2019 marked 30 years of investment industry experience for Darren Alexander, a trusted senior investment advisor for Manulife Securities Incorporated located in South Surrey/White Rock, British Columbia. Darren has previously worked in the bank, trust, and credit union sectors of the wealth management industry. With that kind of experience behind him, Darren is able to apply a wealth of knowledge to a variety of client situations. Having advised both the mass market as well as high-net-worth families, the experience is invaluable. Recently, we had the opportunity to meet with Darren and to ask him to share what he has learned after three decades in the wealth management industry.
What do you do at Manulife Securities Incorporated?
My official title is senior investment advisor on the Canadian securities platform, IIROC. I have all securities products available such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, etc. I am also a certified financial planner (CFP) and an insurance agent, which is a smaller part of my business. Essentially, I wear an all-encompassing financial advisory cloak. Overall, it’s a multi-faceted advisory practice.
What do you think is the most important aspect of your job?
The most important aspect of my job is knowing my clients and being there for them so that they can depend on me and trust me. Above all else, my recommendations are always 100% based upon the needs of my clients. This is the number one principle in the industry – investment suitability in relation to a client’s risk tolerance.
How did you get into the field of finance?
I liked working with figures and learning about finance when I was in school. I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and was there until I was 16 years old. Then, I relocated to the United Kingdom and attended college in Nottingham. I moved to Canada in July 1989 because I had visited my parents here in 1988 and felt it was a great place to be with a lot of opportunity. Initially, I was going to go to university on a soccer scholarship, but my grades came through after the university year had started (back in the era of no e-mail or internet). Fortunately, I met someone who lived in the same building as me and worked at Royal Trust. Because I had done economics and accounting at college, this was a great fit and helped to begin my career path in the industry
Tell us a bit about your previous positions. Did your career begin with Royal Trust?
Yes, I started with Royal Trust in 1989 as a self-directed retirement savings plan (RSP) administrator. I was only twenty years old at the time and straight out of college I went on to earn my mutual funds license and secured a position at Montreal Trust as a licensed account manager on the mutual fund side. Four years later, I joined BMO Private Client Group in an investment sales and advisory role. I worked with that group for 7 years covering a wide territory before accepting an offer with RBC Financial Planning in a financial planning and advisory role with a book of clients. After 18 months, it was clear that RBC wanted us to do more lending than previously stated, so I moved to Vancity Savings Credit Union as a wealth planner and five years later, I moved over to the securities side, in the same Vancity branch. So, my background is essentially made up of two trust companies, two banks, and a credit union.
What brought you to Manulife Securities Incorporated?
I decided to venture out on my own five years ago. I was doing well on the securities side at Vancity and had no intention of leaving. However, we had some management changes and it was clear that our division was heading in a direction which I felt was not in line with my aspirations. Along came David Gradidge, a fellow local advisor with Manulife Securities. He was expanding his office, and after we talked, I knew it was the time to transition. David’s vast experience and knowledge, combined with the incredibly strong Manulife brand, would provide me with the perfect opportunity to own an independent wealth management practice. I believed my clients would reap the benefits of working with an independent advisor and business owner and that is undoubtedly what has happened since the move.
So, you have your own company in addition to working for Manulife Securities? Explain how that works.
Manulife Securities is a comprised of three firms: Manulife Securities Incorporated is a securities dealer. Manulife Investments is a mutual fund dealer, and Manulife Securities Insurance Inc. is a life insurance agency. Manulife Securities have a network of more than 1,200 independent advisors across Canada.
AlexanderWealth & Associates Advisory Group is my trade name. We have a “loose team” because Dave and I are not an official partnership. However, we work together in the same office along with our executive assistant, Karina Armagno and planning assistant, Cathy Palmer. Our business center also includes lawyers, accountants, and mortgage specialists. It has always been my belief that if you surround yourself with good people you can only succeed and that is certainly the case at the Ocean Pointe Business Centre.
What specialties to you like to focus on?
I focus on planning for the different phases of life my clients go through clients. Whether it is investment management, retirement planning, or insurance and estate planning, I find purpose in helping them navigate through these stages financially. Of course, experience makes a big difference when discussing these things with clients and their families.
What would you say sets you apart from other financial advisors? What makes you unique?
I am a people person, so experience and trust are important to me. Most people can sense quickly that I am genuine, so I tend to earn their trust quickly. In terms of uniqueness within the industry, clients want to hear my opinion about where I see things going and what I think they should do. I am not afraid to give them assertive advice when needed even if they disagree with it. What sets me apart from other advisors is that I take the time to really listen to them so that I can recommend what is best based upon each client’s individual needs. I recommend solutions in relation to each client’s own unique situation. This is “where experience makes a difference,” which is also my motto.
Investment teams can get too big as advisors’ practices grow at all costs. When clients are working with me as their advisor, they are always speaking directly with the owner of the company, rather than a junior member of a bigger team.That is important as it is what they signed up for.
Darren Alexander, CFP, CIM, FMA
Senior Investment Advisor
Manulife Securities Incorporated
1688 152nd Street, Suite 404
Surrey, British Columbia
Facebook: AlexanderWealth and Associates