A former professional athlete, Jennifer Black now focuses her time and energy on guiding clients through a robust and well-developed wealth management process.
IT WAS 2003 when Jennifer Black suffered a fateful injury. “Before I came into this industry, I was a professional tennis player,” she says. “But I got injured while competing down in the US. After that, I didn’t really know what I was going to do.”
Feeling unmoored, Black returned to Canada, where her mother, Janet Baccarani, was looking for someone to work at her wealth management practice. Seeing an opportunity to take on a new challenge and work with her best friend, Black decided to make the leap.
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the next 18 years, Black channelled the drive and commitment she had honed as an athlete into becoming a private wealth manager, family enterprise advisor and portfolio manager; in June, she was recognized as Portfolio/ Discretionary Manager of the Year at the 2021 Wealth Professional Awards. She also established herself as a financial planning authority for widows and widowers, an audience she focused on when she co-authored a book, Managing Alone, with Baccarani in 2013.
On the business side, the two steadily grew their practice, DFS Private Wealth, into a formidable all-women boutique that catered to both widowed individuals and business owners. That changed in early 2020 when they and fellow Mandeville advisor Doug Beck decided to merge their practices to create Access Private Wealth, which
currently has about $225 million in assets under administration.
“A lot of advisors try to do everything at their practice, and I think you can’t offer the highest level of service and the best portfolio management that way,” Black says. “As
Janet and I looked to grow our business and expand, we got to talking with Doug about our different strengths and areas of expertise, and we knew we’d be a good fit.”
“An informed client is a better investor in the long term. By involving clients in our in-depth planning process, we help keep them from making emotional decisions”
Putting together their complementary strengths and perspectives, the newly merged practice developed the Access Formula, a proprietary process that all clients go through. Its seven steps include understanding a client’s vision for their family’s wealth, developing and reviewing a base plan, optimizing it with various proven wealth strategies, and ensuring progress with a customized roadmap for future meetings, as well as ongoing monitoring.
“I’ve always said that an informed client is a better investor in the long term,” Black says. “By involving clients in our in-depth planning process, we help keep them from making emotional decisions.”
Black says the Access team views themselves more as capital allocators rather than stock pickers, modelling their approach after the world’s largest pension funds and institutional portfolios. While retail investors tend to put their investable assets in publicly traded stocks and bonds, the Access team focuses on asset allocation strategies that prominently include exposure to the private markets.
“When pressed, most retail investors will tell you what they really want is higher returns with less risk,” Black says. “The only way you can even come close to having those two things simultaneously is through asset allocation. Our aim is to deliver that to the client in the most cost-effective way possible.”
Rather than spending time prognosticating the next market move, Black says the Access team focuses on getting exposure to the highest-quality ideas and specialty asset
managers on the planet. To that end, Access worked with Mandeville to launch its own platform of internal funds in 2020, which allows clients of any portfolio size to reap the benefits of alternatives, private income and equity investments, depending on their needs and risk tolerance.
That dedication to diversification proved vital in March 2020. While the equity markets declined by as much as 37.5%, Black says her clients’ portfolios took lighter hits, ranging from 6% to 10% – a strong testament to the volatility-dampening potential of private investments.
“When my mother and I first joined the Mandeville platform five years ago, private investments were fairly new in Canada,” Black says. “It’s become a bit more of a wide-
spread opportunity that other firms are also taking advantage of. But I don’t think it’s trickled down to Canadian investors as much as it really should … if you take your time and do your due diligence, there’s lots of opportunities to explore.”
Aside from its focus on alternatives, Black attributes the practice’s success through COVID-19 to its ability to adapt. Even as everyone transitioned to a work-from-home setup, the Access team didn’t miss a beat in answering calls to the office. They were also able to hold consistent Zoom meetings with clients, which were instrumental in providing much-needed reassurance.
“When our clients are feeling anxious, we really try to take them back to their plan,” Black says. “We remind them: What is it that we needed to accomplish? Why are we
invested? What’s our timeline for this investment? So even in difficult markets, we have something for our clients to anchor themselves to and make sure they stay invested.”