Author Archive

The 2021 RBC JCC SPORTS DINNER Virtual Edition (March 3)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

VELA Wealth
in partnership with Harness Investment Management
is proud to be
The Support-a-Cause Sponsor
of
The 2021 RBC JCC SPORTS DINNER Virtual Edition (March 3)
featuring Earvin “Magic” Johnson

For 28-years the Dinner has supported the JCC while connecting people to greatness both on the playing field and in business. We are very excited about our continuing association with the dinner and look forward to a time when we can all get together again under one roof!

The 2021 Pacific Dental Conference (Virtual Experience)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

March 4-6, 2021

VELA Wealth is very pleased to be participating in the 2021 Pacific Dental Conference.

See you online!

VELA Wealth is proud to partner with @OneGirlCanSociety this year for International #DayoftheGirl!

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

“At VELA Wealth we believe we can all be catalysts for transforming the world and that thought leadership becomes stronger through collaboration. The entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by Lotte Davis in creating the One Girl Can organization, and the educational foundation it is fostering for young women, aligns with our core belief in Family, Community, and Legacy,” says Jason Boudreau, VELA Wealth.

October 11 was established to focus on the challenges girls still face today and the potential they have to make an impact in the world. You can join us in this important conversation by sharing your girl hero using #HereForHerFuture or participating in the silent auction.

http://www.auctria.com/auction/dayofthegirl2020

A Candid Conversation with Ian Telfer, former Chairman and CEO, Goldcorp Inc.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Published in Iconic Concierge, Summer Issue 2020

Welcome back to another edition of Creating Impact, Candid Conversations with Leaders in Life, Business and Philanthropy. Before we dive in, I first want to take a moment to extend my very best wishes and hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy. We, as humanity, are certainly in times unlike any other. In this issue, I am both humbled and excited to bring you another story of a big-hearted entrepreneur with a passion to create transformation on the planet and leave it a better place for future generations- something I believe is important now more than ever.

In early March, 2020, just before the world went into lockdown, I was in Palm Springs and had the fortunate opportunity to spend some time with Ian Telfer, former Chairman and CEO of Goldcorp Inc. Ian is a well-known Canadian mining entrepreneur and executive with a successful career spanning over three decades. During his time at Goldcorp, Ian led the company to become Canada’s top gold producer, prior to its acquisition in April, 2019, by Newmont Mining for USD $10B. Over his career, Ian developed a passion for philanthropy and sharing his success through giving back to people and organizations that made a difference in his life and others became a core focus both personally for Ian and for Goldcorp as a company. Throughout this candid conversation with Ian, his focus, drive and unique ability to lead were abundantly clear. What came through even stronger though were his humility, kindness and generosity of spirit- qualities of a leader that people truly want to follow.

Ian’s life journey begins in 1946 in Oxford, England. His father was a Scottish pilot in the Royal Air Force and had spent time living in Canada (Moosejaw, SK) training other Air Force pilots before being transferred back to the UK and meeting Ian’s mother on a blind date. The family lived in England until 1948 when Ian’s parents decided to move to Canada and after a five-year stint back in Moosejaw, they finally ended up putting down roots in Toronto.

Ian grew up in the upper-middle class area of Downsview where he remained until the end of high school, sharing that “I failed grade 13 and barely got into the University of Toronto”. Once he settled into U of T, he decided to join a fraternity and explained to me that “I was voted Most Likely to Fail by my fraternity brothers”. Eventually, Ian passed his final university exams in and had not a singled job lined up for when he graduated.

Over the next five years, Ian held many different jobs, including selling pharmaceuticals and even life insurance for London Life. After a short stint in Europe for “fun and work”, Ian found himself in Ottawa working for Prentice Hall, selling university text books. “Then one day I woke up and told myself I’d better get my act together”, he shared, “I always read Fortune and other business publications like that. One thing I noticed is that almost all CEOs started off as Brand Managers and then eventually became CEOs. I decided that I was going to become a CEO and start off first as a Brand Manager to get there”. Ian decided to go back to school to get his MBA. He wrote the GMATs and shared that he “did good enough” and then applied to 10 different business schools in Canada, every one of them turning him down.

