Portrait of Shiraz Ahmed
Jaime Hogge

This article appears in the Mid-November 2022 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Shiraz Ahmed’s philanthropy, dedication to clients and “unselfish” social media content have been paying off.

Ahmed, the 39-year-old founder of the Sartorial Wealth team at Raymond James Ltd., was awarded the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s (IIAC) Top Under 40 Award for 2022.

According to the IIAC, the award “recognizes and celebrates the new generation of highly motivated and talented young professionals whose drive, dedication, personal and professional qualities and accomplishments have brought distinction to the investment industry.” (Investment Executive is a sponsor of the award.)

Ahmed is a financial advisor, port folio manager and cross border wealth manager. He helps people navigate challenges regarding money, family assets and inheriting wealth, particularly those that arise when someone has ties to both the U.S. and Canada. He has his U.S. Series 37 and Series 63 licences, holds the chartered investment manager designation and is working toward the chartered retirement planning counselor designation through the Colorado-based College for Financial Planning.

Ahmed serves about 180 clients, each with $500,000 or more in assets. The bulk of his clients are professionals or executives who are moving across the Canada/U.S. border, and cross-border families inheriting wealth. Many of those families experience “sudden wealth syndrome” — they may feel overwhelmed by the pressures of inheriting an unexpected large sum.

“They may not be used to dealing with money. They may [have been] living paycheque to paycheque” previously, Ahmed said.

Clients who experience sudden wealth from an inheritance may need emotional support, especially if the loss of the family member is painful. In such cases, clients may want to avoid dealing with the money.

Ahmed typically sits with the bereaved client to gently go over their next steps. “It’s important to be truly empathetic and understand how they got the money,” he said.

For example, one of his clients lost a parent suddenly in an accident. “Suddenly, everything fell on their shoulders. They were overwhelmed to the point of paralysis,” he said. “The advisor must have more patience than usual, and [carefully] explain basic financial concepts, like the impact of the overnight lending rate.”

Less common among Ahmed’s clients are other “sudden wealth” recipients: lottery winners and professional athletes in the National Football League (NFL), the Canadian Football League and the National Hockey League.

An NFL rookie, for example, may come from a low-income family and suddenly receive a large contract. Their football careers may last only four years, so planning what to do with that high income is key. A lot of “front end” work goes into helping these clients, Ahmed said, which pays benefits later.

Preventative planning also is important for cross-border clients. “Once you leave [the country], you can’t go backward in time,” Ahmed said.

For example, clients moving to Canada from the U.S. for work may not know that the moment they change their address to Canada in their wealth management accounts, those accounts might be frozen. And that’s the best-case scenario, Ahmed said. The worst case is that these clients experience a forced liquidation or receive a “Dear John” letter explaining they have 90 days to move accounts or else they’re going to be sold out in cash.

Ahmed began his career in 2003 as an associate to an advisor with TD Waterhouse Canada Inc. That advisor turned out to be a lifelong mentor. His mentor’s best advice: “Approach people you don’t know and be genuinely inquisitive. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and be open to rejection. That’s the hardest part of this business.”

He then spent three years as an internal wholesaler with NEI Investments, leaving at the end of 2008 amid the global financial crisis.

“I thought there would be a tactical investment opportunity in precious metals. I took the leap and jumped to Bullion Management Group during that uncertain time,” Ahmed said. He joined as a business development manager and left the firm as head of Middle East and Africa. “We had a great run and rode the commodity boom from early 2009 to 2013.”

In early 2014, Ahmed began his practice at Raymond James, which is now a four-person team that includes a financial planner, an associate portfolio manager and a branch administrator.

Ahmed built his business by hosting seminars and “cultivating champions,” he said. “It’s about working with people who would champion who we are and what we do. I think the only real way to do that is if you are actively solving problems for them.”

When building a network of accountants, lawyers and other professionals who can serve each other, you, as the advisor, should be the problem-solver, he added.

Ahmed also makes use of social media. He runs the YouTube channel Sartorial Wealth of Raymond James Ltd., which has 1,600 subscribers. One of his more popular videos explains what people should know about moving from Canada to the U.S. Ahmed said the channel is still in its pilot phase, but he’s a “big believer in putting out unselfish content. Everything we put out is to either educate people or entertain people.”

Ahmed was surprised to learn that the channel has become a lead generator. He receives, on average, one to three unsolicited meeting requests per week.

“There is a direct correlation between meeting activity and the frequency of posting videos, which is why I try to do that weekly,” he said. “Like a space shuttle: you put all the energy in the world to move one inch, but once you get it going, it’s going.”

Given how many self-professed “financial experts” who lack qualifications are on YouTube, Ahmed said it’s important for him to be a presence who provides sound advice.

Ahmed lives with his wife and five-year-old daughter in Mississauga, Ont. He places a high value on philanthropy, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Muslim Awards for Excellence.