As a former ballet dancer, Coreen Sol knows the importance of balance, training and discipline – values she has applied with great success to her career as a financial advisor. A focus on continuing education has propelled her advancement from bank teller to portfolio manager. And, along the way, Sol has turned her fascination with psychology into an integral component of her financial career.
Today, Sol is vice president and portfolio manager with CIBC Wood Gundy in Kelowna, B.C. She also is an author and a leading authority on behavioural finance.
In Sol’s practice, she serves a roster of 400 clients and has $100 million in assets under management (AUM). Sol says her typical client is a professional or entrepreneurial woman between the ages of 50 and 65, with $500,000 in investible assets.
Unlike most discretionary managers, Sol does not target high net-worth clients, nor does she have a minimum account size for new clients.
“I’d really like to get rid of this elitist stigma that comes in our business,” Sol says. “I think there is really a lot of value that I can personally add to Canadians with modest wealth [who may not] realize that they have options.”
For example, for a client with a small amount of money to invest, Sol says, she might recommend an exchange-traded fund. Similarly, if Sol meets with a couple with a small locked-in retirement account and she believes she can help them, she will take them on as clients.
As a discretionary portfolio manager, Sol uses managed portfolios to meet each client’s needs. After assessing a client’s financial goals and risk tolerance and completing an investment policy statement, Sol places the client’s investible assets into one of four portfolios, ranging from a conservative mix of 20% equities/80% fixed-income to a growth portfolio that can hold up to 100% equities. Sol constructs and manages these portfolios using portfolio-management software.
This discretionary approach makes the management of client assets more efficient, Sol says, and therefore makes it easier for her to operate a large practice. Rather than manage each client’s portfolio individually, Sol need only manage the four “buckets.”
In addition to discretionary portfolio management, Sol offers her clients planning services, such as tax planning, trusts, estate planning and retirement income projections. “While I love to manage money,” she says, “that doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”
Sol wasn’t always so passionate about finance. Before she was a financial advisor, she was a professional dancer with Ballet B.C. At the age of 20, however, she had to give up dance due to health issues and look for a new career.
In 1990, Sol got her start in financial services as a teller in a small branch of Royal Bank of Canada in New Westminster, B.C. Within four years, she was branch manager.
While working at that branch, Sol immersed herself in her new industry with “that disciplined approach all dancers seem to have.” She continued her education though programs offered by the Canadian Securities Institute, first completing the Canadian Securities Course and then earning the chartered investment manager and fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute designations.
At the same time, Sol pursued another interest that later would become an important part of her career. She enrolled in an undergraduate degree program in psychology at Simon Fraser University.
Meanwhile, working at the bank branch, Sol discovered her love of investing. In 1992, she become one of the first bank employees to be licensed to sell mutual funds at the branch level. “It was my new passion,” Sol says. “I finally found something that I loved as much as my dance career, and that was the capital markets.”
In 1997, she made the move to RBC Dominion Securities Inc. to become an investment advisor.
Around that same time, Sol began pursuing a chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation.
Following her successful completion of the CFA exams in 2002, Sol decided that her business would be 100% discretionary, using managed money. She felt that most advisor practices were less efficient than they could be, as client portfolios were either overly diversified because they were invested in too many mutual funds, or performance was hampered because stockbrokers would have to call dozens upon dozens of clients over the course of a couple of days with recommendations to buy or sell.
“Just from that analytical point of view,” Sol says, “I felt that running [my business] on a discretionary basis would be much more efficient and, really, was the only way to add value consistently.”
In 2002, Sol moved to National Bank Financial Ltd. because she felt it was the only brokerage at the time with the platform she needed to create and manage discretionary portfolios. In 2014, she made the move to CIBC Wood Gundy, where she feels she has the right discretionary platform in place to run an efficient and disciplined practice.
More recently, Sol has found a way to share her love of capital markets and psychology with the next generation of financial professionals. In January 2015, Sol became an adjunct professor with the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, where she teaches a fourth-year undergraduate class on behavioural finance based on a syllabus she designed.
Sol is the author of Practically Investing: Smart Investment Techniques Your Neighbour Doesn’t Know, a book for consumers on investment strategies. She is working on a second book, based on the curriculum she developed for her UBC class.
An avid yogi, golfer and, in the winter, snowboarder, Sol has three children: two teenaged sons and a 10-year-old daughter. An avid supporter of the arts, Sol has worked with Ballet Kelowna and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
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