Career 180: How I became an investment counsellor


How a solo parent and problem-solving engineer used previous life experiences to turn their careers around.


Jennifer Kennedy and Sacha Karman travelled very different paths before becoming investment counsellors at RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. (RBC PH&N IC), but the incentive to do so— and why they can’t think of a better fit — is much the same.

Kennedy was an executive director in institutional equity sales, who took a hiatus from the workforce while her children were young, while Karman worked as an engineer on hydropower projects around the world. The two, who didn’t know each other before working at RBC PH&N IC, chose investment management careers because they wanted to work directly with people to help them realize their life’s vision. 

Both Kennedy and Karman know their previous careers, although different, have been invaluable in their current Investment Counsellor (IC) roles. For Kennedy, it’s the deep knowledge of financial markets and the emotional intelligence (EQ) that comes with raising two kids as an only parent; for Karman, it’s the ability to solve complex problems — only now it’s for people instead of infrastructure.

Below are two short profiles of Kennedy and Karman and the paths that led them to their career roles at RBC PH&N IC.

Jennifer Kennedy, vice president & investment counsellor at RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc.

Kennedy wasn’t sure what she wanted to do while growing up in northern Ontario; first in Sudbury and later on Manitoulin Island, but with an entrepreneur and business owner as a father, she did have a keen interest in business and economics and a desire to see the world.

She graduated from Western University in London, Ont. with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics and then spent a year in Japan before moving to Toronto where she worked while obtaining her Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

In 1993, Kennedy started her finance career as an equity research associate at a small firm, eventually rising to the role of executive director in institutional equity sales. Here she advised mutual fund managers, pension plans and other large institutions on North American equities from trading desks in Toronto and New York. Kennedy was in her New York office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, which was located in a building across the street from the World Trade Centre. Pregnant with her first child, Kennedy literally ran for her life; an experience that had a profound effect on shaping her life outlook and future.

After having her second child about two years later, Kennedy decided not to return to the workforce. In 2009, her husband Glenn Inamoto, a senior portfolio manager and the recently appointed CEO of Sceptre Investment Counsel Ltd., died suddenly. Both devastating experiences shaped her decision to go back to work a couple of years later.

“I really felt the need, on a whole bunch of levels, to go back to work,” says Kennedy. “I really wanted to capitalize on my past experiences — including a high IQ role in finance and my EQ role outside of the formal workforce.”

Kennedy had a friend, and former client, who had switched careers, moving from a role in institutional sales to a senior management role in private client wealth management. She suggested Kennedy pursue a career as an IC as it would allow her to capitalize on her strengths and offered the flexibility she needed as a parent. After a number of informational interviews at different firms, Kennedy accepted an IC role at RBC PH&N IC, serving high-net-worth clients. Today, she manages discretionary portfolios, while working with her clients and their trusted advisors to ensure seamless management of their investment portfolios and wealth management needs.

“I felt that investment counselling was where I could do the most for the client and where I could be most differentiated,” says Kennedy. “Plus, I wasn’t walking away from my past experience. It was really helpful. It all came together quite beautifully.”

What engages her most about the role is using her expertise, combined with that of experts in various roles across RBC, to make relevant and bespoke wealth management solutions for individual clients and their families.

“I love when I get to bring in the wealth management teams and other RBC partners and deliver the full experience to the client where they say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could do all this.’ That’s a great moment,” Kennedy says.

“There is a real pleasure in helping people reach their goals and to be a valuable resource. I tell my clients, I worry so they don’t have to. I really like being their trusted wealth advisor.”

Sacha Karman, vice president & investment counsellor at RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc.

As a kid growing up in a Montreal, Sacha Karman’s parents said he could be whatever he wanted when he grew up — as long as it was a professional career such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting.

Karman excelled at math and science, so he chose engineering. He studied at McGill University and after graduation got a job at GE’s hydropower division, where he worked on big projects in China, Scandinavia and North America. After about four years as an engineer, Karman decided the job wasn’t for him. Not sure what his next move should be, Karman went back to McGill and obtained an MBA in finance and marketing.

“I knew I wanted to make a change, but I wasn’t sure what my destination would be. The MBA was an exploration,” says Karman. By the end of those two years, Karman decided he wanted to get into finance, although he still wasn’t entirely sure which area.

He was accepted into RBC’s Graduate Leadership Program, where he had the opportunity to work and test his skills in different areas including capital markets, wealth management and personal and commercial banking.

“I found it fascinating,” Karman says of the program. It also helped him figure out that what he wanted to do was join the client side of the business, helping families build and maintain wealth.

He started as an associate and then, in 18 months, obtained his CFA designation. That allowed him to become an IC, the role he’s held now for almost 10 years.

Karman loves the career path he’s chosen, in particular working with different clients on their overall wealth picture. 

“I really feel like I’m their trusted advisor,” Karman says. “I like to help people, to have a positive impact.”

He also finds his clients inspiring. “I love to hear about their road to success, some of the mistakes they’ve made along the way and how they overcame the challenges,” he says. “I also see the huge impact they make on their communities. It inspires me. There’s a lot you can take away from your own life and put into practice yourself.”

While the job is considerably different from his time as an engineer, Karman says there are some similarities.

“Engineering taught me a lot about problem solving. That’s a skill I think you can bring to any profession,” Karman says. “Whether it’s a portfolio or a hydro power plant, the skill set is very similar — even though what you are solving is very different. It’s definitely a skill I use today.”

RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. is a member company of RBC Wealth Management, a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. The brand name RBC Wealth Management – PH&N Investment Counsel is used by RBC PH&N IC. ® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under license. © RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.

RBC Wealth Management is a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. Please click the “Legal” link at the bottom of this page for further information on the entities that are member companies of RBC Wealth Management. The content in this publication is provided for general information only and is not intended to provide any advice or endorse/recommend the content contained in the publication.

® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © Royal Bank of Canada 2024. All rights reserved.

Let’s connect

We want to talk about your financial future.

Related articles

Tax-loss selling – building a better understanding

Investing 8 minute read
- Tax-loss selling – building a better understanding

Investment outlook for your 2019 portfolio

Investing 12 minute read
- Investment outlook for your 2019 portfolio

Climate change is reshaping the investment landscape

Investing 9 minute read
- Climate change is reshaping the investment landscape