If you could start again, how would you structure your practice differently?
managing director, Hanover Private Client Corp., Toronto
With technology, running a small business is much easier now.
I also outsource non-corporate work that doesn’t need to be done internally, using freelancer sites like Upwork. For example, our website was designed by an Indian company; we had a proprietary program rewritten (it wouldn’t work with Windows 10) for a fraction of what it originally cost, and freelancers in both the U.S. and Pakistan helped us with financial modelling.
Our firm also uses technology to increase productivity without adding staff. I also use dictation software, for example, to make notes after a client meeting.
VP, portfolio manager, Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel, Calgary
There’s nothing I would change. In fact, there are two things I’ve come to appreciate more over the years.
One is structure. We’re a private firm in which 75% of employees own shares. This means we’re free to make decisions in the client’s best interest. That’s further exemplified in being fee-based. And we invest alongside our clients.
Second is clientele. I specialize in new money that clients are unsure what to do with (e.g., from a business sale, an inheritance, widowhood or divorce). When clients experience these life changes, I encourage their questions. Sometimes it takes repeated explanations—in plain language—for clients under stress, especially widowers and divorcees, to grasp new concepts.
senior wealth advisor, Scotia Wealth Management, White Rock, B.C.
I’d change how I focused my time in my early days. At one point, I found myself doing research for a handful of clients for whom investing was essentially a hobby. This wasn’t using the full breadth of my skills.
Now, my central focus is spending time with clients so I can add value. My meetings with new clients are relatively long. The best insights are revealed when clients talk as if they’re having coffee with an old friend. Clients might expect a 45-minute meeting, but then become energized as they open up.
I find out my clients’ fears, whether past investments burned them and how they spend. Maybe they grew up in a family where money was tight, and that’s reflected in their spending patterns. Maybe a single client without children requires a philanthropic plan and help naming an executor. Or maybe a widowed client is overwhelmed because she’s involved with the family finances for the first time. Armed with this knowledge, I [can] efficiently create long-term plans because I’ve done the work up front.
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