How BIPOC advisor carved a niche as a cross-border specialist

From wholesaling to advising, he's picked up the best practices to serve his clients

How BIPOC advisor carved a niche as a cross-border specialist

Being a BIPOC millennial advisor is significant to Shiraz Ahmed, but that’s not where he’s chosen to focus his career. Instead, the Mississauga-based advisor has firmly positioned himself in the speciality niche of being a cross-border financial specialist.

“I’m in the crossover generation of people because I was born in the early 80s,” Ahmed told Wealth Professional. “My practice is a bit unique because I’m a digital native. So, we’ve really honed in and embraced the use of technology, but we appreciate the older way of doing business as well.”

The Winnipeg-born Ahmed is a financial advisor and portfolio manager, but also the founder of the Sartorial Wealth Team at Raymond James. He was the 2022 winner of the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s Top Under 40 Award. But, he’s also a cross-border specialist who manages a portfolio of about $!00 million in assets – and he got to that level in just seven years.

Ahmed spent 11 years in wholesaling, where financial advisors were his clients. 

“I really got to learn first-hand what some of the best that they were doing and some of what they weren’t doing in the way that I would want to,” he said. “So, I got to cherry-pick a lot of the best practices, which I’ve been able to put my own spin on.”

He did that when he got the opportunity to return to the advisor side at Raymond James in 2013.

But, he also got the opportunity to position himself in the unique niche of being a dual-licensed cross-border specialist who can practice in both Canada and the U.S. That now comprises almost 70% of his 170 clients, who stretch from Halifax to Yellowknife and are scattered through the U.S. He serves people who either have family or assets on both sides of the border.

Ahmed started navigating that terrain for his cross-border family since he had siblings living in the U.S., but then chose Raymond James because of its cross-border capability, and then incorporated it into his own business.

“The moment I started doing that, the world just exploded in a very positive way,” he said. “We got a lot of unique, complicated planning situations, so we tend to be brought in on those more complex situations for families.”

Ahmed broadcasts his experience through his blog and YouTube channel, where he also addresses millennials’ issues, such as dealing with inflation for the first time. He also addresses issues like sudden wealth syndrome, where they may have received inheritances, lottery winners, or a pro athlete’s first contract. So, he’s attracted people in various stages of their career – either moving to the U.S. to launching or returning for family or the healthcare system later in their careers.

“The cool part is you get to deal with people at different stages of life,” he said. “It could be at the earlier stages, such as during a start-up, or people who are winding down and going into the final stages of life where they want to stop working and spend time with family or travel or whatever floats their boat.

“So, we’re dealing with property or moving investments, and dealing with their taxes. But, we’re also dealing with family trusts and other situations. It just depends on the individual’s circumstances.”

Ahmed, who is the son of immigrants, doesn’t think the fact that he’s a BIPOC millennial has influenced his cross-border work. But, he’s proud to be part of that demographic since he believes it gives him another strength in the industry, even though “I was raised in a way where I was fairly colour blind”. He said he saw a shift for about a decade after 9/11, where even travelling could be difficult, but now it as seen as more of a plus as the industry tries to develop more diversity.

“I do wear it as a badge of honour,” he said, “because I see a diversity of opinion and thought as an additive, as opposed to a negative in any way in the industry.”