They’ve printed their names on brightly coloured signs. They’re canvassing door to door asking for support and have put their next career moves in voters’ hands. They’re federal election candidates – and they’ve also had fruitful stints as financial advisors.
Their reasons for running for office – and their intentions if elected – are different, but they share a common conviction that the skills they learned and developed while working with clients will serve them well if they become members of Parliament (MPs) following the federal election on Oct. 21.
“One of the things successful advisors are able to do is get to know the people they’re helping. You can’t help someone if you can’t connect with them, build trust and understand what’s important to them,” says Tony Walsh, a mobile investment consultant with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the New Democratic Party candidate in the Ontario riding of Chatham–Kent–Leamington. “I strongly believe that’s a very key component to being a successful MP.”
Mr. Walsh was motivated to seek election in part because he wasn’t always able to solve clients’ financial challenges as an advisor.
“There’s only so much help you can give as an advisor [if] you’re meeting with a prospective client and they’re already in their 60s or they’re close to retirement and there’s a huge [savings] gap,” he says. “There are so many people who are being left behind, you start to question, ‘What else could I be doing?’”
Bruno-Pier Courchesne, a wealth-management advisor at Desjardins Group in Trois-Rivières, Que., decided to run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the Saint-Maurice–Champlain riding because of a similar frustration with the limits of what an advisor is able to accomplish for some clients.
“One of my clients is 60 years old and he’s a hard-working man, but he had difficulty saving money so he could retire and enjoy his life,” he says. “I want people to have more money in their pockets – and we pay a lot of taxes, [so] it’s very hard to save money here in Canada.”
Although Mr. Walsh wants to provide Canadians with more services and Mr. Courchesne wants to lower their taxes, both advisors agree that attentive listening is as essential for an elected representative as much as it is for an advisor.
“If you don’t listen to what people have to say, you’re going to be a terrible MP and, as financial advisors, that’s one skill we develop that’s very important,” Mr. Courchesne says.
Alex Bracci, an advisor with Bank of Nova Scotia in Twillingate, N.L. and also up for election as a Conservative in the Coast of Bays–Central–Notre Dame riding, says successful advisors have a proven ability to discuss intangibles, manage expectations and help make sure long-term objectives are met – all of which are important in government.
“Whatever the message is, the rule is to simplify it as much as possible … and make it as educational as possible,” Mr. Bracci says. “As a financial advisor, that’s what I did. Whenever communicating with people here in rural Newfoundland, trying to get across certain concepts … you would just break it down as simply as possible to convey the message to the client. As a politician, you do the same thing – and, obviously, cater the message to your audience.”
Meanwhile, Andrew MacGregor, an independent advisor at MacGregor Family Wealth who’s running for the Green Party of Canada in the Ontario riding of Peterborough–Kawartha, says it’s the long-term planning advisors do on a regular basis that prompted him to seek election.
“I was starting to feel like recommending certain investments to my clients came with a really big caveat, and that is if you want your investments to mature ... then we need to make sure that the social structures that we have in place now still exist in 30 years,” he says. “It felt, in a way, potentially dishonest to my clients to suggest that we can plan for retirement in 30 years if we can’t figure out this climate crisis.”
If elected, Mr. MacGregor plans to draw on the fiscal prudence he developed as an advisor. “When we talk about the plans and policies that we want to put in place, we do it from a perspective that we’ve calculated the cost – and that’s something that a financial advisor must do for his clients all the time.”
Balancing costs against benefits is also skill that Pam Armstrong is tapping into for the election. Representing the Liberals in the Ontario riding of Elgin–Middlesex–London, she gave up a 20-year career as an advisor to become a realtor in 2015, but says both roles helped her understand the concept of return on investment (ROI) in a very practical way.
In government terms, she emphasizes that MPs must be able to calculate all of an investment’s spin-off benefits. For example, she says that an investment in local green energy programs may lead to more jobs, which may lead to more people building or buying homes and spending money in the community. That, in turn, may lead to a more prosperous riding.
“At the end of the day, the [ROI] formula is the same, whether we’re using one household or a whole riding of 90,000 people,” she says.