How he got started
Silbermann met his current business partner and mentor, advisor Don Stockman, while studying finance at the University of Ottawa. He completed 16 months of co-op at Don Stockman Financial Services: “[Don] was looking for someone who could help out during his busy season,” he says, adding he was primarily filing at first. He then went on to schedule client appointments and sit in on meetings.
After graduating in 2012, Stockman hired Silbermann full time. Over the next two years, Silbermann bought a mutual fund book of business, as well as a segregated fund book. He worked with internal specialists who helped him get a loan and complete the underwriting process. They also gave him tips on how to run a cash flow plan during his early years in the business.
Meanwhile, Stockman introduced Silbermann to experts, like accountants and portfolio managers who encouraged him to find a niche.
Meeting his challenge
Silbermann and Stockman typically advise farming, trade and construction clients, but Silbermann recently started focusing on clients who work in technology. He identifies with these clients because of his technology industry knowledge—he’s a member of Kitchener-Waterloo’s Chamber of Commerce, alongside many young entrepreneurs. Many prospects have contacted him through LinkedIn.
“These clients aren’t connected to our existing base, so I now have access to new people and markets,” he explains. Over the last year, he’s gained seven tech clients, two of whom were referrals.
Also, he was the first to suggest his team improve its back-office systems, and led the company’s website design. “I wrote all the content and came up with the general concept. I also make sure everything we do online is mobile-compatible,” he says.
To appeal to tech clients, he suggests developing high-quality online content and email campaigns. His firm’s website is updated monthly with articles on topics such as RRSP strategies, and provides links to economic reports and tools. His team offers a quarterly market newsletter for clients.
Silbermann regularly reads sites such as TechCrunch for news on venture-capital and small businesses. “The tech industry changes very quickly. New companies are created often and people leave their existing employers,” he says. In fact, a few new clients sought him for advice after leaving larger companies, like BlackBerry, to join start-ups.
He helped these prospects deal with their group RRSPs and stock options, and offered tax and insurance advice. Through KW Chamber of Commerce events, he learned that many smaller tech firms offer deferred compensation, and variable pay and bonus structures.
“They don’t have the money to pay talent a lot up front. So, incomes [and investment needs] are not as predictable for clients in this industry,” he says, which is why he doesn’t use prepared materials during initial meetings. Instead, he lets clients tell him about their backgrounds and needs. Then, he offers tailored materials that cover insurance, estate planning and investments, for example.
What he’s learned
Being accessible online is important to attract tech prospects. Along with adding his contact details to his LinkedIn profile, updated with client recommendations, he has joined technology groups on the social media site, as well as industry-specific groups, to keep track of trends for clients. Silbermann plans to attend more local Chamber events. “I haven’t yet met any tech-specific clients this way, but I’ve met a lot of people in the industry by going to monthly network nights.”
Originally published in Advisor's Edge