Financial advisor Elke Rubach, right, enjoys beach time with Emily Strike. Rubach mentors Strike, whom she met through Fashion Heals for Sick Kids. Photo by Christopher Lawson

Elke Rubach was a successful lawyer when she discovered her passion for helping people understand finances

 

Elke Rubach was determined to do things the right way from the get-go when she set her sights on a career in the financial advisory business. Already an established lawyer, she spent a full year talking to experts to learn about the industry, including the products it has to offer and what they can do for clients, and about client-advisor relationships.

Rubach is the founder and president of Rubach Wealth, a “holistic” family advisory firm in Toronto. Over the past nine years, she built a practice that serves 280 professional clients of all ages and stages of their careers. As a result, their investable assets range from about $500,000 for young professionals to $3 million–$5 million for established families, and can be in excess of $35 million for business owners.

“I am responsible for my clients’ spouse and children too,” Rubach said. “At the very minimum, if Dad dies or Mom dies, I need to be able to look [the survivors] in the eye and say, ‘I’m really sorry this happened. But Dad or Mom did the right thing in looking out for you, and I’m here for you, too.’”

Rubach’s strong work ethic and empathy toward others originated early in her life. A native of Mexico City, Rubach was only 15 when her father, Karl, died. Her mother, Clara, was left with four children and a whole new set of responsibilities for raising the family.

“Mom had to go from not working while she had the four kids to having to figure out how to make a living,” Rubach said. “Watching how she made it work, I think, gave me grit.”

Rubach, who is fluent in English, French, Spanish and German, graduated law school at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. She was called to the bar in 2000, and began her career at the law firm Ritch Mueller Heather y Nicolau SC in Mexico City.

In 2001, Rubach relocated to the U.K. to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science on a Chevening Scholarship, earning her master’s degree in law the following year. She subsequently was hired as an associate in the London office of McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

One of the key files Rubach worked on concerned Argentina’s severe debt crisis and involved her firm’s Latin America team in Toronto. In 2002, McCarthy Tétrault asked Rubach to transfer to its Toronto office for a year.

“Nineteen years and three kids later, I’m still here,” she said.

Rubach left McCarthy Tétrault in 2005 to work for Bank of Nova Scotia. While working for Scotiabank’s compliance department, she discovered her passion for helping people control their finances.

This discovery sowed the seeds for a career change. “I loved spending time explaining to people what they were getting into and how everything is connected,” Rubach said. “I saw that people often go through life busy — building careers, looking after people — but in their financial affairs there’s absolutely zero clarity. That’s where I said, ‘There’s a niche for that,’ and decided to open up my own business.”

Rubach burnished her credentials by earning her certified financial planner and chartered life underwriter designations during the early years of her practice. She added the family enterprise advisor designation in 2020.

Rubach believes the trusting relationships she has established with her clients is her biggest success. “It’s a collaboration,” she said. “There is professional respect both ways. In my conversations with clients, I say, ‘Let’s take a long-term outlook — invest time and put a proper plan in place. And let’s invest in the relationship.’”

Rubach encourages clients to ask as many questions as they need to feel comfortable. And she isn’t afraid to ask her clients tough questions.

For example, if a client has a family business and three children, Rubach will ask questions such as: “Have you talked to the children about your business? Do they want to take it over? If you give this business to your eldest son, what’s going to happen with the other two children? Does your son know how to run the business?”

Answering those and many more questions is necessary to develop a practical plan that will provide peace of mind for the clients. “It gets emotional, but I love the intermediation of those intergenerational transfers,” Rubach said.

Rubach Wealth has five employees, including an associate and three marketing and administration staff. “I’m the partner,” Rubach said, “but I’ve always told my colleagues that nobody works for me. We all work together.”

Rubach takes pride in her ethical standards. “We strive to deliver value in our advice that far exceeds the cost,” she said. “I firmly believe that a mis-sold insurance policy can destroy a family. I am very conscious of that.”

She also levels with clients and prospective clients regarding expected returns on investments. “We do not guarantee rates of return,” she said, “and I am honest about that.”

One thing Rubach has learned is to temper her enthusiasm when a new financial product or service catches her eye, and not to rush to offer new ideas to clients. “I’m someone who is super-passionate about things,” she said. “Although passion is contagious, if you go too fast in business with a product or a strategy — and don’t follow the client’s pace — you risk losing the client.”

Rubach has been a member of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General’s Investment Advisory Committee of the Public Guardian and Trustee since 2019. She is serving a three-year term as one of nine voting members, whose role is to advise the Public Guardian and Trustee on how to invest the money of people who are incapable of making such decisions.

“This role further reminds me of the too often overlooked importance of having a will and powers of attorney,” she said.

Rubach, a mother of two sons and a daughter between the ages of 10 and 14, loves travelling, cycling and golf, although she admits the last is a “work in progress.”

Rubach also is an active volunteer. She is a member of the advisory board for TransPod Inc., which is developing affordable and sustainable ultra high-speed transportation in Canada. She also has been a board member of Lycée Francais de Toronto, a private school, for the past seven years.

Rubach holds several voluntary positions with Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, including co-founder and chair of Fashion Heals for Sick Kids, a fundraising fashion show in which the models are kids, researchers, doctors and others connected to the hospital. Models are professionally styled for the night, according to Rubach.

“For the kids, and for us, it’s the experience of a lifetime,” Rubach said. “Through fashion, they’re telling you their story — the resilience and courage that these kids have. We keep in touch with most of our models and have seen them grow from kids to inspiring young adults.”

She also speaks frequently at events, especially about topics affecting women’s financial health and well-being.

“I’m really passionate about empowering women,” Rubach said, “financially, socially, and professionally.”

 

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Making financial advice a family matter