At this point, it’s 1974, Ian is still with Prentice Hall and he shared, “I hated my job, I hated my life”. Then, on Labour Day of that year, he received a call from the University of Ottawa and “they have an opening in the business school! They also proceed to tell me that I have the worst marks ever for a graduate student and to please not embarrass them”. Ian is so grateful for the opportunity and explained, “I showed up, worked my ass off and at Christmas, I received a scholarship into the MBA program”.

It’s now the summer of 1975 and Ian is working for Bata Shoes. He has also just met his soon to be wife, Nancy on a blind date, ironically, just as his parents had met back in 1944. He has been working diligently in pursuit of his Brand Manager aspirations, sending letters to stalwart companies like Colgate, General Mills, Lever and Proctor & Gamble. Ian shared “at the time I was 28/29 years old. I got a bunch of interviews and both Colgate and Proctor & Gamble gave me job offers calling on Eastern Ontario drug stores. My response to them was, I already did that job! Forget it, I’m not doing that job”. He decided to reach out to some of his friends to get their thoughts on what he should do next. One of his friends suggested he get his Chartered Accountant designation, “so I did!” Ian shared, “In 1976 I wrote the CA exam and I passed! I started working right away at a firm called Thorne Riddell and then in 1979, a mining company called Hudson Bay Mining called. I took the job right away in the role of financial analyst”.

Ian worked at Hudson Bay Mining until 1983 when a chance arose that he couldn’t pass up, “so I moved to Brazil with Nancy and our one-year old son”. Ian shared, “I had an opportunity to work with Eike Batista, and we formed a company called TVX Gold. It was an incredible experience, we lived there for five more years, learned Portuguese, had a ton of fun and adopted our other son. At that time, TVX merged with INCO and I felt it was time to return to Canada so in 1990, Nancy and I moved back to Toronto with our two boys”.

Shortly after returning to Toronto, Ian received a call from well-known mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland. Ian shared, “I was bored at the time so in 1993, I moved to Vancouver and joined Friedland in a company called Vengold. We raised money at one dollar, went to Venezuela, drilled and found…NO GOLD!. The stock then eventually to dropped to five cents. We then decided to start a new project in Papua New Guinea through Vengold, run by Rio Tinto. The stock ran and then eventually gold prices dropped and the stock ended up at six cents”.

It was now 1999 and the internet was coming fast online. At that time, Ian decided to launch an internet start-up called Itemus, using the same shell company as Vengold with the share price starting at six cents. He joked, “at that time we asked, does Canada have an internet? The stock went on a nice run from six cents to five dollars and we invested in a number of different internet/IOT companies. Then, in July 2001, with the Dot-Com bubble bursting, the company went bankrupt”.

Ian was now 55 years old and he shared that at that point in life, “I had two kids in Collingwood School and no job. I sold my house in West Vancouver and moved into a rental. Then, around 2002, I reconnected with Frank Giustra. We knew each other from the mining industry and Frank had called and told me he’d always wanted to work with me.” Ian and Frank then started Wheaton River Minerals and Ian said “we bought EVERYTHING. We kept on buying, acquiring a lot of assets, continued buying and acquiring and then, in 2005, we merged with Goldcorp”. After the merger, the offices were moved from Toronto to Vancouver. “It was incredible”, Ian shared,” when we started Wheaton, our market cap was $10M and at one point, Goldcorp hit a market cap of $50B. We grew from six to 20,000 employees”.

At this point in our candid conversation, there was a natural segue from business to philanthropy. Ian shared with me, “what I’m most proud of is that from 2002 to 2019, Goldcorp gave away over $100MM to charity. I was thrilled that we were able to have the impact that we did. I believed that for Goldcorp, it was just part of being a good corporate citizen and in Vancouver, there were very few large corporate citizens”. It was incredible to learn just how substantial Goldcorp’s contribution to the community truly was under Ian’s leadership. He shared that “as Goldcorp grew, the charities didn’t really know about us at first, and then every year, and the next year, and the next year, and the next year, they learned about us and our giving and requested support…and we were thrilled to do it! The difference with Goldcorp was that all of the other major companies like BMO, Telus, Rogers, etc. had products to sell to the public, we were just doing it out of the goodness of our hearts”.

