For some, the déjà vu was just too much.
Industry watchers will remember the group of 60 advisors who, caught up in merger activity, went from Macquarie Private Wealth to Richardson GMP in September 2013, and then to Dundee Goodman Private Wealth in January 2014.
Then in January 2016, Echelon Wealth Partners (formerly Euro Pacific Canada) announced it was acquiring that same batch of advisors, along with others, from Dundee Goodman.
At the time, Echelon was 22-strong and said it was bringing over 78 advisors, raising its total count to 100. But when the deal formally closed in April 2016, only 72 Dundee Goodman advisors were coming aboard.
Today, Echelon CEO David Cusson says he employs 80 advisors altogether, having added five since the acquisition.
Strict arithmetic would tell us Echelon has lost 25 advisors since January. But “that’s a little misleading,” says Cusson. “Some of the advisors were fully licensed, but [acted as] support.” Instead, he estimates about 12 advisor teams have moved on.
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Despite the departures, “we’re ahead of where we had modelled,” he says. His team knew that for several advisors, Echelon was going to be their fourth home. “We were planning on some fatigue, and we did see that. In the first meetings we had with advisors, some said, ‘I can’t make another move.’ Where we parted with individuals, it was on that basis. I think some of them just felt like they needed to take control over that process.” In addition, some existing Echelon advisors decided to retire or sell their books.
“Although the number has come down in terms of advisors and portfolio managers, our assets [under management] remain flat,” Cusson adds. And average advisor AUM has gone up, he says, to $50 million.
Cusson is optimistic. Back in January, Richard McIntyre, executive vice-president of Dundee Corporation, said the Dundee Goodman wealth management arm was operating at a loss.
How are things now?
“We did not make money in May or June. As we started that integration [we incurred] a ton of one-time costs,” says Cusson, candidly. “But we were profitable in July and August, and we’re confident we’re going to continue to do that.” To that end, he says Echelon is hiring financial planners, insurance specialists, support team members, advisor associates, and technology folks. The firm currently has 230 staff.
He also hopes the firm, which manages a little over $4 billion today, can reach $5 billion in AUM within a year.
Cusson suggests the firm is applying high ethics and compliance standards after questions about the previous work of some team members.
In the course of this year’s Advisor.ca investigation into disciplined IIROC and MFDA reps, we found two Echelon advisors with IIROC suspension histories. Asked if he was concerned about that proportion, Cusson says: “Those [sanctions] would have been from events that predated our firm. […. All our advisors] are subject to exceptionally high supervision. If we had any concerns about the ethics of these people, they wouldn’t be with our firm.”