Men of Vancouver is an editorial series featuring stylish and professional men in Vancouver. MofV producer and stylist, Jason Sarai of Style by Sarai, recently interviewed the principal and founder of VELA Wealth Management Jason Boudreau.
What do you do for work?
I am the principal and founder of VELA Wealth Management, a boutique life and estate planning firm, focused on guiding emerging and established business families. By working with these entrepreneurs to establish and execute a plan for their future, we allow them to continue to focus on their business and what’s truly important to them, while helping to ensure that they will be able to continue doing what they love for years to come.
How did you get involved in this career?
Many people don’t know this but 11 years ago, I was completing my Red Seal apprenticeship in the culinary arts. I had the privilege of training at some of the best restaurants in the city and apprenticed under some of Vancouver’s best chefs but ultimately, I couldn’t see myself working in the restaurant industry forever. I decided to finish my apprenticeship and then immediately make a career shift. I knew I wanted to work for myself but I still wasn’t sure which direction I was going to take.
I was at a family reunion and was telling my uncle, who is a long-time financial advisor, that I was looking to make a career change and he asked if I’d ever considered his business. I had a conversation about it with my best friend’s father, who is a financial advisor as well, and the more I learned about the industry the more it felt like the right combination of everything I was looking for. I could be entrepreneurial by opening my own practice, I could help people in a meaningful way by helping them bring their life vision to reality and I could be creative in the planning process as every client has their own unique set of circumstances.
I switched my focus to financial advising and have never looked back.
What do you enjoy most about your career and company?
The area of the business I enjoy the most is the advising. I love working with people, getting to know them on a deep level and helping them to create solutions for the issues and opportunities that their business successes inevitably bring. I have a firm belief that they actually have the answers, my job as their advisor is just to ask the right questions so they can discover what those answers are. It’s very fulfilling to know that you are an integral part of helping people make meaningful life decisions.
Where do you see your career in five and 10 years time?
VELA Wealth is always evolving. In five years, I would like to see us having grown from a single-advisor practice to a multi-advisor firm that is continually building business value. From there, I’d aspire that in 10 years, we are the go-to firm for business families, supporting them in living great lives and being great entrepreneurs who leave meaningful legacies.
What has been your greatest business challenge to date?
My greatest challenge to date has really been finding a balance between growing the business and working in the business. When I’m in the business I’m doing client strategy, continuing education to stay current and ensuring as a team we maintain a high attention to detail and provide a high quality product at every touch point. When I’m growing the business I’m out meeting prospective clients, building relationships, mapping for the future and working with my mentors. Again, it all comes back to prioritization for me, and staying focused.
What’s your advice to professionals wanting to pursue a career in the financial sector?
First and foremost, approach it with the highest level of integrity and professionalism. In today’s world, your client is well informed and there are many qualified people with whom they can choose to work. Elevate your game and always stay at the top of it so that you remain relevant and be their go-to person.
Secondly, take the time to build deep relationships with your clients, your team and those who support you in your work. Again, in today’s world, it’s very easy to be connected to a lot of people through social media but nothing can replace a relationship that is built on authenticity and integrity.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
To me, entrepreneurship is about bringing to life my vision with a deep passion that I have to create value for others and build something that is much greater than me.
I view my business as a vehicle to deliver on my purpose, which is to positively impact the world by helping people live more meaningful lives and create legacies that impact the planet long after they are gone.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
THINK BIG and have a purpose. Having a purpose keeps things in perspective and gives me the energy to push through the adversity that always seems to show up in one way or another. Really know why you do what you do, what result you want to achieve and how you want impact people and the world.
How do you manage your personal and professional lives?
Personally, I believe balance is an illusion, because it conveys that there are equal parts on each side. It’s really about prioritizing based on what’s most important at the current time. Therefore, I prioritize and make sure I always make the time for all the things I value in my life.
For example, my wife Carissa and I plan our vacations in advance so we have something to look forward to. I also make it a point to schedule in physical activities such as exercise, cycling and golf into my calendar. That is my personal time to recharge, allowing me to be ‘on’ the rest of the time. Weekends are sacred as well.
Outside of work, what do you do in your spare time?
Family is number one for me, so spending as much time with Carissa and our children is paramount to everything. I am also a passionate golfer. Golf is the ultimate pursuit for me as it’s a game that I know I will spend my entire life trying to master. I also love to be active with road cycling, training or even just doing hill sprints outside!
What are your favourite hobbies?
My health and fitness are extremely important to me so much of what I do in my spare time reflect that. My favourite pastimes are golf, road cycling, and ice hockey. With all of them, not only do I take care of myself but they each have a great social aspect. I tend to hit the course with friends, colleagues or potential clients, as it gives us a chance to connect as well. Cycling is a great community sport that has allowed me to great some great people, but is also something I can enjoy in solitude when I just want to take a break from it all. With hockey, I have a great team I play with and we tend to extend the night by grabbing beers afterwards. Hockey has always been my favourite team sport. There’s nothing like gliding on a fresh sheet of ice.
What charitable organizations/programs do you work with?
I attend and donate to many causes that are close to my heart throughout the year. However, I have a personal rule to only be involved with three charitable causes at one time, simply because I want to ensure I devote a good amount of time and effort to each one. Currently, I am a member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver, a board member of the Thunderbird Football Association, and I sit on the Strategic Advisory Council for Canuck Place.
