In this quarterly feature, we help our readers get to know some of the people who work at Northwood Family Office. This quarter, we introduce Scott Dickenson, who works on the client service and business development teams.
1. What do you do at Northwood Family Office?
I think one of the best things about Northwood is that we are still a small and boutique firm of 18 (soon to be 19) employees. As a result, I’ve had an opportunity to be involved in defining my own job at the company. I initially joined the firm in January 2017 to work with our CEO Tom McCullough on business development and writing. Later that year, I was given the opportunity to begin working with clients of the firm as a member of our client team.
I now split my time roughly equally between my work with clients, and my work on business development with Tom. There are no typical days, but one day might include reviewing a client’s will and working on an investment plan in the morning, and then editing this newsletter and adding content to our website in the afternoon.
2. What did you do before you joined Northwood?
Prior to coming to Northwood I worked at RBC in the Global Markets Program. This involved stints working on the RBC trading floor and in the equity research department. Prior to working at RBC, I completed a two year MBA program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Prior to my MBA, I worked as a dairy commodities trader, but that is a story for another day.
3. What do you enjoy about working at Northwood?
I like that I have the opportunity to work with smart people and great clients, to help people with real problems, and to see the impact that we have on our clients’ lives. I also like the variety of the work. There is no chance of getting bored in this role.
Beyond the day to day work, I am grateful that I work with a firm that gives clients objective and unbiased advice without any pressure to sell them something. Before I came to Northwood, I thought being a financial advisor meant working at one of the big banks, being placed on “the grid”, and being fired if you didn’t bring a certain amount of assets to the firm in your first 24 months. At Northwood, we prioritize serving our clients and providing them with the best advice, not selling them investment products or incentivizing our staff to focus on finding new clients vs. working with our existing ones.
4. What are your favourite things to do outside of work?
I like to read, play sports (preferably outdoors), and enjoy the city of Toronto. I also love summer weekends in Muskoka, good food, and quality time spent with family and friends.
I’m getting married in June, so preparations for the big day are the main focus for my fiancée and me right now.
5. What attracted you to the multi-family office industry?
For a lot of people in my generation, the quest to find a career has been about striving to stay one step ahead of technological disruption. For example, in high school I wanted to be a journalist, but was constantly told about cuts at newsrooms, and the glory days of the industry being long gone. At RBC, it was clear that technology had already disrupted the trading floor, and likely would disrupt it even more over the next decade. You could be a fantastic trader or salesperson in 2016, but it was unlikely you would be compensated nearly as well as the fantastic traders or salespeople of 1996.
Northwood feels like the first place I’ve ever worked where we are less susceptible to technological disruption. Of course we have to continue to build technology into every part of our practice, both for clients and in operations. But, because so much of what we do is who we are, the long term relationships that we’ve built with our clients, and the context, advice and counsel we provide them, I don’t foresee us being disrupted by the robo-advisors of the world. With that said, if Google wants to develop a robotic version of Scott Hayman that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning, I’d love to see it.
6. We hear you’ve done quite a bit of travelling. Can you elaborate on that?
Travelling has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to many different regions of the world. As of today, I’ve been to 64 countries, and my long term goal is to make it to 100 over the course of my life.
My first big year of travelling was 2007, when I spent a semester studying in Budapest, Hungary during my undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. The Hungarian school wasn’t overly challenging, and the geography of Eastern Europe made it easy to visit a lot of the nearby countries on long weekends.
The other significant year was 2010, when I spent five months backpacking around Asia in my early 20s. Since then it’s mostly been shorter trips, with a preference for going somewhere I’ve never been before. The most recent one was Colombia last December.
7. Any favourite countries or places you’d recommend to others?
Croatia and Thailand both stand out for their sheer natural beauty. With that said, I’ve always been a proponent of trying to get to a country before the masses figure out its appeal, and it loses some of its natural charm. Along those lines, Montenegro is right next to Croatia, just as beautiful, and not nearly as crowded or expensive.