Clients always seek sound returns and sage advice, but what also draws them to any financial advisor is personality—including the personality of the office. If you’re considering repositioning your firm to appeal to high-net-worth clients, how should you renovate your space to send the right message? And what will it cost?

WHY YOU NEED IT

“First impressions matter,” says a portfolio manager at a Toronto boutique wealth management firm. She gave a facelift to her reception area, involving a DIY paint job, new loveseat and chairs, new coffee table, and simple yet elegant finishing touches—framed pictures of the original Toronto Stock Exchange, and lifestyle publications. She calls the look professional without being pretentious.

DON’T GO TOO FAR

Getting fancy with furnishings, in an effort to impress well-heeled clients, can backfire. When a former employer installed a marble fireplace, says the Toronto portfolio manager who made the $4,500 conversion, clients commented, “We must be paying you too much.”

GOOD TO KNOW

Design and décor upgrades send powerful messages. For instance, Karen Weiner-Mayer of
Montreal’s Idealspace Design says a firm (but comfortable) couch—compared to one you sink into—can convey solidity and reliability.

But there’s no requirement to be conservative in financial office renovations. An open-duct ceiling and funky lighting can create an equally valuable image if your client demographic is younger, or works in film or media. “Maybe this person is also creative in managing the portfolio,” says Sue Bennett of Toronto-area Bennett Design. In short, be true to the brand you’ve conveyed to your clients.

HOW OFTEN

Consider updating your office every five years or so, suggests Weiner-Mayer: “Even if it’s just moving artwork or getting a new end table, you want to breathe life into your space. You don’t want it to feel stagnant.”

HOW MUCH

Renovation costs can vary widely. Bennett’s rule of thumb is to estimate $40-$50/sq. ft. for new paint and carpets, and $100-to-$120/sq. ft. for a full renovation.

PRICE TAG —$4,500

  • $1,911—FURNITURE (FROM COOPERS OFFICE FURNITURE IN TORONTO):TWO-SEATER SOFA, TWO CHAIRS AND A GLASS COFFEE TABLE
  • CURRENT OFFERINGS AT WWW.COOPERSOFFICE.COM,
    $1,435—THREE-SEAT SOFA AND TWO-CHAIR SET
  • $476 GLASS COFFEE TABLE
  • $250—LIGHTS AND ELECTRICIAN
  • $300 FRAMED PICTURES OF OLD TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE (FROM THE TORONTO STAR ARCHIVES)
     THE TORONTO STAR OFFERS FRAMING AND PLAQUING FOR ARCHIVED PHOTOS IN A VARIETY OF SIZES, AND WILL SHIP ACROSS CANADA. WWW.TORSTARPHOTOS.COM
  • $1,950—PAINT SUPPLIES AND MINIMAL LABOUR
  • $4,500TOTAL COST

WHO CAN HELP

It can be cost-effective to hire an interior designer (who handles architecture and flow) or interior decorator (who handles aesthetics). Their advice can save you money in tradespeople, and prevent overspending on unnecessary frills.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Both these sites have searchable directories:

Ask for a portfolio with references showing similar work for business clients.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge