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Ladan Shokrgozar of Harbourfront Wealth Management, Elizabeth Petticrew of BMO Nesbitt Burns, Jenny Zhou of CIBC Wood Gundy and Shelly Appleton-Benko of Odlum Brown.Alison Boulier/The Globe and Mail

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It could be the inspiring scenery, high standard of living, time zone difference, or even the milder weather (including all that rain), but there’s something about Vancouver that’s enabling women advisors to flourish.

Canada’s third-largest city dominates the inaugural Canada’s Top Women Wealth Advisors ranking. Of the 100 women on this year’s list, 22 are based in Metro Vancouver, including the top four. There are 10 in the top 20.

Lifestyle is one factor that helps women advisors thrive on the West Coast, says Shelly Appleton-Benko, vice-president, director and portfolio manager at Odlum Brown Ltd. in Vancouver.

“I just find it’s a little more relaxed in the Vancouver area and more flexible,” she says. “There’s more of a work-life balance to everything.”

That doesn’t mean West Coast advisors work less than their peers across Canada, but the hours – an early start ahead of the market-open at 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) and 1 p.m. PT close – can provide more flexibility in the afternoons for personal and family time. It can help them focus more on their personal and professional lives.

Ms. Appleton-Benko says the flexibility was especially important when her kids were younger because she could pick them up from school in the afternoons after the more pressing client work was done in the morning. It also freed up time for her to volunteer at the school, which included going on field trips or helping organize events.

“I didn’t want to be a mom who said, ‘No, I can’t do that because I work during the day,’” she says, giving credit to her husband and colleagues for supporting her work-life mix.

The flexibility also meant she didn’t have to take maternity leave and could continue growing her business while raising a family.

“That was a choice that I made that my career allowed me to do,” Ms. Appleton-Benko says. “I know a lot of women who want to have families, but they don’t want to give up their careers to do it.”

Vancouver also has a smaller advisor community than larger cities, which can foster closer connections that cross personal and professional lives.

“I feel like everything I did and still do in the community is connected, and I really love that,” Ms. Appleton-Benko says.

Women supporting women

A smaller community also helps provide more mentorship opportunities, says Ladan Shokrgozar, portfolio manager at Harbourfront Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver.

“One of the important factors for women to thrive in this industry, in general, is having great mentors,” she says. “And because Vancouver is more tight-knit, it makes for a warmer, more comfortable environment for people to connect and to help others flourish.”

Ms. Shokrgozar says there are many events in Vancouver that help women connect, share ideas and support each other, which in turn helps to strengthen their careers.

“One of the biggest parts of our job is relationships,” she says. “Without building and fostering relationships, it’s difficult to excel in this industry.

She thinks it’s important for women advisors to connect and help others understand what it takes to be successful in their roles.

Elizabeth Petticrew, senior portfolio manager and senior investment advisor with The Petticrew Group at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. in Vancouver, says two of her closest friends are women advisors she has worked with for more than 25 years.

“We have celebrated each other’s successes and supported each other through trying and stressful times,” Ms. Petticrew says.

“We have been there through the birth of children, aging, and subsequent death of our parents. We’ve also been able to discuss and help each other during the various market downturns over the years,” she says. “I can’t tell you how valuable those friendships are to me, personally and professionally.”

Giving back to the industry and community

Ms. Petticrew also helps mentor other women in what continues to be a male-dominated industry.

She was initially inspired by her father, who often told her growing up in Scotland that “there is nothing in the world a boy can do that you can’t.” He also stressed that she needed to take care of herself, specifically through education, as “no knight in shining armour was going to come and save me.”

Jenny Zhou, portfolio manager and senior wealth advisor with The Jenny Zhou Advisory Group at CIBC Wood Gundy in Vancouver, says she was surrounded by mentors when she immigrated to Vancouver from China in 1998 in her late 20s.

Ms. Zhou had been interested in the financial markets since her mother taught her to trade stocks as a teenager in Guangzhou. Her goal was to build a finance career in North America, and she chose Vancouver – a city she had never visited – based solely on research. She was inspired by the city’s ocean and mountain backdrop and read that it was welcoming to newcomers from other countries.

“I fell in love with Vancouver the moment I arrived,” Ms. Zhou says, adding that she received a lot of support, personally and professionally, from the community.

She notes she’s paying it forward by helping her clients build their portfolios to maintain a good quality of life in British Columbia and internationally.

“People helped me find success, and I feel good giving back,” she says.

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