'Why I left the investment-banking world'

For Dan O'Shaughnessy, professional satisfaction wasn't just about working at big-name companies

'Why I left the investment-banking world'
Dan O’Shaughnessy started his career in the investment-banking world, working at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. While many would consider being part of such renowned organizations as the opportunity of a lifetime, many others — O’Shaughnessy included — don’t have such long-term aspirations.

“I didn’t see a future for me in the banking world,” he said. “To succeed within that business model required me to give up control and free time, which was really hard for me.”

Within a few years, O’Shaughnessy decided to cut his losses. He left the investment-banking world and moved into financial services. Today, as the head of O’Shaughnessy Financial, he finds more fulfilment as a player in the estate-planning space.

“Now I have a little bit more control over my time, and I get to help people all the time,” he said. “That’s the main reason I love the financial-services industry.”

It can be hard to have an emotional connection with clients in the investment-banking world, but O’Shaughnessy now gets that high working with business owners and entrepreneurs on a regular basis. “We mainly work with business owners and entrepreneurs, who we’ve found are very busy,” he said. “We help them take a step back, so they can look at what they’ve accomplished and think about what they’re trying to do.”

He helps clients navigate inter-generational wealth transfers, capital-dividend structures that reduce tax, and other wealth accumulation issues. However, those services may require the involvement of other experts, and are mainly provided to complement the firm’s bread-and-butter product: life insurance.

Most of his clients are concerned about the coverage, as well as what it can do for their business, families, and other interests that need protection from risk. And since life insurance can also be used as a fund, not just for protection, his firm can help clients set up financial arrangements to allow that. According to O’Shaughnessy, one industry veteran has helped his firm develop and sharpen that niche expertise.

“My father-in-law, Joe Pal, has been in the insurance business for 40 years,” he said. “It’s a product that very few people fully understand, and Joe’s certainly one of those people. He’s taught us many things about life insurance that I’m very sure we could not have learned on our own.”

Like most wealth professionals, O’Shaughnessy is concerned about the impact of changes to corporate taxation on entrepreneurs. But thankfully, he noted, recent legislative changes around life insurance have not affected the products in the marketplace, which “still work very well for most Canadians, from high-net-worth individuals and highly successful employees all the way down value chain.”

And while he acknowledged the increasing role of the internet in the industry, particularly in terms of marketing, he said the firm believes in the established model of client referrals driven by exceptional client service. His faith in the approach isn’t surprising; it’s so close to a lesson he learned as a young competitive rower.

“I had a rowing coach named Chris Marshall, who to this day is one of the best in Canada,” he said. “His approach was very simple: do the work you’re supposed to do on a consistent basis over a long enough period, and you should get results.”

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