Exiting the elevator on the 32nd floor of the Royal Centre Mall building in downtown Vancouver, guests are greeted by a rather impressive view. The city’s glass facades sparkle in the morning sun; cars line up in aesthetically-pleasing grids along the street; Stanley Park stretches out to the west, its greenery and curving shoreline rarely seen from this angle. It is certainly a friendly welcome to RBC’s Wealth Management services.
People who come here are looking for, as Chris Oosthuizen puts it, “answers to big life problems.” The B.C. regional director of RBC Dominion Securities strolls through the Georgia Street office (there is a second facility on Thurlow), pointing out notable artworks (Gathie Falk) and meeting room features (tinted windows for privacy, Bocci light fixtures). Wealth management, according to Oosthuizen, is today less about stocks and bonds and more about real-world, practical advisement—stuff that you cannot “put in an algorithm.”
Managing just shy of $55 billion in B.C., Oosthuizen and his team work by the idea that “people have complex lives, but the business itself is not that complicated.” What that means is that RBC works directly with clients to create strategic plans, operating more as teammates and less as customer and consultant. This, of course, allows for individual and unique needs to be met.
“I think with a lot of clients, the wealth is probably quieter. A lot of wealth is created through business or business owners, and it’s often real estate-related,” Oosthuizen says of Vancouver’s high net worth residents. “If you really boil the Vancouver market down, we don’t have heavy manufacturing industry. The technology sector is okay but it’s not huge, our biotech is okay but it’s not massive. We have tourism, beautiful mountains, great place to live, but there’s not a lot of heavy industry driving us. Mining is okay right now but it used to be much more vibrant—mining, forestry. That’s not there anymore.”
As such, RBC deals a lot more with matters, for lack of a better term, of the heart. Can the family afford that vacation property on the Sunshine Coast? Can those parents viably give money to their kids to help them put a down payment on a house? Where does retirement fit in? What about that meaningful charity that could really use a significant donation? By breaking down questions, the bank finds the path to answers.
“Rather than talking about products and services, we really focus more on planning and solution,” says Tony Maiorino, head of RBC Wealth Management Services, via phone from Toronto. “Getting the diagnosis right is way more important than the prescription.” For him, it’s the personalization element that sets his company apart. “In the wealth space today, products are ubiquitous. Everybody has everything. From our perspective, to differentiate ourselves we want to make sure you are getting exactly the right thing for you, rather than what everyone else is getting.”
Speaking to that is a separate floor inside Royal Centre Mall that is dedicated to RBC’s Canada-Asia Centre, whose lobby is flanked by a selection of delicate papier-mâché sculptures by Canadian artist Karen Tam. Among works by famous painters such as Douglas Coupland as well as by up-and-coming artists from RBC’s Canadian Painting Competition, new immigrants to Canada come here to understand how to best handle their wealth in this country. It is a sure sign of Vancouver’s continuously growing multicultural landscape, and in particular how that affects the city’s wealth.
Also contributing more and more to Canada’s high net worth population are young women. Interestingly, a 2018 survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit for RBC reveals that younger women are earning their wealth more and more through entrepreneurship as opposed to inheritance; also according to the survey, which spanned Canada, the States, the UK, and Asia, 72 per cent of millennial women say they are the primary financial planners in their households. And despite what the mainstream media likes to say about the “me” generation, 78 per cent of all millennials say they want to use their wealth to make a difference in the world; for Baby Boomers, that number dips to 56.
“We’re putting more thought, particularly around more clients being female, into, ‘I get I need to earn this, but it’s what that money does and how I’m able to utilize it within my family and the community that is more important,’” says Maiorino. “When we talk about planning being a bigger component, we’re talking more about what the money is able to do rather than just the dollars and cents.”
And in Vancouver, it all begins up on the 32nd floor of Royal Centre Mall, where the view is enough to make anyone feel thankful to be here.
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