As the company continued its incredible growth, so too did its focus on charitable giving. “I absolutely pushed it at Goldcorp”, shared Ian, “we had an “eclectic” approach to giving, we did what felt good and really focused on staying in sync with our employees and the causes that mattered in their lives. As an example, we covered around 99% of the Special Olympics budget. We considered it as though we were “supporting friends” and my biggest concerns with the Newmont buyout were the future of the Goldcorp staff and the philanthropy”.

We then expanded the conversation from the corporate philanthropy at Goldcorp to personal philanthropy, which Ian and his wife Nancy passionately share in together. In opening this dialogue, he shared with me a story about a very unique call he received one day in the mid-‘90s, “ I’m in mining, living in Vancouver, it’s been about 20 years since I was at the University of Ottawa and I get a call from them. They ask, “is this Ian Telfer?” Yes, “Did you go to the University of Ottawa?”, Yes, “We’re setting up a $5,000 scholarship in your name, have you thought about your criteria?””. Ian paused for a moment to reflect and replied, “I want the scholarship to go to the student who is accepted into the MBA program with the lowest marks!”. After the faculty at the University of Ottawa heard about this, they put Ian on their “radar” and the next time the dean was on a trip to Vancouver, he asked Ian to have lunch to open communication between him and the university.

Ian then fast-forwards the conversation to around 2005, “it was around the time the TV show The Apprentice started. I decided to create a posting for the MBA graduates that one student could apprentice under the CEO of Goldcorp. I go to the University of Ottawa, interview and bunch of students end up hiring a woman who turned out to be fantastic. We ran the apprentice program for only another year and both of them are still in the mining business today”.

It’s now 2007 and through the MBA apprentice program, Ian shared that, “I got to know the school and the school got to know me. Then, one day, the dean says to me that no business school in Canada has been named after someone who went there”. This conversation then led Ian to make a significant mark with his desire to give back, donating $25M to his Alma Mater, the University of Ottawa’s School of Management. Following his generous gift, the name was changed to the Telfer School of Management.
“The triple irony was”, Ian said, “the guy who got turned down, then gave a scholarship to the student with the worst marks, now has his name on the building!”. Ian still returns to the school 2-3 times a year and said, “the students have a much stronger connection to the school when it’s names after a person. Invariably when I’m back there, someone comes up to me and says, “Mr. Telfer, I won your scholarship!” and I can’t help but smile and laugh a little”.

Ian and Nancy’s giving hearts are felt throughout the community, both at home in Vancouver and across Canada. They have been generous supporters of Collingwood School, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Lions Gate Hospital to name a just a few. Ian shared with me a few thoughts on their personal philanthropy, “All causes are deserving causes. I believe personal philanthropy is about things that touch your heart”. Today, through their Fernwood Foundation (Fernwood Road is the first street they lived on Toronto), education and healthcare are the main focuses of their giving. “Philanthropy doesn’t need to be complicated”, shared Ian, “today we just see things much more simply”.

At the completion of our candid conversation, I asked Ian to share two key takeaways for people, young and old, who want to give back and maybe even become philanthropists themselves. As I had expected they would, Ian’s words truly struck a chord with me and made me think a lot about how to look at giving from a new perspective. “Focus on things that are impactful to you. Do something where you feel a close connection to it, where it’s close to your heart. And, I believe that to the extent possible, giving should be very public. When you do something, put your name on it! This will encourage others and inspire them to do the same!”.

Creating Impact: A Candid Conversation with Lotte Davis

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Published in Iconic Concierge

Welcome to this next edition of “Creating Impact, Candid Conversations with Leaders in Life, Business and Philanthropy”. For those of you reading this editorial for the first time, I will “reset” the context for you with the opening words from our first edition in the Fall 2019 issue.

