Brendan Willis initially thought a career in the golf industry was his destiny.
“I started work at the Vernon Golf and Country Club as a 10-year-old washing golf clubs,” said Willis, now 39. “And then by the time I was 17, I was working at Predator Ridge, and after moving on from parking cars I was managing construction crews of eight to 10 guys on holes that would ultimately become the second 18-home championship course called The Ridge.”
Willis was so good at it, he was offered a job by the golf course construction company to be a supervisor on a build in the Yukon.
“That’s when I knew I didn’t want that to be my future,” he said. “So I started to work with my dad, a chartered accountant, and that wasn’t for me, either. I love working with people and wanted to do something else in business.”
So, in 1998 he moved to Kelowna to take business at Okanagan College. But golf still wasn’t out of his blood. He worked summers at The Harvest Club.
Upon graduation, Willis landed a job as an assistant to a financial adviser at RBC Dominion Securities in Kelowna and worked on his adviser designations.
By January 2002, he was able to join BMO Nesbitt Burns as an adviser for four years.
In 2006, he made the move to investment dealer Raymond James Ltd., where he remains today.
“For years, I was happy as an adviser,” said Willis. “And then when the branch manager stepped down, I received a call from senior management to see if I wanted the job. I didn’t even know I’d been touted around the office as the replacement."
Willis took the job and oversees 13 other advisers and eight support staff.
“It’s been a great fit for me,” he said. “By nature, financial advisers are very entrepreneurial and motivated, so I just support them and help them when they need help.”
Willis also works in a team of four so he can juggle both adviser and managerial work.
His team is made up of his adviser partner, Gerry Austgarden, adviser and assistant Rita Faber, and administrative assistant and investment representative Kaiyo Muir.
Raymond James follows four keys in helping people with their investments and financial, retirement, education and estate planning. They are: client first, conservatism, integrity and independence.
“Because Raymond James isn’t owned by a bank, we truly are independent,” said Willis.
Part of Willis’ duties as branch manager is building the Raymond James brand in Kelowna. That’s done by doing a good job for clients and getting the good word of mouth that often results in referrals.
But it’s also done with charity work and community involvement.
Raymond James locally does an annual Christmas in November fundraiser for the Salvation Army and Central Okanagan Food Bank, which has pulled in $70,000 over the past two years.
The Raymond James Prostate Walk is annually in June and the firm is also involved with the Cycle for Strong Kids campaign.
Willis recognizes work-life balance is as important to working dads as it is for working moms.
“I’ve been a family man for a long time and have learned over the years you have to have balance,” he said.
Willis has a 21-year-old son, Michael, who is taking the aircraft maintenance engineer course through Okanagan College in Vernon and a 17-month-old daughter, Riley.
Editor’s note: This is the 25th of 40 profiles for the second year
of the Kelowna Top Forty Under 40 program presented by BDO Accountants and Consultants, Junior Chamber International (Okanagan branch), Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. Every week in this space, we feature someone under the age of 40 who is making an impact through business, innovation and community involvement. Nominations are still being accepted at TopForty@KelownaChamber.org until March 1. A special event honouring all 40 nominees will be held in June.