On a personal note, I’m also very environmental conscious. I drive an electric car, and we’re very mindful of our personal waste and the packaging of what we buy as a household. If we all were to focus on creating our own small changes, we could make a massive impact.
How did you get involved with this cause/organization?
I was introduced to Rotary through a business associate. I love the club; they are all such good people with huge hearts. Rotary is an amazing organization because it touches so many different causes through one avenue and you can do your own projects to help those in need and get financial and human support from Rotary to do it.
I played football at UBC 15 years ago and, unfortunately, inherited my dad’s crappy shoulders. This led to a short career on the field so getting involved with the Thunderbird Football Association has given me a chance to give back to a program that had such an impact on my life. This organization also keeps me connected with a lot of the guys I became friends with while playing there.
Canuck Place is a new cause for me but I am so grateful to be a part of it. It’s a special place and having three young kids myself, once I learned what it was all about, my heart just would not let me not get involved.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
A typical weekend starts with Friday night date night with my wife Carissa. On Saturday morning, my boys jump on my head to wake me up and we go downstairs to make breakfast together. I am religious about making a French Press full of coffee because I don’t take the time to do this during the week. Once the coffee has kicked in, Carissa and I usually try to get a workout in, followed by mid-day kids soccer practices and then we try to do something fun together as a family in the afternoon.
Sundays, I try and hit some golf balls in the morning and then we will do something together again as a family like visiting other family or friends. As you can see, my weekends are very family focused!
Sunday evenings, I usually get prepped for the week, which consists of writing down my top priorities for the week so I can put “first things first” and check it off as I get things done.
What are your favourite places to go eat in Vancouver?
I have a deep love for food, which is one reason I have to keep up with my workouts!
I have many places I love to go, depending on what I’m feeling like. Bin 941 is a favourite. I worked there many moons ago so it’s always special to go there. I also love Miku and Jules in Gastown and Burgoo is great for comfort food.
Another restaurant that has quickly become a favourite is Boulevard at Sutton Place Hotel. I love the room. It’s has a real freshness to it combined with sophistication and elegance.
What do you recommend someone to try when at Boulevard?
I love the Hamachi and personally feel you can never go wrong with a Foie Gras terrine. The bouillabaisse is a favourite for sure as well. It’s one of my favourite dishes to eat and Boulevard does an amazing version of it. It’s a classic with a saffron base and the lobster adds a nice touch. I’m still a total foodie and my culinary training has really helped develop my palette.
What do you like most about your experience at Boulevard?
The menu is top-notch, as is the ambiance and the service. Carissa worked in New York for a couple of years so we spent many nights in some of the most amazing restaurants in Manhattan. Boulevard reminds me of that. In a city where restaurants come and go, I feel Boulevard will be around for years to come.
What are you favourite cafes and coffee shops in Vancouver?
I have three go-to coffee shops in Vancouver. Sciue, Caffe Artigiano and Thierry.
The first two are strictly for the coffee. Thierry is different, I find myself looking for excuses to go there for ‘coffee’ to drink, but really it’s for their incredible desserts and pastries. I’m willing to double up the workouts for a stop in to Thierry.
What’s your drink and snack/dessert of choice at Thierry?
Cannelé bordelais are my favourite little snacks to go with a coffee. Next is the Apple pastry. I honestly don’t even know what it’s called, it’s just insanely good. The Pate Choux is my dessert of choice as it’s light and not too rich, I could probably eat a few of them in one sitting. And, of course, the macarons are ridiculous.
What do you like most about your experience at Thierry?
Thierry oozes quality. Everything from the food to the décor and the staff, even the front door. That has to be one of the coolest front doors in Vancouver. An impeccable attention to detail has gone into Thierry and it really shows. I love that and feel it reflects how much they care about those they serve. That attention to the finer details is something I personally strive for and try to instill at VELA.
How do you think people would describe your style?
I think people would describe my style as classic and clean with pops of fun colour and a keen attention to detail.
I really appreciate quality pieces. They last and I can integrate them over and over again into different outfits. Whether it be a suit, shirt, tie, or shoes – quality pieces can really anchor any outfit.
What does style mean in your world of business and the finance sector?
Style is very important in the work we do. I believe it’s important to dress well but not flashy. Whether you realize it or not, people are making subconscious decisions about you based on the way you dress and how you present yourself as soon as they see you. I believe that the way someone does one thing is the way they do everything. If they have an attention to detail with how they dress, it’s a good bet they have an attention to detail in how they approach their craft as well.
A great suit goes a long way and it must fit properly. I always recommend that you have a great tailor. Nothing looks worse than a suit that doesn’t fit well.
How has it played a part in your career?
While I can’t measure a direct correlation between how I dress and my success, I know my style has had a great deal of impact. I view my style as a reflection of my personal brand and in turn a reflection of the VELA Wealth brand. For me it is key to have strong brand consistency conveying quality and attention to detail – from how I dress, to the people we collaborate with, to the quality of our work.
What does style mean to you?
I love style. It’s an extension of me and an expression of who I am and how I am feeling on a particular day or at a particular moment.
To me, style is an individual statement and in my opinion, the key is to have fun and be confident with what you’re wearing while at the same time, tailoring it to your audience whomever that may be.
It’s a lot like cooking a great meal. There are some fundamentals that always need to be adhered to and once you’ve covered those basics, have some fun with it!
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