Exploring the universe of financial planning

John Sanchez of Richardson GMP shares how a background in aerospace engineering has propelled his wealth management career

Exploring the universe of financial planning
Clients have different asset and income profiles, and they all have different financial objectives. To satisfy those who need more than out-of-the-box financial advice, an investment advisor needs out-of-this-world thinking skills. That’s what clients can expect from John Sanchez – and he’s got a degree to prove it.

“My formal education taught me how to land a space probe on Mars, so I really am a rocket scientist.” said John, an investment advisor at Richardson GMP who also holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Ryerson University. “As an engineer, I have a high level of proficiency in math and critical thinking, as well as a very strong focus on mitigating risk. That last one is especially critical considering the fact that I am responsible for constantly analyzing the health of my clients’ financial position.”

While both are intellectually challenging fields, rocket science and investment management are clearly worlds apart. So many wonder: how could a self-described rocket scientist get propelled into the financial services industry?

“Financial services presented an interesting opportunity where I could apply the skills I learned as an engineer, but in a completely different setting,” John said. “I’m often asked if the transition was difficult but, looking back, it feels like it was a natural progression for me.”  

The act of exploring and discovering opportunities has become a routine for John, who spends much of his time finding gaps in his clients’ financial situations and finding solutions, each formulated to a specific issue. “On the investment side, I am constantly reviewing client portfolios and identifying areas of potential concern,” he said. “I see countless numbers of new strategies each year, but only a small handful make it to my recommended list.”

Ensuring financial health isn’t just about enhancing investment opportunities; it can also involve discovering chances to reduce costs. “Most people don’t pay much attention to tax planning but it can be a significant benefit to long-term wealth creation,” John said. “This is especially true here in Ontario where our top marginal tax rate is in excess of 50%. By taking the time to understand taxation and applying the appropriate tax-efficient investment strategies, I am typically able to reduce my clients’ taxes both during their lifetime as well as when passing wealth down to their children.

“Tax strategies are necessary for business owners and incorporated professionals such as doctors, dentists, and lawyers,” he went on to say. “They set up a professional corporation to shelter some of their earned income, but don’t always properly plan the investment portfolio within the corporation. The result is usually the same; a significant amount of the investment return is lost each year to taxes.”

While John’s investment planning approach is methodical, it isn’t formulaic. It’s a decades-old method developed by the founding partners John and Rebecca Horwood of The Horwood Team at Richardson GMP, which he has tweaked and calibrated steadily over the years.

“Rebecca started our business in 1980 and has always had a strong focus on providing the ideal client experience,” John shared. “I joined the team in 2004, bringing my enthusiasm and a new set of eyes to the process and recommending incremental upgrades to further improve the results for clients. Simple things such as streamlining paperwork, to more involved projects such as digitizing processes so that we could address client queries in a faster, more efficient, manner.”

Since he joined the team, John has been applying his critical and systematic perspective to clients’ concerns. While he enjoys solving the puzzles that are his clients’ financial dilemmas, they’re ultimately human problems, and that drives him to do his best.

“I have many long-standing clients, where some relationships are as long as my 12+ year tenure in financial services, and I truly enjoy discussing the soft issues,” he said. “I’ve been there with clients as they’ve bought their first home, had their first child, been promoted to partner at their firm, taken their company to an IPO, or successfully sold their business. I tend to have a great personal relationship with my clients so it’s nice to see them and catch up, even if it’s only for a few minutes.”

The compulsion to help clients isn’t just borne out of a need to connect, however, but also a commitment to serve – the importance of which was impressed upon John very early in his career. “My first meeting was with the branch manager at the time,” he recalled. “He was a very imposing man who was over 6 feet tall and, I found out later, has a black belt in karate (I stand 5’6” on a good day). During the interview, he leaned across his desk, looked me straight in the eyes, and said something I will never forget: ‘If you think that you’re too good to make coffee for the clients, I’m going to shake your hand and show you out the door.’

“Many of my clients are still surprised when I offer to pass by their office to pick up or drop off forms or cheques, but it’s a key part of my service offering that provides the best possible experience for my clients in addition to managing their wealth,” he said. “My team and I consistently strive to offer great client service.”

Over more than a decade of advising clients, John has achieved considerable success. While going above and beyond in terms of service has been a major help, there are other factors that have helped him become effective.

“I have the mindset where I want to see everything and anything. Even seeing a bad idea is helpful as it reinforces my confidence in my existing recommendations,” he said. “Always be open to new ideas, whether it’s an investment or financial planning strategy. Finally, keep it simple; investment advice isn’t rocket science. Know what you are good at and stick with it, realizing that not all investors will fit your approach.”

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