It takes a lot of fortitude to start a business in the midst of an economic slump — and even more ambition to launch one that’s tied to financial wealth. But if you’ve met Allison Maher, you wouldn’t be surprised at her bold move.
“I’m a bit fearless,” says the chartered accountant. In January, she and her business partner, Tom Sorge, formed a new financial consulting company called Family Wealth Coach Planning Services. They now advise more than 20 families whose net worth ranges from $25 to $150 million in investable assets.
“The downturn actually worked for us,” Maher says. “Some of these clients had gotten caught up in a bull market and lost their focus.” Maher advises her clients to make better decisions with their wealth by building “virtual teams” for them so they have an arsenal of lawyers, accountants and tax specialists to consult. She also helps clients plan their philanthropic goals.
Often, Maher says, when people reach financial independence, the question ceases to be, “Do I have enough?” and becomes, “How can I give back?”
“Imagine you had a world where you could do anything or be anything and you had no financial constraints. It’s actually a lot of pressure,” she says. “You have to know who you are and what your passions are; what your purpose is.”
Some of Maher’s clients partner with community foundations or existing organizations such as The Calgary Foundation or the United Way; others choose to set up their own private foundations so they can give back to the community and leave a legacy for future generations in their family.
“What motivates me about this type of work is that you can make an impact,” Maher says. “You can ask clients the hard questions about what’s important to them, hold them to that and help them get on a path to achieving that [goal].”
Juggling multiple families’ millions requires a whole other level of tenacity and strategic thinking, and Maher brings almost two decades worth of financial-advisory and estate-planning experience for companies such as Great-West Life (London Life) and KPMG to the task.
Maher says her goal is to get families to explore their “place of most potential” — it’s a gutsy claim, but spoken by someone who is already there, it’s easier to believe.
For three years, Maher was the treasurer; then director of fundraising for the Famous Five Foundation, which inspires and educates Canadians to being nation builders. Now a devoted mother of two boys, Maher occupies her limited spare time by volunteering at their school, Lycée Louis Pasteur, and indulging her creative side in sculptural ceramics.
Even though her schedule is packed these days, Maher likes to leave room for surprises.
“It’s a journey, and I don’t know what the final destination is,” she says. “I’m excited about what’s next.”
Why she’s the top: In addition to balancing motherhood, volunteering and artistic pursuits, in less than a year, Maher has built a highly successful financial planning business that manages high-net-worth clients. With her guidance, these families make significant philanthropic contributions to the city.
The key to her success: Maher is continually working on her definition of success. But she names colleagues, friends and family as a crucial factor. “I don’t think I would have gotten to this point without them,” she says.