially those who often come in concerned they’re behind and expecting bad news, we can see their body language change when we visually show them what we can do. That’s the stuff I love. It’s always interesting and no two conversations are ever the same. There are commonalities within approaches but they’re never identical. We’re always learning and designing creative solutions.”
It’s that awareness that he is helping people that keeps Michael passionate about his daily work. “When you can actually see the impact of that advice you’re providing, it’s so rewarding,” he says. “At the end of the day, we’re all people with lives, families, and friends outside of work. But when people walk into our office, we want them to feel at home here.”
It’s a graciousness Michael and Vicki extend their communities in Calgary and Okotoks where they live. Their charitable priorities have included supporting Cystic Fibrosis initiatives, Make-aWish, and the local food banks in both communities. “Okotoks is an amazing young town. As a family, we love it and have great friend groups. We get the best of both worlds with the smaller community feel on the outskirts of the vibrant city,” says Michael. Now, if the kids get paper routes, let’s just hope Michael doesn’t need a loan.
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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.
Michael Gibbs, CFP, FMA Wealth Advisor
Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc.
250 5th Street SW Suite 2200
Centennial Place | West Tower
Calgary, AB T2P 0R4
Office Direct: 587-323-5662