PAUL VORSTADT, CFP®, CIM®, Portfolio Manager, Assante Capital Management Ltd., Greater Toronto Area
“In Search of a Better Way”
Paul Vorstadt is a man on a mission. Since the day he began his career as a Financial Advisor – nearly three decades ago – Paul has made it his purpose to seek better ways to guide his clients towards their financial goals.
While innovation is not usually a term associated with the service side of the financial industry, it’s something Paul embraces. Adapting his approach to address new challenges or opportunities has long been a key element of his practice. Paul and his team – some of whom he’s worked with for nearly 20 years – have never stopped evolving. It’s the sum of all the changes he’s made to his approach to planning and investing that sets him apart from those who continue following a more traditional (and possibly outdated) model of wealth management.
“Risk management and wealth planning have become, for lack of a better term, ‘bastardized terms’, as the Big Banks continually push to commoditize the industry,” says Paul, Portfolio Manager at Clearly Defined Strategies Group, a part of Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Whitby. The problem, he explains, is that many in the industry continue to follow traditional Wall Street/Bay Street investment norms with portfolios filled with “best ideas” around pre-set allocations that are held no matter the state of the economy.
“The industry leans on academic studies showing stocks only go up. Well, they don’t,” he says. “A lot of them use time frames like 40 years. Clients aren’t investing for that long. And if their portfolio is off by 30 percent next year, that means something in real dollars, not just in terms of volatility.” Paul and his team deal in real terms with their clients, working with real time frames and basing dynamic asset allocation adjustments on the risks they see in the current macro environment. “Even the most risk adverse clients don’t like to lose money!”
Creating trust through transparency
Transparency is a cornerstone of Paul’s practice. With so much information (and misinformation) floating around in the financial industry, he sees his job as a navigator, guiding clients away from the self-serving narratives in the media and towards data that can be measured and mapped. Paul shows clients a clearer picture of what is in front of them and the potential risks, enabling them to have a real understanding and, ultimately, control of their investments. It is an honest, up-front approach that provides value to clients, applies to their specific situation, and equips them to make sound financial choices.
Every three or four weeks his team hosts a webinar called “The Quiet Room”, where clients can take a peek behind the curtain, look at the data, and understand the consequences and the implications on the process going forward. “With the help of The Quiet Room, clients not only understand what has been done and why, but also what the plan is going forward,” says Paul. “This creates a level of accountability not typically seen in the financial service industry.”
That accountability builds trust. And so does ensuring clients are always prepared for what’s coming. “We focus on what’s ahead, versus being reactionary to what has already happened. That approach makes people more comfortable. More importantly, they feel more in control,” says Paul. “The response you will never get from us is to simply say, ‘it’s long term’, as if that’s somehow supposed to bring comfort to seeing your net worth go down.”
In their 2022 Outlook webinar, clients were warned that probabilities on the outlook showed elevated risk. “Because of what we perceived to be a deteriorating economic environment – inflation peaking, combined with government policy being more restrictive – it would not be conducive for stocks. So we raised a lot of cash back in January and we took a great deal of risk right off the table. It was the best trade we made.”
Trust is probably one of the most valuable commodities Paul deals in, and earning the trust of his clients is not something he takes lightly. He and his partner Brett Kowan have been Portfolio Managers since 2007, and as such hold a fiduciary duty to their clients. This means all decisions must be in the best interest of the client. Paul and Brett must exercise care, loyalty, and prudence when managing client portfolios. As Portfolio Managers, they have a strict, repeatable data-driven process that goes into their portfolios, and not, as Paul puts it, “a basket of best ideas within an arbitrary asset allocation”.
“It is a big trust factor to say, ‘here’s everything my family has worked for and saved.’ We want to make sure that clients always understand what we’re doing and why. There is no surprise when we go to add certain things or take certain positions. And if there is a significant change, they get a phone call.”
Paul’s ongoing search for better ways will eventually lead to finding additional professionals to partner with. In building a successful team, Paul believes in putting people in the best position to succeed based on their individual strengths. His current team is a solid mix of expertise and talent, and includes, at the core, people he’s worked with since 2007: Brett Kowan, CFP, FMA, Portfolio Manager, and Tamar Daniel, Investment Services Associate, who has been providing exceptional client service advocate since 2006. In 2022 he added Rodney Estabrooks, Manager, Client Relations and Business Development.
“Guiding clients through all stages of their financial life cycle is a team effort,” says Paul. As an extension of his practice, Paul relies on Durham Family Advisory Board. This group of professionals provides support and expertise in all things financial – from family law and real estate to private lending, insurance and more.
One word Paul uses to describe what his clients have in common is “family”. And as a father, husband, and son himself, he understands that family comes first and that parents want to do what is best for their families. “When my parents were raising my brother and myself, they wanted us to be in a better position than they were. It’s what every family of every background wants, better for that next generation. Our clientele is not just investing for themselves, it’s for their next generation.”
Between Paul and his team members, there is nothing their clients are going through that they themselves have not gone through in their own families. Whether it’s business succession planning, passing on the family cottage, funding kids’ education, or retirement income planning, Paul and his team can draw on their own life experiences – and that gives his clients confidence.
Paul’s desire to help families goes beyond his practice and into the community. Most recently Paul and his associate Rodney Estabrooks created a grassroots organization to support local families. “We recently formed the Durham Family Advisory Board,” says Paul. “There’s eight of us right now, all financial professionals, from realtors, mortgage brokers, and insurance brokers to lawyers. Our mandate is community involvement. As a group, what can we do to help our community? We leverage all our relationships and resources to help people in our own back yard who need it most.” Their most recent involvement was organizing a golf tournament in support Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Durham Region Golf For Kids Sake.
His most cherished relationship, of course, is with his own family. Paul has been married to his wife Cara for 19 years. His younger son Tyler is in Grade 11 and was recently drafted by Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. His older son Jake has just started University. Just like his dad, Jake is taking Business and Economics at Wilfred Laurier University and, who knows, may continue following his dad into the finance industry.
“Maybe we’ll have something for him when he’s finished school,” says Paul with a laugh. “I’ll be here. We’re not going anywhere for a while!”
Indeed, Paul has no intention of slowing down. His team is working to expand the practice, and they continue to grow and evolve to serve their clients even better. Changing with the times continues to be a priority as Paul remains true to his mission: always searching for better ways.
Janice Tuff is a professional writer and communicator who got her start in radio copywriting.
Three decades later, she continues to draw upon the valuable lessons learned in her radio days: grab your audience’s attention quickly and always tell an engaging tale.
Clearly Defined Strategies Group
Assante Capital Management Ltd.
400 Dundas St W Suite 206
Whitby, Ontario L1N 2M7 Canada
T: 905-493-0848 C: 905-493-0861