Devan Legare, senior investment advisor, Western Weathbuilders

Devan Legare, senior investment advisor with Calgary-based Western Wealth Builders, which operates under the banner of Manulife Securities Inc., recently received top honours as the 2019 winner of the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s Top Under 40 award.

“It’s a testament that you don’t have to be living in Toronto or have a $2-billion book gifted to you in order to make it [in the industry],” Legare says of the award, which he received on Oct. 24. “[Success in the financial advisory business] takes a lot of hard work, foresight and a goal you want to hit. Just like everybody else, I go to work every day and plug away, so to be recognized on such an important and prestigious scale is really heartwarming for me.”

Legare, 34, first felt the drive to help other people while studying for his bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Saskatchewan. He participated in a non-profit program run by AIESEC Canada Inc. that encourages young adults to think globally and become strong leaders. As part of the program, he spent three months in Kenya teaching locals about microfinancing strategies and providing everyday financial advice.

“If I’m [travelling] for the purpose of trying to help people, I’m not very good at swinging a hammer, but I am really good at helping people figure out how to make the best of their situation monetarily,” says Legare, who has visited more than 40 countries. “I’ve been blessed to see a lot of different areas of the world, and that’s always been in my back pocket when it comes to trying to be a good global citizen. I’m trying to make sure that I’m helping people when I can help them.”

Legare was further motivated to join the financial services industry after watching his family lose money during the 2008 global financial crisis; his parents were badly affected.

“They got some poor advice and made some poor decisions when it came to selling, [which they did] basically at the bottom,” he says. “I always swore that I’d never let that happen to anyone else. I’ve really dedicated the past 10 years to making sure that I was taking care of families just like my own who needed that advice and emotional stability when it comes to investing and general finance.”

Legare was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., and spent most of his childhood in North Battleford, Sask. He began his financial career as a junior financial analyst at Victoria Park Capital Inc. in Regina. After about a year, he moved to Calgary and took on the roles of an investment advisor with Toronto-based Edward Jones, then a wealth-management associate with Toronto-based BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. and subsequently as an investment specialist with First Calgary Financial (a credit union). He joined Western Wealth Builders slightly more than four years ago.

Part of Legare’s business involves helping “high-potential” millennials. He doesn’t take on such clients in the typical asset-management sense, but works with them for about a year in an informal program, offering advice on managing their debts, tax issues, budgeting and savings goals.

As a millennial himself, Legare says, he knows that demographic is underserved.

“The millennial generation, in terms of advice, is going to be the lost generation’ when it comes to the investment world,” Legare says. “Technology has come to the point where investing has become a sort of commodified business; but actual advice on how to make a budget, how to do cash-flow planning or what sort of insurance is needed for young families there’s not a lot of advice out there because the [financial services] industry sees that these clients don’t necessarily have the assets to become ‘profitable’.”

Legare reduces his minimum investible assets threshold for young adults who have finished Legare’s program to $50,000 from his usual $250,000 because these client shave demonstrated a willingness to take advice and stick to a plan. Legare recognizes that clients who fared well under his guidance in his program are likely to become great clients in the future.

Legare also makes allowances for business owners, reducing his minimum asset threshold for this group to $100,000, given the other opportunities, such as insurance, these clients present. “New businesses often benefit most from financial guidance,” he says.

Furthermore, Legare wants to help his generation: “There’s a real disconnect now for good advice and people who don’t have a lot of money. It’s unfortunate. Like everything else in the world, if you don’t have the financial resources, you might not get access to the people who have the education who can really put you on a good track.”

As for Legare’s typical new clients, he focuses on the corporate world, looking at small-business owners and professional consulting corporations, such as those operated by doctors, engineers and geologists (the last often work in the oil and gas industry).

“So many people are really great at what they do in running their own business,” Legare says, “but sometimes they need help in terms of how to structure their finances in a way that makes the most sense to them, both on the taxation side and on the retained-earnings side.”

As a certified financial planner, certified management accountant and chartered professional accountant (CPA), Legare is well qualified to marry his tax expertise with his investment expertise. Corporations often lack communication between their finance and accounting professionals, he says. Developing his own tax-planning and tax-filing business has helped him see both sides of the picture and build better co-ordination between finance and accounting, which can result in significant savings for clients.

Legare still considers his work with corporations as his “best kept secret.” He’s been working to build this niche, in part by being active in community groups such as the Better Business Bureau and the local chamber of commerce, and by attending CPA events.

Outside the office, Legare likes to travel to places he hasn’t been before. He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Bonnie, playing video games and board games, and stepping outside for a game of slo-pitch.

Legare, who is Métis, says he wants to volunteer more of his time in local Indigenous communities to provide finance-related education and support. IE