Shawn Perkins Financial planner (left) and Bill Gow President (right)
Safety Bay Financial, IPC Investment Corp.
43 and 65
Embedded fees, with some fee-based. “We’ve always been full disclosure on all the fees, and we do everything front-end loaded and 0%,” says Gow.
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Shawn Perkins and Bill Gow came to the industry from different backgrounds: Perkins, in his early 20s, was a healthcare aid at a retirement home in Winnipeg, while Gow—a lifelong Kenora resident—refers to himself as a “serial entrepreneur.” Gow’s past businesses include a bookstore, office supplies store and restaurant-pub.
The opportunity to work more closely with people drew both to the profession. Gow, who had considered teaching instead, says a chance meeting with an advisor 30 years ago was one reason he obtained his CFP.
As MFDA registrants who offer full-service planning, they depend on portfolio managers to handle their clients’ investments. The 10 third-party managers they work with, of whom all invest actively, were chosen after in-depth research. The managers offer meaningful reporting, says Perkins—for example, buy and sell notifications from the managers are “invaluable,” he says, because “we want to know what’s happening.” The pair also co-invests alongside clients.
How the managers adapt to market environments also matters, says Perkins. “One of the fixed-income managers has shared with us how, because interest rates are going up, they’ve increased the credit quality of the bonds they’re looking for and shortened the duration.” He and Gow subsequently share details like these with clients.
One of the main firms they work with is Winnipeg-based Value Partners, which prioritizes client service.
“We meet quarterly. Every meeting we go to, it’s always about how we can best help the clients, what we should do, and should we be looking at alternative products?” says Gow. That’s different than meeting with some larger asset firms, he adds, where new products may be the focus.
When the pair chooses a firm, they assess its accessibility. “If we have a client in the office, we can phone Value Partners with a specific question; they’re that responsive,” says Gow. “Before hiring them, we also looked at managers they were hiring and using, and they had a long, good track record.”
Because their managers are reachable, Perkins and Gow have also set up meetings between their clients and the managers to help people “understand what they own and why they own it,” says Gow. “We’ve had tremendous feedback,” says Perkins, with session topics including managers’ buying practices and how they tackle down markets.
They also monitor whether managers fall out of step with their peers. “We’d want to ascertain why,” says Gow. “If they don’t look like the market” in terms of what they own, it may be because “they don’t think the business model is going to survive.” Gow says he and Perkins check that the managers “know what they’re doing” and monitor their long-term performance.
Do more than due diligence
Even when they defer to professional managers, Gow and Perkins still do their own market research.
“We have to know what’s going on in the market, in general, because clients sometimes get frightened by the news or they get intrigued by the latest investment craze, such as cannabis or Bitcoin,” Gow says.
Along with their firm’s materials, Perkins says they read Advisor’s Edge, Investment Executive, The Globe and Mail and The Insurance and Investment Journal, and they’re careful to focus on more than “doom-and-gloom” headlines.
They also meet the management teams of companies that clients are invested in.
“Out of our own pocket, we do site visits,” says Gow. These have included a trip to New York to meet with Johnson & Johnson, and a recent visit to Magna’s Karmax stamping facility in Milton, Ont. “When you can tell clients that you go the extra mile, it gives them confidence,” he says.