Focus: Re-Assessing Financial Goals During COVID-19

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Rob Townsend, CEO of Camber Wealth Management represents the future of financial advice. His vision for helping Canadians achieve independent financial wealth has come to fruition with the establishment of Camber, an independent wealth management firm serving high net worth Canadians.

Camber creates financial dashboards so people can visualize complex finances all in one place and be empowered to make smarter financial decisions. Rob has twelve years of wealth management experience with two dominant global firms, Richardson GMP and BMO Nesbitt Burns. While there, he became frustrated with the old way of doing things and knew there had to be a better way to serve the financial needs of Canadians.

Rob is the CEO of Camber, a Chartered Investment Manager, and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan, followed by a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Calgary. Rob continues his interest in the academic world and Camber has forged a partnership with data science students at the University of Calgary to help build the dashboard’s proprietary assumption engine. Rob has established a small, but dynamic, team at Camber and is joined by two of his former colleagues from Richardson GMP. Lucas MacMillan is the firm’s Certified Financial Planner and Jamie Clements is an Associate.

1. As a Founder and CEO of Camber, can you tell us a little bit about how you started, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

I owe a lot to my Uncle Rob who inspired me to choose finance as a career path. He was an incredible mentor and, in fact, he paid for my Canadian Securities Course and told me that if I failed, I would owe him the $800. Needless to say, I passed and went on to study finance at the University of Saskatchewan and received my Masters of Public Policy from the University of Calgary. I spent 11 years working as an Investment Advisor at BMO Nesbitt Burns and Richardson GMP. About a year and a half ago, I decided it was time to go out on my own and build something new from the ground up. I wanted to approach personal finance differently than the big banks and teach people to put the focus on the “personal” side of personal finance. That’s how Camber was born. I think the biggest challenge was making that decision to leave a very comfortable corporate position to venture out on my own. It can be scary, but it’s been worth it and I haven’t looked back.

2. According to a Coping with COVID survey from FP Canada, four in ten Canadians say the pandemic has impacted their financial stress levels. How is Camber helping Canadians who are re-assessing financial goals during COVID-19?

We are always helping our clients re-assess their financial goals, but we do find the pandemic has brought a lot more clarity to people. It has put into perspective what really matters.

People are asking themselves the tough questions – do I like my job, should I retire, do we need a bigger/smaller house, can I afford a vacation property? We can help them determine if they’re ready to pursue those financial goals and dreams and, if they’re not ready, how can we help get them there.

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3. Camber is piloting proprietary technology to digitize the financial planning process, can you share a few thoughts on this technology with our readers?

Typically, when you see your financial planner, you leave with a thick binder that nobody reads and it sits on a shelf and collects dust. That’s what I call the “old school” method. I wanted to modernize the financial planning process – make it a more valuable and engaging experience for our clients. We want them to get excited about their finances. So, we’ve created the Camber dashboard, the next evolution of the financial plan which presents the information in a “gamified” way.

Most of us are familiar with the Apple Watch, right? Well, we present your finances in a similar way, encouraging good financial behaviors like sticking to your savings rate and utilizing registered accounts (RRSPs, TFSAs, RESPs). We also have areas that bring to life your cash flow, net worth, and overall financial health as it stands current and into the future. There’s even a section that tracks the latest update to your will and insurance.

4. Can you tell us more about the Camber Dashboard?

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One area that most of our clients get excited about is the “Scenarios” section, where we run different “what ifs” to test out an individual or family’s biggest fears and dreams. It helps contextualize what is important to focus on and what isn’t and helps clients make informed financial decisions. The scenarios are 100% customizable to the client’s situation, but some popular ones are:

  • What happens if I increase my spending?
  • What happens if I have a career change/retire early?
  • What happens if I change my asset allocation?
  • What happens if my investment growth = inflation (2%)?
  • What happens if 2008 market returns happened next year?

5. Can you share a few simple tips and easy strategies to help people deal with the financial challenges the pandemic has presented?

My first piece of advice would be to concentrate more on the areas of personal finance that are in your control – watch spending, follow the basic rules of intelligent investing, and determine an investment strategy you can stick with. That is the important stuff instead of worrying about how your individual stocks did that day.

Get educated about the fees you’re paying – many Canadians get locked into high fee products when there are less expensive options available.

Prioritize tax planning – One of the best ways to do this is to use your registered accounts (ex. TFSA or RRSP) wisely and consistently each year.

Less is more when it comes to investing – we also call this a “passive” approach to investing. Essentially, slow and steady is a smart investing philosophy versus high-risk and high reward.

Understand your finances – don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what your financial planner is for. And, start using online tools (like the Camber dashboard) that make it easy for you to set goals and feel confident about your finances. Send me an email or get started here.   

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