Pe­tra Remy,

Pe­tra Remy has been mo­ti­vated by so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity since she was a teenager. To­day, she’s an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor who spe­cial­izes in re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing and fi­nan­cial plan­ning for high net-worth clients

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEAH GOLOB

in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor with Remy Brown In­vest­ment Group, which op­er­ates un­der the CIBC Wood Gundy ban­ner in Ed­mon­ton, says re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing (RI) is not just for the “Birken­stocks crowd.” Remy and her busi­ness part­ner, Al­icja Brown, pro­vide RI and fi­nan­cial plan­ning ad­vice to af­flu­ent clients, in­clud­ing en­trepreneurs and pro­fes­sion­als who have $3 mil­lion-$4 mil­lion in in­vestible as­sets.

for pe­tra remy, re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing (RI) comes nat­u­rally. “It’s in my DNA,” says the 57-year-old in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor who, as a teenager, of­ten at­tended hu­man rights protests in be­tween school and a de­mand­ing part-time job.

Now, Remy, who’s an ad­vi­sor with Remy Brown In­vest­ment Group, which op­er­ates un­der the ban­ner of CIBC Wood Gundy in Ed­mon­ton, fo­cuses on RI and fi­nan­cial plan­ning. Remy and her part­ner, Al­icja Brown, also pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive wealth-man­age­ment ser­vices in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other pro­fes­sion­als. Remy Brown typ­i­cally serves high net-worth clients — in­clud­ing en­trepreneurs and pro­fes­sion­als such as doc­tors and lawyers — most with $3 mil­lion-$4 mil­lion in in­vestible as­sets.

Many of these clients are reaching their golden years and look­ing to­ward re­tire­ment. They’re no longer will­ing to take risks that might af­fect their port­fo­lios, es­pe­cially if they want to en­sure money gets passed down to their chil­dren or to char­ity.

Remy ad­dresses her clients’ con­cerns with a two-pronged ap­proach. First, she helps them to de­velop a com­plete fi­nan­cial plan, tak­ing into ac­count any busi­nesses the clients may own. Sec­ond, she brings in other pro­fes­sion­als as needed, such as ac­coun­tants and lawyers, to en­sure the clients’ es­tates are taken care of and that their money will last long enough for them to achieve their goals.

Al­though many of Remy’s clients come to her through re­fer­rals or her cen­tres of in­flu­ence, she also makes her prac­tice vis­i­ble through trade shows, speak­ing engagements and sem­i­nars.

For ex­am­ple, one of Remy’s re­cent sem­i­nars in­cluded pre­sen­ta­tions by a lawyer, a mort­gage bro­ker and an ac­tu­ary to an au­di­ence of cur­rent and prospec­tive clients. Each pro­fes­sional was given 20 min­utes to speak on a topic of in­ter­est to clients from the per­spec­tive of his or her area of ex­per­tise. Remy spoke at the end of the pre­sen­ta­tions to tie all of the in­for­ma­tion to­gether from a fi­nan­cial plan­ning point of view.

Prospec­tive clients of­ten ap­proach Remy to learn more about RI, which still is a niche in­vest­ment cat­e­gory in Ed­mon­ton. Many com­mu­nity mem­bers al­ready do­nate their time and re­sources to non­prof­its and other or­ga­ni­za­tions that work to im­prove en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial con­di­tions. RI is a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for peo­ple with those in­ter­ests.

Remy also at­tracts mil­len­nial clients, who of­ten are ex­cited by the idea of RI af­ter hear­ing their par­ents — who, in many cases, are Remy’s clients — talk about Remy’s prac­tice.

RI, Remy says, pre­vi­ously known as so­cially re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing, means mak­ing in­vest­ment de­ci­sions based on en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and gov­er­nance (ESG) fac­tors.

When Remy be­gan ex­plor­ing RI 15 years ago, there were only a few cat­e­gories that ESG screens typ­i­cally would elim­i­nate, such as in­volve­ment in the arms, al­co­hol and tobacco in­dus­tries. Now, RI has “mush­roomed,” Remy says, to con­sider how a com­pany’s ESG prac­tices af­fect not only the present but also the fu­ture.

“ESG isn’t about screen­ing out com­pa­nies,” Remy says. “It’s about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in com­pa­nies and hav­ing them en­gaged.”

So, in­stead of dis­miss­ing a com­pany al-

Re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing is a key fac­tor in risk re­duc­tion, which is crit­i­cal for Remy’s clients

to­gether for a par­tic­u­lar prac­tice that has a neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, for ex­am­ple, port­fo­lio man­agers who in­vest with an RI per­spec­tive work with com­pa­nies to effect change. They at­tend an­nual gen­eral meet­ings to ad­dress prac­tices that need to be al­tered and par­tic­i­pate in proxy votes to in­flu­ence com­pany poli­cies.

“They’re say­ing to com­pa­nies, ‘Make a dif­fer­ence in this area’,” Remy says. “And it hap­pens.

Com­pa­nies are more re­spon­sive than ever be­fore, in part, be­cause they’re learn­ing that pos­i­tive ESG fac­tors are good for busi­ness.

For ex­am­ple, a grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies are open to im­prov­ing gen­der di­ver­sity on their boards of di­rec­tors, know­ing that if they don’t change, they may be screened out by RI-ori­ented port­fo­lio man­agers.

