‘The best entrepreneurial environment in Canada’

Scott McElligott of Manulife Private Wealth talks about helping clients prepare for Calgary's new economy

Scott McElligott is an investment counsellor with Manulife Private Wealth.

Scott McElligott
Scott McElligott

What’s your sense of the mood of Calgarians about their finances?

McElligott: The thousands of households that exist in Calgary means there are various levels of financial comfort here, much like most other places in Canada. What’s different is the economic change we’ve faced since the drastic change in the oil economy. We certainly know it has placed a financial hardship on many and created significant wealth expectation change for a lot of families, but it has also created opportunities for others.

I would say the movement to more conservative deployment of cash, holding onto liquidity and better managing debt are themes that I often see. Our discussion with clients is often focused on life changes, from employment to retirement or job change, and to ways of seeking better growth of their present personal wealth.

I have definitely noticed a trend and more interest around better managing their wealth with an expectation that they may need to rely on their portfolio more than was originally anticipated. One thing we often hear is that the economic cycle we are in right now is different than they have ever seen before and, as such, it must be dealt with differently.

What’s your advice for people on how to best navigate these turbulent times?

McElligott: I always rely on the concept that you need to build a team of people to help you. Like a business, families must have key support in order to manage their personal wealth. Depending on the complexity, that comes down to resources such as a lawyer and accountant you trust and who know your needs, an insurance specialist, perhaps a dedicated financial planner, along with an adviser in the investment business.

As with entrepreneurship, when it comes to personal finance it’s often best managed with a collective set of experts who can help make sure everything is working in unison and co-ordinated. When I meet new clients for the first time, this is an area I want to help them explore and ensure that, for their particular set of circumstances, they have the right people helping them.

One key factor today we’re dealing with is making sure that the execution of solutions happens and not just talked about. Someone may say you need a new estate plan, however, getting the actual process underway to completion is the most important element.

Do we need as a city to diversify our economy and not rely so much on the oil and gas sector?

McElligott: I think we all believe this is a huge priority. It can’t just be aspirational. Calgary and Alberta have some of the world’s best technology and expertise in the oil and gas sector. I see examples of this being exported to other countries all the time, which is great. We’re also starting to see new firms move here because they see the huge opportunity to attract local and outside talent to a great lifestyle city. Recent examples of Garmin and BASF’s Agricultural Solutions and Bayer CropScience setting up here are fantastic examples.

What better place to move to than a thriving city with great talent, mountains at your doorstep and vibrant culture?

I believe there is more room for technology and financial firms to consider Calgary to set up offices here as well. This is the best entrepreneurial environment in Canada and I believe corporates outside the oil and gas sector are starting to realize this.

What will it take for this city to see a significant positive direction in its economy?

McElligott: In reality, our direction is dependent on the same factors that most other cities deal with, it’s just a more amplified problem right now.

The biggest need is an alignment of political will at municipal, provincial and federal levels, ensuring cultural interests are protected while allowing for growth of the economy inside and outside the oil and gas sector.

Also, creating a business environment (taxes and operating costs) that attracts capital and great people to stay or move here is essential.

One element I’m confident about is this city has the drive and attitude to make it happen. Having said that, this is a very big issue to tackle correctly right now, for many reasons.

Where do you think this city will be from an economic standpoint in five years?

McElligott: I like to think about this in a five-year and 10-year cycle. We are five years away from the start of the last downturn and stability in employment is starting to materialize.

We see more upside in the real estate market than the downside we have felt for the last five years. People appear to be ready to take on some additional risk in expansion or business investment.

We know Calgarians continue to focus on the improvement of their financial position and the business environment.

While we start to see potential national economic cycles slowing, we may move in an opposite direction.

Five years from here, I see a platform we’re setting today taking hold for the next 10-year cycle, which I know will be great for Calgary. We have all the elements to show the rest of Canada and the world that this city is ready for the future and I’m certain that it will be bright.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business


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