Strong values matter as much as credentials

June 18, 2018 | Last updated on June 18, 2018
2 min read


Shirley Gates




Woodstock, N.B.



Has an advisor?

Yes, at different firms

Likes to invest in:

Blue-chip stocks

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“Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you say.”

This well-known adage by Ralph Waldo Emerson might well be tweaked to sum up many clients’ lack of regulatory knowledge: “My advisor’s actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what regulators say.”

When choosing an advisor, long-time investor Shirley Gates puts the adage in practical terms: “You think of the person you would respect the most and the community things that they support,” she says. “It goes to their values.”

Her main advisor exemplifies these qualities. In addition to being approachable and regularly checking in with her, his firm sponsors social events and raises funds for community causes.

When asked if she’s concerned about regulatory issues, Gates readily admits, “No, it’s too deep.”

Investor advocates might cite Gates’s position as an argument against a buyer-beware market. Yet balancing industry and client responsibility is challenging. The BCSC’s 2016 “Smarter Investor Study” found 53% of investors hadn’t checked their advisors’ backgrounds. When asked if her advisor has explained his credentials or how he’s regulated, Gates says she’s noticed certificates on his office wall, which she takes as a good sign.

“I don’t think you blow your own horn,” she says. “I might be suspicious if somebody did. I’m not big on people who think of themselves too highly.”

But acting in a client’s best interest should be a given, she says. “I would hope [advisors] would have that requirement, probably by law.”

She’s pleased with how her advisor fulfils his obligations, which to her means keeping an eye on her investments. He “understands where I’m at investment-wise,” says Gates, noting that avoiding risk is paramount, and he informs her of changes in taxes and fees.

What matters most to Gates is the person behind the requirements. “I’ve met a lot of people [and] lived a lot of places, and quality is quality. It stands out over flash.”