A top con­cern among clients hes­i­tant about RI is that an RI ap­proach will com­pro­mise fi­nan­cial re­turns, Remy says. But a com­pany’s fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, gov­er­nance and prospects for sus­tained prof­itabil­ity are fac­tors con­sid­ered in most ESG screens. So, an ESG screen­ing ac­tu­ally pro­vides bet­ter as­sur­ance for po­ten­tially stronger re­turns.

More­over, RI is a key fac­tor in risk re­duc­tion, which is crit­i­cal for Remy’s clients, who gen­er­ally have a rel­a­tively low tol­er­ance for tak­ing on risk. For ex­am­ple, ESG screen­ing re­duces rep­u­ta­tional risk, le­gal risk, wa­ter scarcity risk and sup­ply chain risk, Remy says.

Remy is em­pa­thetic to her clients’ fi­nan­cial con­cerns be­cause she has ex­pe­ri­enced “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in money mat­ters. She be­gan her post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at age 28 as a sin­gle mother with two daugh­ters.

“I was broke,” she says. “What hap­pens is you learn to be fru­gal with the money that you have.”

Dur­ing this time, Remy be­gan learn­ing fi­nan­cial and in­vest­ment strate­gies, she says: “I wish I’d had a plan prior to go­ing to uni­ver­sity, but, at the time, I didn’t think about it. I was in the mid­dle of a di­vorce and had my kids [to look af­ter]. You should plan for these things.”

From 1989 to 1997, Remy earned a busi­ness de­gree, an hon­ours de­gree in psy­chol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy, then a mas­ter’s de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy. Dur­ing her stud­ies, she fo­cused on both the qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive side of sta­tis­tics. She now uses this quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive ap­proach with her RI wealth-man­age­ment prac­tice.

“When I’m re­view­ing com­pa­nies or when I’m re­view­ing in­vest­ments, I use quan­ti­ta­tive skills — which are num­bers-ori­ented — and qual­i­ta­tive skills to look at what these com­pa­nies of­fer from an ESG [stand­point],” Remy says. “For ex­am­ple,‘Is there board di­ver­sity? Are there wa­ter scarcity is­sues?’ [My analysis] isn’t just num­bers-driven.”

Remy, prior to join­ing her cur­rent firm five years ago, spent 10 years at Van­cou­ver City Sav­ings Credit Union (a.k.a. Vancity), ini­tially as an in­vest­ment spe­cial­ist and later as a regional man­ager of in­vest­ment so­lu­tions.

Remy first dipped her toes into RI when she joined Vancity in 2002. She had ex­pressed in­ter­est in RI at a pre­vi­ous firm, only to be told “for­get about re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing. It’s only for the Birken­stock wear­ers; it’s not for reg­u­lar in­vestors,” she says.

While at Vancity, Remy at­tended an RI con­fer­ence and be­came hooked im­medi- ately. “I knew this was some­thing dif­fer­ent that just tugged at my heart,” Remy says.

Vancity then gave Remy the op­por­tu­nity to let this in­ter­est flour­ish, and she de­vel­oped ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams to in­tro­duce RI to the firm’s branches. While in that role, Remy or­ga­nized pre­sen­ta­tions by Gail Tay­lor, an RI ad­vi­sor with Wood Gundy in Ed­mon­ton.

Tay­lor made a pro­found im­pres­sion on Remy, who left Van­cou­ver in Novem­ber 2012 to join Tay­lor’s prac­tice in Ed­mon­ton. Tay­lor was pre­par­ing to re­tire and be­gan groom­ing Remy and Brown, the lat­ter of whom was Tay­lor’s as­so­ciate at the time, to take over the prac­tice.

“Al­icja and I were part of [Tay­lor’s] suc­ces­sion plan,” Remy says, “which was for us to get to know her clients and the busi­ness. We had the op­por­tu­nity to fig­ure out what we would do dif­fer­ently and what we would do the same.”

Tay­lor even­tu­ally left the firm in Remy’s and Brown’s hands early in 2017. Remy de­scribes her part­ner­ship with Brown as a “fit made in heaven” be­cause of their com­ple­men­tary val­ues and skill sets. Al­though each ad­vi­sor serves her own clients, both women cover for each other dur­ing hol­i­days and help each other’s clients as needed.

Brown also is pas­sion­ate about RI and is on the board of di­rec­tors of the Toronto-based Re­spon­si­ble In­vest­ment As­so­ci­a­tion. Remy stays en­gaged with the as­so­ci­a­tion as a mem­ber.

Remy en­joys hik­ing, read­ing, meet­ing new peo­ple and vol­un­teer­ing in her spare time. She helps to or­ga­nize an an­nual sym­po­sium called Build­ing Em­pa­thy, Con­quer­ing Ap­a­thy and she is a mem­ber of the Ed­mon­ton chap­ter of Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional and the Women’s Pres­i­dents Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Remy’s daugh­ters — who also are en­gaged in hu­man rights and an­i­mal rights is­sues — now are 36 and 29 years old, re­spec­tively. Remy and her hus­band, Stan, are ap­proach­ing their 20th wedding an­niver­sary.

IAN JACK­SON / EPIC PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

IAN JACK­SON / EPIC PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

When Pe­tra Remy first in­quired about RI, she was told it was just for the “Birken­stocks crowd.” Now an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor with Remy Brown In­vest­ment Group in Ed­mon­ton, she pro­vides RI and fi­nan­cial plan­ning ad­vice to af­flu­ent clients.

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