When you hear the word philanthropy, what comes to mind? Writing a large cheque to a charity? Donating a piece of art for a fundraiser? Gifting appreciated shares of a company you’ve invested in to a foundation? While we all choose to define philanthropy in a manner personal to us, the word itself originates from the Latin meaning, “love to mankind”.

In this new editorial, we will share intimate conversations with dynamic, successful and accomplished people, who also have big hearts and a common passion to leave the world a better place for future generations.

Late in 2019, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Lotte Davis, CEO & Co-Founder, AG Hair and CEO & Founder, One Girl Can. Lotte co-founded AG with her husband, John Davis, more than 30 years ago in Vancouver and over the past three decades, they have grown AG to become one of the most well-recognized hair product brands and the largest independent manufacturer of hair-care products in Canada.

In 2008, Lotte combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her desire to create meaningful change in the world and founded One Girl Can, a charitable organization that exists to give girls in Africa the opportunity to achieve their potential and become the next generation of leaders in Kenya and Uganda. This candid conversation with Lotte clearly illustrates how aligning and integrating our businesses with the change we wish to see in the world, creates the ultimate win-win for all stakeholders involved.

Our journey with Lotte begins in South Africa in 1951, where she was born to Dutch parents who had immigrated from Holland right after World War II. This was right in the middle of the Apartheid era and Lotte shared that “from the age of four or five, I realized just how much people of colour were being discriminated against and marginalized”. She spent the first nine years of her life in the middle of this humanitarian atrocity and in 1960, her parents finally decided to move the family to Canada to start a new life and settled in Toronto.

Lotte’s entrepreneurial spirit and strong desire to be independent were sparked as early as age 11, when she got her first job delivering papers for The Globe and Mail in Toronto. Soon thereafter, she started to discover the social norms concerning females, how they were not treated equally in society and were often belittled by men and seen as subordinate. Lotte shared that at age 13, “I read Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminist Mystique, and from then on, I knew I was a feminist.”

At age 15, a disruptive family life forced Lotte to leave home. She decided to move to Holland where she still had some relatives and entered the workforce full time. This is where she began to experience discrimination against women and sexual harassment in the workplace firsthand. Lotte shared that “It felt like a constant competition amongst women…like if you weren’t being objectified, then you didn’t belong”.

In spite of the social norms she’d been exposed to, at the age of 17, Lotte decided she was going to be successful. She wanted to prove that women were just as capable and intelligent as men, and moved back to Toronto to complete her high school education and begin the next phase in her life journey.

Lotte started out her official career working in merchandising, design and window display, taking her from Toronto to Arizona to Los Angeles and finally, to Vancouver. She shared, “My initial negative experience working for others inspired me to become an entrepreneur and create my own business model”. In 1981 in Vancouver, she met her husband John and together they started brainstorming new business ventures. One of the first involved beating pinewood with bike chains (to give it a worn look) and then crafting the boards into country furniture.

After much trial and error, Lotte and John ultimately decided to go into the professional hair care business. We took out a $5,000 third mortgage on our home”, says Lotte, “bought 1,000 white, stock bottles, a used and broken peanut butter filling machine, and small mixing tank. I designed the labels which we hand-applied to the bottles to save money. We started with two products, a shampoo and conditioner, and John formulated them both.” To thicken the shampoo, John used a unique plant-based cellulose, that infused moisture into the hair and produced a discernably better, quality product. Their competitors routinely used sodium chloride (table salt) to thicken shampoos, a cheap alternative that understandably dried out the hair and left it feeling less manageable. Their “No Salt” shampoos gave them the competitive advantage they needed to start building their new business.

“In the evenings, we hand-pasted the labels to the bottles and filled them by hand”, Lotte explains. “During the day John, with his natural sales ability, would sell our hair care line, consisting of only two products, door-to-door to salons in Vancouver”. To manage cash flow, John would use the family car to deliver the products and offer a 10% discount for COD.

