Shaun Darchiville

This article appears in the May 2020 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

For many financial advisors, the investment industry offers the opportunity for a rewarding career devoted to helping clients achieve their personal and financial goals. For Shaun Darchiville, the industry offers so much more.

“The industry has been like a father to me,” says Darchiville, a financial advisor with MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier Inc. (3Macs), a division of Raymond James Ltd., in Toronto. In spite of his youthful appearance, Darchiville, 52, will be celebrating 33 years in the investment industry this October.

Darchiville describes himself as a “young old-schooler” — someone who’s been around long enough to bond with industry veterans in their 70s and 80s over conversations about the “good old days,” but young enough to not be, well, old.

Darchiville moved to Toronto from Guyana with his mother and two sisters when he was six years old. After high school, Darchiville got a job at the National Trust Company before moving on to a role at Richardson Greenshields. He landed at Midland Walwyn Inc. in 1990, where he worked while studying finance and management part-time at Humber College.

At Midland Walwyn, Darchiville learned the investment business “from the ground up.” He worked as a trading assistant before moving on to roles in corporate finance and retail management. However, colleagues told him he was missing his calling.

“Everywhere I went — whether I was working in corporate finance, trading or retail management — people always said, ‘You should be an investment advisor. If you don’t, your talents are going to be wasted’,” Darchiville recalls.

Darchiville listened to his colleagues, took the plunge and began building his advisory practice in 2000. He was an advisor with a couple of the big banks before moving to Desjardins Group. His branch was eventually acquired by 3Macs.

Darchiville, who holds the personal financial planner designation, now advises about 75 families with approximately $60 million in assets as of February 2020. About $50 million of Darchiville’s book is fee-based. He plans to build his book to 100 families, each with about $1 million in assets, over the next four to five years.

Each of Darchiville’s clients has a “bespoke” portfolio, he says. Darchiville doesn’t invest his clients’ assets in mutual funds or ETFs; instead, he chooses individual stocks and bonds.

“I tailor a portfolio to exactly what a person is looking for and where I feel they’re going to get the best outcome over a long period of time,” Darchiville says. “I can’t do [that] for everybody, so I have a limited number of families that I work for.”

Darchiville asks a series of questions before deciding to invest in a company. “The No. 1 question I ask is how a company will fare in a downturn,” he says. “That question is partly answered by what type of investors are attracted to that company. Are they speculators? Are they people who don’t care? Are they people who’ll stay with the company?”

Asking these types of questions led Darchiville to stop investing in the oil and gas sector “a number of years ago.” While he was still with Desjardins, he took note of the “astute investors” who were putting their money into companies producing renewable energy, even before those companies were paying dividends, and decided to follow suit.

Darchiville doesn’t just keep tabs on the future of energy production. He also pays close attention to potential future clients.

“I have what I call my ‘TNG file’ — my ‘next-generation file’,” says Darchiville, an avowed Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. “My next-generation file is designed to do one thing and one thing only: to track the generations that I don’t have yet as clients.”

Darchiville keeps records of his interactions with clients’ children as well as a log of every face-to-face meeting, phone call and video conference he has with clients.

“Some of [the younger generation] are clients, some of them can’t be clients [and] some of them will never be clients — but the important thing is I’m connecting with them on a deliberate basis,” Darchiville says. He adds that he believes that bringing on more millennials as clients will “take time.”

Darchiville was about the same age as many of the people in his TNG file when he got his start in the investment industry in 1987. Back then, office workers could still smoke at their desks. A lot has changed over the past three decades.

“As an ethnic person growing up in the industry, it was all hardcore white dudes back then,” Darchiville recalls. “Hockey player dudes, swearing, smoking, drinking Scotch from a coffee cup at 10:30 in the morning. There were some rough dudes, but that was the culture.”

Darchiville says he came into the industry with the “right attitude” and a strong work ethic. His hard work paid off: by the age of 29, Darchiville was a vice president at Midland Walwyn. His success “pissed off a lot of people,” but he didn’t let that bother him.

“We’re looking for the right attitude; we’re not looking for the right ethnicity,” Darchiville says of inclusion in the investment industry. “If you have the right attitude, the right ethics, the right values — that’s what we want. That’s what ‘inclusion’ means to me.”

Darchiville’s love of music helped him make connections early in his career. While he was working in the bond department at Midland Walwyn, the head trader was delighted to find out about Darchiville’s encyclopedic knowledge of music and guitar players. “He was over the moon,” Darchiville recalls. “He couldn’t believe I knew all the Triumph albums — I knew the ones way before Allied Forces.”

That wasn’t the only connection Darchiville made at Midland Walwyn — he also met his wife there 25 years ago. “We saw each other at a Christmas party and I asked her out the next day,” he says. They have now been married for 20 years and have three teenage children — a daughter and two sons.

Darchiville picked up the guitar as a youngster, but moved away from the instrument in his late teens. However, his love for rock music was rekindled one fateful day in the early ’90s: he was driving home in his Toyota Celica with the sunroof open. He turned on the radio — a memory that gives him “goosebumps just thinking about it” — and heard “Don’t Cry” by Guns N’ Roses.

“That brought me back to rock,” Darchiville says. “I made a commitment and said, ‘I’m never going to stop playing now’.”

Darchiville has made good on that commitment. He plays multiple instruments — guitar, drums, bass and keyboards, in addition to singing — and has an impressive home studio in his basement. He plays in three bands, covering songs by the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix as well as Canadian artists such as Bryan Adams, Loverboy and the Beaches.

Darchiville also volunteers at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, where he teaches children with disabilities to play music. Music, he says, gives him the kind of peace he hopes to impart on his clients.

“When I put my head on my pillow at night and get ready to read Guitar World, Record Collector or Prog magazine, I’m at complete and utter peace,” Darchiville says. “I want every single client to feel that way.”