September 2018, page 24, image of Jennifer Ridedout

Benjamin Franklin and Jennifer Rideout share a philosophy. The American scientist and statesman once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

That is a way of thinking that Rideout, wealth advisor with Toronto-based Assante Capital Management (Canada) Ltd. in Halifax, urges her clients to take to heart. It’s also one she holds personally.

“Education is key, and it is ongoing,” she says. “It starts with saving [money].”

Rideout recommends that her clients with young children make small monthly contributions to a registered education savings plan (RESP). Under these plans, as much as $50,000 can be set aside for a child’s education.

Although contributions to an RESP are not tax-deductible, investment income earned within the plan is not taxed until it’s withdrawn. As well, the federal government will automatically add up to 20% to the pot annually through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) program, up to a total of $7,200.

“Many people aren’t aware they can maximize their contribution, thanks to government grants,” Rideout says.

Rideout shares this kind of information with younger – and older – clients. The native of St. John’s, N.L., talks about RESPs and CESGs with young families as a matter of course. She also has these discussions with grandparents.

“Anyone can contribute to an education plan,” Rideout says. “For older clients who have accumulated wealth, why not filter some of this today for the grandchildren? Let the interest compound.”

For many older clients, Rideout says, contributions to RESPs are an appealing way to plan for the future and to provide a valuable gift for their grandchildren.

Rideout understands the importance of education first-hand. After graduating from high school in Newfoundland and Labrador, she didn’t know what she wanted to do as a career, so she hit the open road.

“I travelled,” she says, “but I realized my heart was with my family and the East Coast, so I went back to school.”

“School” was Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) in Halifax, where Rideout earned an honours diploma in investment management. More work-related learning followed. Rideout is licensed to sell insurance. She also has completed the Canadian Securities Course, the Conduct and Practices Handbook Course, the Professional Financial Planning Course and the Wealth Management Essential Course, all of which are conferred by the Canadian Securities Institute.

Rideout was motivated to pursue an education in investment management by a genuine interest in the subject.

“I always had a passion to help people achieve goals,” she says. “I like to surround myself with people and relationships. I [also] liked the ‘numbers’ aspect of things.”

College helped Rideout learn two critical realities: what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She also found her “calling,” which is working directly with clients. She is less interested in research and analysis.

Rideout’s time in college also revealed how she could realize her ambition to help people. As part of the NSCC diploma program, the college invited representatives from companies in the investment industry to speak to students. Assante was one of those companies.

“I quickly knew Assante was a company I wanted to work with,” Rideout says. “I’m not limited. I’m able to sell whatever I want. My shelf is full. I want to sell every single product.”

Rideout graduated in 2008, a tumultuous time for global financial markets. In that environment, she made another discovery about herself: she didn’t want to strike out on her own.

“I remember the doom days,” she says. “As I entered this market, I witnessed margin calls and people seeing their net wealth decline by 50%. I recognized I needed to align with a successful practice.”

She found what she was looking for in Assante’s office in Halifax’s North End neighbourhood. The firm had two established advisors there. When Rideout joined the team as a junior member, three generations of advisors were working in the office. (One advisor is retired now.) Rideout got to meet clients through the more senior partners, and began building her own relationships with those clients.

“As I sit in front of clients today,” she says, “they know I am going to be here for the duration of their lives.”

That continuity of service provided by a firm with more than one advisor is a strong selling point for clients – and for Rideout, who soon will buy into the firm, which currently has roughly $135 million in assets under management.

With a decade of experience now under her belt, Rideout, who is 33 years old, has learned she can provide valuable services to clients who have complex wealth-management issues. These services include providing cross-border investment planning for clients with dual citizenship, advice to clients experiencing divorce and advice to small-business owners.

In each client’s case, Rideout begins by learning as much as she can about the client’s specific situation, then develops a tailored plan.

“I help people identify if there is a need and how to achieve their goals,” Rideout says, adding: “Money scares people. Having that discussion is hard, but you’ll never reach a goal if you don’t set a plan.”

Rideout prepares a complete update for clients each year and meets semi-annually with each client to review progress and discuss opportunities and issues. The first of those sessions is focused on the upcoming year and where the client stands financially.

These face-to-face meetings, Rideout notes, provide an important opportunity to reconnect with and remind clients about the services – and value – she provides as a financial advisor.

“If you’re not front and centre,” Rideout says, “they often forget that you’re here.”

There are touchpoints throughout the year that allow Rideout to connect with her clients. Technology enables her to stay connected easily and conveniently, and clients are gently reminded that their advisor is only a phone call away to lend a hand with all their financial needs. “I even help with purchasing a vehicle,” she says.

Spare time is a rare commodity for Rideout, who is a fitness buff, but she has found creative and practical ways to spend time with her family and stay in shape. Neighbours often will see her running with her dog, Payton, while pushing a dual stroller to take her two children, Sadie, age 5, and Grace, 3, along for the ride.