Laurie Bonten has never been one to shy away from a challenge, and she has never allowed her gender to stop her from achieving her goals.
Starting her career as an administrative assistant at Midland Doherty in 1982, Bonten fought her way steadily up the ranks within the wealth industry and now holds the title of founder and SVP at Winnipeg-based Wellington-Altus Private Wealth.
Bonten attributes her success, in part, to the support of mentors throughout her career.
Whilst at her admin job, she was encouraged by a young broker, Charlie Spiring, to take some courses, after which she became his sales assistant and learned the business from watching him and emulating his strong work ethic.
“I looked at Charlie and knew I wanted to learn from him, so I sat there and became a sponge,” she said.
Another turning point in Bonten’s career came when she took advice from a female mentor in the industry who encouraged Bonten to leave her position as an assistant and go out on her own at the age of 22. Consequently, she joined a broker training program at Merrill Lynch where she was one of just three women among 150 trainees.
“Being accepted on the broker training program was tough for women in those days because it was a real boys’ club,” said Bonten. Clearly, this did not hold her back as she went on to become a broker at Merrill Lynch and subsequently spent 12 years as an advisor at BMO Nesbitt Burns before joining asset manager, Wellington West in 2003 under the guidance of Spiring.
“I was very fortunate because Charlie is a visionary,” said Bonten. “He saw that this job is about relationships and that women are very good at building relationships. He wanted to make sure that the women in his firm were treated as equals and given the same opportunities as the men,” she added.
Wellington was acquired in 2011 by National Bank Financial Wealth Management where Bonten spent five years before co-founding Wellington-Altus Private Wealth with Spiring.
Bonten has always sought out mentors to guide her throughout her career and now acts a mentor to many others.
“People don’t necessarily come to you and offer mentorship. You have to seek someone out,” said Bonten, adding that she approached a female during her time at Merrill Lynch who was thrilled to be her mentor.
“Partner yourself up with somebody who is similar in personality to how you want to be,” Bonten advised.
She also advises women in the industry to toughen up. “Mistakes happen so don’t dwell on them,” she said. “Ask yourself how you can learn from your mistakes and then move on.”
Among her many accolades, Bonten was inducted into the 2018 Wealth Professional Inaugural Hall of Fame.