Lotte and John also had two young girls, Courtney and Mackenzie, both of whom were under three years old. Without funds for daycare, Lotte would bring the girls to their 1000 sq. ft facility in Burnaby while she filled bottles from the used peanut butter filling machine John had refurbished. At night, she would work on her graphic design business that helped bridge the gap in finances. “We should never have succeeded”, she says to me. “We had no money and no experience in the professional hair care industry.” They realized they only had one chance to make a good impression, and to make sure the products John was formulating made a discernable difference in the hair, they bought every competitive hair product in the market and did half-head tests on their own hair every day. Based on their own critical feedback, John would go back to the lab at night and fine-tune each new product, until one by one, they eliminated each of their competitor’s product from testing.

Lotte and John were all-in and managed every aspect of the business. John’s skills were in sales, formulating, and manufacturing efficiencies, where Lotte excelled at marketing, design, and strategy. They quickly discovered that they had a particular talent together for promotional marketing and merchandising when they decided to sew 700 drawstring bags for their first Christmas holiday promotion and sold out almost immediately. The AG brand was becoming more and more well-known in a short period of time, and in 1994, they received the Canadian Award for Business Excellence in Entrepreneurship. From 1995 to 1996, they went from the 16th fastest growing company in Canada to 5th and at that point, took on a big expansion to accelerate AG’s growth and evolution into the company it is today.

At this point in our conversation, the focus shifted from business to the spark that ignited Lotte’s deep passion for empowering women. About 15 years into AG’s life, she had a sudden realization that “the business was stable and profitable”, and that the time had come to finally fulfill her lifelong dream to go back to Africa, and to impact gender inequality. After raising her own two daughters, she experienced such a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment and she realized whatever she was going to do, it needed to be about girls and about giving them the opportunity to achieve everything her own daughters had. And it had to be Africa. But where to start? There are 53 countries in Africa, so which one made the most sense? After reading many books and articles about Africa, she decided on Kenya and soon booked a flight to Nairobi to try to get started.

In Kenya, Lotte found an NGO that was based in Africa and run by Africans. They showed her a school in the Kibera slums that needed to be rebuilt and right away, Lotte was engaged. For the next five years she would build and renovate 5 schools. “Initially all the projects were funded through AG”, says Lotte, “Our employees, distributors, salons, and suppliers were really interested in what I was doing in Africa, and they wanted to be involved”. AG built the first school through the profit from a customized promotional package depicting African schoolgirls on the box and featuring two bestselling AG products. It yielded $90,000.

After 4 years of partnering with the NGO, Lotte decided it was time to take the reins and start her own not-for- profit charitable society. It was through this initiative that One Girl Can was born in 2013. Although she continued to build schools for girls living in some of the most marginalized regions of Kenya and Uganda, she began providing high school and university scholarships for hundreds of girls and built a comprehensive mentoring program that now coaches more than 8500 girls a year. She began fundraising externally to increase the capabilities of the organization, and although AG and its partners and employees continue to be a driving force in supporting the efforts of One Girl Can, it now accounts for only 20% of One Girl Can’s revenue, donating over $365,000 annually to support the administrative costs.

“Today, 35 of our 80 employees sponsor a girl directly themselves. One Girl Can has become so much a part of AG’s DNA, the two organizations are now inextricably woven together. One Girl Can would have never been able to become what it has without AG, and AG’s brand has become solidly fortified through its strong philanthropic stance. ‘We Give Back’ is one of AG’s three brand pillars that drive the decisions we make every day”. Lotte continues to explain that candidates applying for work at AG inevitably state that one of the main reasons they want to work for AG is because of depth of their philanthropy. Lotte says, “The reason it works is because it’s authentic and everyone in the company feels connected and involved. It’s created an unbreakable bond between us and our customers and brought a genuine humanity and purpose to the AG brand”.

I asked Lotte to share her thoughts about the future of One Girl Can, and she said, “My focus is to work myself out of a job. One Girl Can needs to stand alone and live well beyond me to continue doing the work I started. I’m now recruiting for an Executive Director so that I can focus on programming and growth in Africa”.

Lotte runs One Girl Can the same way she does AG Hair, like a business, not just a charity, and she believes this has been the reason behind the huge growth they’ve experienced, and the strong foundation that’s been established.

