Dan Wynnyk
Paul Lawrence

This article appears in the February 2021 issue of Investment ExecutiveSubscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Plenty of people don’t learn about financial responsibility until they’re well into adulthood, but that wasn’t the case with Dan Wynnyk.

Wynnyk, 42, and his younger brother were raised by their single mother, a social worker who taught her sons to be smart with money at an early age.

“She was always very responsible with money and taught us to respect money and not be frivolous with it,” Wynnyk said. “I became addicted to saving — I saved everything.”

Wynnyk got his first job working as a paperboy at the age of 13, and he didn’t squander a cent of what he earned. His mom encouraged him to invest and, when he was 15, Wynnyk walked into a local bank and bought his first mutual fund.

“Every month, my mom would bring out the newspaper at the kitchen table and we’d see how my mutual fund was doing,” Wynnyk said.

Given Wynnyk’s upbringing, becoming a financial advisor seems only fitting. But it wasn’t until his mother met Wynnyk’s stepfather, an advisor with Merrill Lynch Canada Inc., that Wynnyk considered a career in financial advice.

Wynnyk had been in sales at a construction company before he landed a job working with his stepdad at Merrill Lynch in Burlington, Ont. — the city where Wynnyk still lives and works.

Merrill Lynch was soon acquired by CIBC. Wynnyk spent the better part of two decades working for CIBC Wood Gundy before moving his practice, the Waterfront Group, to Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. in June of last year.

Wynnyk and his business partner, Lance McDonald, specialize in serving high- and ultra-high-net-worth clients. (Wynnyk defines ultra-high-net-worth as having at least $10 million in investable assets.) The majority of Wynnyk’s book consists of retail clients with at least $1 million in investable assets, but he also serves a small number of institutional clients.

“Seventy percent of our clients are business owners, probably 10% to 15% are medical professionals, and then we have a large business with executives and high-profile people in the entertainment industry,” Wynnyk said.

Although Wynnyk wouldn’t name any of his clients who work in the entertainment business, he did say they’re “people you would know very well” — and they’re also people he enjoys working with.

“The greatest thing about my job is that every day I get to sit in a room with interesting people, whether they’re a business owner, a doctor, a musician or a CEO in charge of 10,000 staff,” Wynnyk said. “You really get a chance to learn from these people how they conduct their personal habits and daily routines.”

He’s also learned a lot about his clients’ financial goals. Capital preservation, Wynnyk said, is generally the No. 1 priority for his clients — particularly ultra-high-net-worth clients.

“They do not want to make 10% a year in the stock market,” Wynnyk said. “They just want steady returns and tax-efficient cash flow.”

Wynnyk spends much of his time with clients working on tax planning, wealth transfer and charitable giving strategies. His clients have become increasingly interested in charitable giving over the past three years, in part because donor-advised funds have made giving so easy.

“We do a lot [of donor-advised funds] through a foundation called BenefAction in Toronto,” Wynnyk said. “They’re a fantastic organization that allows people to set up a donor-advised fund with a minimum amount of $25,000.”

Clients also are attracted to Wynnyk’s use of alternative investments, which he took an interest in after studying the strategies of institutional investors.

“About eight years ago, we started following what the pensions were doing and we got into alternatives,” Wynnyk said. “Ever since then, [alternatives have] become a huge part of our practice and they’re one of the reasons a lot of high-net-worth people come to us.”

Alts comprise about 40% of Wynnyk’s clients’ portfolios. He’s particularly fond of apartment buildings as an asset class: “[Apartments are] super tax-efficient, have steady cash flow and little to no correlation to the stock market.”

Wynnyk’s clients also invest in commercial mortgages, market-neutral hedge funds, private corporate loans, bridge financings and private equity — although their portfolios currently contain relatively low weightings in private equity due to high valuations.

The pandemic was a “massive test” for alternatives, Wynnyk said, and the alts in his clients’ portfolios passed that test with flying colours during the market volatility of 2020.

“Because of our use of alternatives, we weren’t affected in the same way that we would have been if we’d had a 60/40 portfolio,” Wynnyk said. “All of our clients today have more money than they did in February 2020.”

It’s not just money that Wynnyk’s clients have — they also have his personal phone number. Clients may call or text him on a weekend if they have a matter that can’t wait, but social calls aren’t unusual.

“A lot of our clients have turned into friends,” Wynnyk said. “We cottage together. We ski together. We have dinner together.”

Wynnyk’s clients stuck with him when he moved his practice to Wellington-Altus last year. After working for a bank for almost 20 years, Wynnyk said he was ready to make the transition to an independent brokerage.

“The main reason I [moved to Wellington-Altus] is because I wanted to be 100% independent,” Wynnyk said. “We always want to be able to do what is best for our clients 100% of the time, and I can do that at Wellington-Altus 100% of the time.”

When Wynnyk isn’t helping his clients, he devotes much of his time to helping other people. For more than a decade, he’s practised a “daily act of giving,” which can include anything from buying someone’s groceries to helping the homeless.

“Two years ago, for my birthday, I made a bunch of sandwiches, got a bunch of drinks in a cooler and I drove around the city of Hamilton for three hours delivering sandwiches and water to people living on the streets who are less fortunate than us,” Wynnyk said.

He also has a charitable foundation, the Now I Can Children’s Fund, which he launched in memory of his brother, who died in 2007, as well as his late father. The charity provides underprivileged youth in Burlington with access to scholarships, wilderness excursions and tickets to Hamilton Tiger-Cats games.

“I have no social media, so I’m doing this for me,” Wynnyk said. “I have no Facebook or Instagram — I’m not doing this for the ‘likes’.”

In Wynnyk’s free time, he loves to exercise, ski and surf. He bookends his days with long walks outdoors. “I’m also a 12-year-old at heart — I love to skateboard,” he said. And while he may no longer be 12, he still remembers the lessons his mother taught him at that age.

“I’m still in the same townhouse I bought when I was 21 — I’ve never moved,” Wynnyk said. “That was instilled by my mother: Don’t live beyond your means. You don’t always need more.”