the challenge

Business and time management

the advisor

Snigdha Malik


OM Financial/Investia Financial Services


Brampton, Ont.


320 households

Target clients

Professionals and families who earn upward of $100,000

Compensation style


The experts

Kevin Cork

Kevin Cork

CFP, president of The Absolute Group in Calgary, Alta.

25 years in the business

Rosemary Smyth

Rosemary Smyth

of Rosemary Smyth and Associates in Victoria, B.C.

5 years in the business

Snigdha Malik’s no stranger to challenges. She’s had to restart her career twice since coming to Canada from India in 1979.

The first barrier came on arrival, when potential employers wouldn’t recognize her graduate-level engineering credentials from Delhi University. Unable to follow her planned career path, she took a job as a business manager at Eaton’s in 1984.

When the iconic retailer shuttered in 1999, she signed up for a career-planning course.

“I gravitated toward financial planning,” she says, “due to my background in mathematics and analytics, and because I enjoy working with people.” While determining next steps, Malik was offered a job as a financial advisor at Desjardins. And, over the following decade, she worked at a couple of firms, added CFP to her credentials and was promoted to branch manager.

Read: Open Agenda: How to use your time better

But, in 2009, she found she missed working closely with clients. So she bought a book of business from a retiring colleague and became an independent broker for OM Financial.

Though she connected with a business coach who helped grow her book and add services, she still sometimes finds it difficult to keep organized while maintaining service quality.

“I’ve gotten so busy in my day-to-day work [that] I’ve hired people to help me with technology, social media and filing. I don’t want to waste time with these tasks.”

Malik talks to her part-time assistant a couple of times a month, and she reviews business strategies with her online marketing manager every quarter. Two additional experts help her with website and tech upgrades.

Read: Tips for newer advisors

But she needs extra help. “I don’t want to lose clients because I’m missing calls, and I may not be communicating with some people enough. I want to track client communication in a standardized way.”

Inside tips from a business coach

Once hired, business coach Rosemary Smyth works with most advisors for at least six months. She checks in monthly, adding she’s worked with some people for years. Each appointment is typically an hour long and she charges an hourly rate. In some cases, however, appointments are 30 minutes long and she checks in bi-monthly. She’s also coached people for shorter periods on tasks such as integrating new books.

Her tips:

  1. Formalize your referral process and share the steps with current clients. If clients set friends’ expectations before advisors make contact, referrals will be more open and meetings will be more efficient.
  2. If you alter processes and add services as your business grows, you also need to educate your team. If people are feeling disconnected, plan team meetings and lunches to address concerns and follow up on tasks.

Regaining focus

We connected Malik with business coach Rosemary Smyth, who asked for a breakdown of the advisor’s book.

Malik has about 200 clients she connects with every two months. She also aims to reach out to 100 additional clients every six months. That latter group consists mainly of people she acquired when taking over her colleague’s book. She says many are harder to get a hold of, so she often has to leave several messages and emails before meetings get booked.

Read: Open Agenda: Regularly review business goals

So Smyth talked with Malik about paring her book, which will help her focus on top clients and target prospects. She can start this process by drafting a letter explaining her basic communication and regulatory requirements. Her assistant, Greta D’Silva, could send these letters to lower-tier clients and handle all follow-up, so Malik doesn’t have to.

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