2006 Alumni

Private Sector Northeast

Sandra Mews

Sandra MewsFrom one rock to another, Sandra Mews is a tour-de-force in northeastern Ontario's financial planning circuit.

The energetic and spirited Newfoundland native owns and manages two financial businesses nestled on the Cambrian Shield in Greater Sudbury: Dundee Wealth Management and Sudbury Family Mediation.

Dundee Wealth Management is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has 2,200 representatives coast to coast. It is the largest non-bank financial institution in Canada.

"We're reaching an all-time high, now," Mews says.

Mews was the sixth woman in Canada to receive her chartered financial planner designation in 1989. She received her financial planning certification the following year, and arrived in Sudbury in 1991 with her former husband where they purchased North American Life.

During the '90s, the business grew to 28 representatives across Northern Ontario and underwent several corporate name changes.

"They (representatives) learned things here," Mews says. "They built a client base, we mentored them."

Those same people now have their own branches, as Mews chose to downsize in 2000 and "aim for quality as a boutique operation.

"We wanted to be able to have time when someone came in with a critical event, as well as offer full-service financial planning," she says. "We work so hard to make our money ... we want our money to work hard for us once we get it."

Although the choice to downsize was a tough one, it allowed the genesis of Sudbury Family Mediation, a distinct business that assists the financial future of couples and families in the throes of a marital break-up.

Throughout the years, Mews saw separation or divorce as a huge obstacle for people planning and seeking financial stability.
"As time went on, I realized there had to be a better way," she says.

Mews set out to fill the missing component many couples lack after a long and drawn out divorce by creating a service that offers counselling to couples before separation, helping them to do it in a cost-effective manner.

"Not only are we trying to make sure they can get back on track, but we try to empower them to meet their goals, and to do so with the least financial strain possible."

Mews says she has seen couples spend as much as $50,000 in legal fees. Despite her own amicable divorce, the mother-of-two adds that if she had had the opportunity to use mediation, it would have saved thousands.

As a mediator herself, Mews compliments the staff comprised of a mediation lawyer, counsellor, two mediators and office administrator. Collectively, they direct couples down a path that is more co-operative and less financially stressful. A new counselling division offers one-on-one counselling, as well as a six-week divorce recovery program for only $150.

Mews continues to evolve workshops and services to meet the changing needs of her clients.

Other workshops hosted include Financial Strategies for Women, Lunch and Learn, and an annual seminar that caters to a larger audience. In 2005, the workshop was called Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, which focused on tax planning, crime proofing and the work of Human League, a charitable organization supported by Dundee.

The two businesses operate with a client base of about 1,800 families.

Mews' financial ability, along with her strong ethical nature, continues to solidify the smoothly run enterprise.

Her upstanding moral convictions are indicative in her public speaking appearances and advocacy for client education, protection and awareness.

She is a member and supporter of Advocis, the Canadian Association of Financial Advisors, which is a 16,000-member, nationwide lobby organization that provides clients with information on financial matters. Currently, membership is voluntarily, but Mews says its ethics board is trying to raise the bar of a financial advisor's efficiency standard.

"I feel very strongly that a financial planner should have a certain professionalism ... and adhere to a strict code of ethics," Mews says. "Advocis provides this to some extent but it is not mandatory."

It is this strength of character and principles that have helped maintain a transparent operation, augmenting client relationships.

Past president of the Canadian Association of Financial Planners Terry Taylor describes Mews as a professional who brings integrity to her client relationships. She has developed insightful strategies involving client advisory groups. With these groups, Mews says she has received valuable feedback that weathered the business through the financial repercussions after Sept. 11, 2001.

She attributes several awards, such as the Advisor of the Year 2002, and International Register Who's Who 2003-04, to the team at Dundee as well as her clients, whose guidance has helped shape Dundee into what it is today.

"It's amazing the kind of feedback you get," she says with a smile. "That is what helps drive your business in a different way."

Mews is also an influential community leader outside of her business, as seen in her volunteer efforts to help people in a financial capacity through the India-Canada Association and the Multicultural Association. She donates many hours educating and advising new immigrants to Canada and Northern Ontario on financial matters, so they can optimize their skills and contributions to the area.

Mews is a past-president of the India-Canada Association, and present advisor to the Board of the Sudbury Multicultural Association. She is also fundraising chair for the Northern Ontario Arthritis Society, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of University of Women and treasurer for the Ontario Memorial Society, an organization that lobbies for low-cost funerals.

In Mews' home province, she was the founding member and director for the Women's World Bank, a director for Zonta International, a director of the Small Business Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and vending machine co-ordinator for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Her extensive volunteer efforts have been recognized with the 2001 Premier Harris, Ontario Volunteer Service Award Distinction, and the 2001 Volunteer Award, Sudbury Multi-Cultural Association.

When Mews isn't tapping her toes to the rhythmic tempo of a live band at a summer folk festival, she can be found nurturing the plants in her garden, or spending time with her children at home or at school. Presently, she is also involved in writing a humourous book with a friend.

- ADELLE LARMOUR

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