In no circumstance whatsoever is it appropriate to mix your personal finances with your clients’ seems to be the consensus among advisors.
“My initial reaction is that a client’s money should never be mixed with your own personal affairs,” says Saskatchewan-based, fee-only advisor, Kathy Waite. “There is no way an advisor should be holding a client’s money. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
Waite’s sentiment comes in reaction to a prominent Vancouver advisor who successfully sued her former employer, CIBC, for wrongful dismissal. According to a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling, CIBC staff were “cavalier, insensitive, and reckless” when firing Guiyun (Han) Ogden, who was once called an “exceptional advisor” and “annual achiever” by her general manager.
Ogden was fired in March 2011 after she made a decision the company claimed breached the Code of Conduct. The incident leading up to her dismissal involved two wire transfers initiated to find a way around Chinese regulation, which does not allow transfers of more than US$50,000 per annum to move out of the country from one account.
In September 2010, one of Ogden’s clients needed to transfer $500,000 into Canada from China to secure the purchase of a home, but could not do so unless she had 10 separate Chinese and Canadian accounts. Being short two accounts, Ogden agreed to use two of her own personal accounts to transfer the remaining money. The transfer had to happen immediately to avoid losing the real estate deal.
“From a real estate point of view, it would be nice to help (a client) out as much as you can, but the rule of thumb is you are never supposed to mix your personal finances with your client,” said Chad Price, an advisor with Vancouver-based, Odlum Brown Ltd. “If it went through my mind at all, I would immediately run it passed my compliance department. It’s a no brainer.” (continued.)