This profile was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of CPABC in Focus magazine.
Profile by Vivien Allen & Michelle McRae
Giving back has been a focus for Bryan Sommer ever since he spent a long, cold night lost on Cypress Mountain at the age of 15.
“By the time the search and rescue team found me, I’d made a promise to myself,” he recounts. “If I survived, I’d focus on the people and things I valued most, and start giving more than I took.”
Bryan has made good on that promise ever since. A portfolio manager with CIBC Wood Gundy in South Surrey/White Rock, he applies his expertise not only to serving his clients, but also to bettering his community. In particular, he’s dedicated to making financial education more accessible.
“I’ve always been interested in financial literacy,” he says. “My father worked in the finance industry, and I grew up reading books like The Wealthy Barber. A career in finance was a natural path, and it has become a great way for me to give back.”
In addition to creating a mobile app that helps kids grasp the concept of financial self-control and co-authoring a children’s book that showcases the importance of goal setting, Bryan also helps young people understand finance through his involvement in CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Program. He began volunteering with the program in May 2014, giving presentations at local elementary schools.
Today, he’s an area leader for South Surrey/White Rock, helping other CPA volunteers find teaching opportunities.
“The Financial Literacy Program is a really good fit for my interests and experience,” he says. “Working directly with kids has been a lot of fun, and I really enjoy working with other volunteers. I get to see many of them find a new passion—one that gives them a new level of purpose.”
Bryan actively encourages other CPAs to get involved, recognizing that the stakes are high.
“Financial responsibility is a skill that needs to be learned,” he says. “According to Statistics Canada, we saw record debt-to-income levels in 2016, and with interest rates likely to increase, there could be challenges ahead for some families. CPAs have a unique skill-set that pairs well with the Financial Literacy Program, so it makes sense to get involved.”
Despite juggling the demands of a busy career, volunteer work, and a growing family, Bryan recently found time to author his second book, entitled The Reveal: Stepping Across the Line into Retirement. Released in November 2016, the book is designed to help retirees make the most of life after work.
“A consistent, dependable cash flow doesn’t necessarily lead to a happy retirement,” he explains. “Retirement is a time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Some of the happiest retirees I’ve encountered have found a sense of purpose in giving back to their communities.”
While the book is available for purchase on Amazon, Bryan has also made free copies available at therevealbook.ca. For every book distributed, Bryan makes a donation to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which puts books into the hands of children. He became involved with the Imagination Library through Sources, a local non-profit agency. Bryan has served as treasurer on Sources’ board of directors since September 2015.
It’s all part of an overarching commitment to keeping that promise he made years ago, one fateful night.
“Volunteering has put my life into perspective,” Bryan says. “It actually energizes me, and it keeps me balanced. I live with a sense of purpose.”
CIBC Wood Gundy is a division of CIBC World Markets Inc., a subsidiary of CIBC, and a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.