Nearing the end of our time together, I asked Lotte about AG and the plans for the future, and she explained, “we’re expanding into Europe as well as white labelling hair-care products for other companies, starting with Amazon. We have tons of runway to grow, and with every bottle AG sells, the donation to One Girl Can grows as well”. It’s a true integration of two companies focused on their impact on the world; one providing the resources and support, the other executing on a mutual philanthropic mandate.

I asked Lotte to share her advice for others as it relates to philanthropy, impact and giving back. She responded, “You need to do what makes sense for your company and for yourself. If it isn’t authentic, your customers won’t be engaged. But the important thing is to do something, more now than ever. If you have a business that’s making a profit, you must have as part of your brand strategy, a program for giving back. It’s fundamental to the health well- being of your brand”.

In closing our candid conversation, I asked Lotte for a final thought and her choice of words resonated deeply with me. “I thought being financially independent would be the ultimate fulfillment in life. Then I realized that giving back what you’ve earned is even more satisfying. Sharing your knowledge, networks, and resources to help others achieve even a measure of what you’ve been able to, is the most fulfilling feeling you can ever hope to attain. It’s also the right thing to do”.

VELA Wealth Forms Strategic Partnership with Harness Investment Management Inc.

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Harness Investment Management is a technology-driven investment counsel firm focused on partnering strategically with professional planning and accounting firms to offer full discretionary investment management to its clients. By working together, Harness and its partners will be able to better serve families, corporations and trusts in enhancing their overall financial well-being.

We are thrilled to announce that VELA Wealth will be Harness’s first strategic partner in BC. VELA is based in the Lower Lonsdale area of North Vancouver and offers a full spectrum of wealth advisory services to its clients. VELA was founded by Jason Boudreau in 2007 and has developed into a premium wealth planning firm serving high-net-worth families across Canada.

Harness will give VELA clients full access to robust and sophisticated investment products that are well diversified and low cost. In addition to providing clients with access to a broad product shelf, Harness has worked with Purpose Investments1 ito develop model portfolios that will leverage Purpose Investments’ award-winning investment funds to provide a unique, best-in-class solution to enable VELA’s clients to achieve their financial goals.

“We hear regularly from people that they have an overall feeling of unease with capital markets as a result of past experiences. Furthermore, they feel like their investment questions have never been answered, their current portfolio manager does not have their best interest at heart, and they are paying far too much in fees for little or no value added.”, said Harness Portfolio Manager Keith Allan. “Our goal is to provide the best possible investment experience for our clients. By partnering with a well-respected and established firm like VELA, we know that the solutions created will transcend conventional wealth management.”

VELA Founder and Principal Jason Boudreau echoes Keith’s statements, “VELA has always been dedicated to consistently delivering thoughtful, best-in-class solutions for our clients. Our culture is shaped by transparency, quality and continuous-improvement and our partnership with Harness allows us to both “round-out” and elevate our offering to the families we are fortunate to serve. It’s an ideal relationship with a focus on what we believe is the future of the wealth advisory business, whereby these best-in-class solutions will be delivered with a requirement to put the client’s interests first. The client will ultimately be at the center of everything, by connecting an ecosystem of advisors, collateral professionals and institutions. We call this the Client Advocacy Model and strongly believe it’s the approach to embrace in order to stay closely-connected and relevant to our clients both now and in the future.”

Through the tight integration of Harness’ portfolio management capabilities and VELA’s advanced financial, estate and risk management services, clients will have access to a solution that can ultimately serve their complete needs through one key relationship. This integration enables continuity throughout the decision-making process and will serve clients well moving forward as they develop their overall wealth plan for both current and future generations.

About Harness Investment Management

Harness Investment Management is a fully discretionary investment counselling firm. Harness focuses on delivering tailored and integrated investment management solutions to high-net-worth individuals and their families. Harness works with a client’s trusted advisors to keep them on the path to achieving their financial goals through industry-leading software that offers a full digital experience from account opening to portfolio reporting and beyond.