The priorities of Canada’s wealthy are changing, and advisors who fail to adapt will see prized clients walk out the door.

This was the message of a presentation given by Keith Sjögren, managing director of consulting at Investor Economics, during a Strategy Institute conference in Toronto yesterday.

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Sjögren notes three trends impacting the wealthy. First, sluggish economic growth means incomes are depressed and personal wealth isn’t growing. Second, the concentration of wealth in Canada is growing steadily. “Those with $1 million or more in investible assets control two-thirds of the country’s wealth. This is a recipe for serious economic and political problems.”

The third trend is debt reduction. Contrary to perceptions, the wealthy carry debt and have made cutting it a top priority. Along with weak economic growth, the potential for rising rates is making them fear a steep asset decline, so they’re doing what they can now to clear the debit side of their balance sheets.

This is good news for advisors, says Sjögren. “It means the wealthy need more advice. But what they want is wealth management rather than strictly investment advice.”

He adds many advisors place too much emphasis on those with at least $1 million in investible assets. They’re not paying enough attention to people who have high incomes but haven’t cracked that golden threshold. “They have great potential,” Sjögren says, and should be on wealth managers’ radars.

He notes the segment is growing as people sell real estate, receive inheritances and sell their interests in businesses. And the fastest growing sub-group, Sjögren says, is entrepreneurs.

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The demographics of wealth are also changing, Sjögren notes. By 2022, more than half of wealthy people will be older than 65. “They’re not conspicuous consumers. They’re capital protectors focused on leaving a legacy for their children, so advisors need to shift their focus from accumulation to preservation.”

And about $900 billion is set to change hands in the next 10 years. More than half of it will happen within wealthy families, “and this means estate planning will be a key feature of the advice offering,” says Sjögren.

Yet advisors don’t do a good enough job of getting to know their clients’ families. Sjögren knows advisors who can’t even name their clients’ spouses or children—a sure-fire way to lose the next generation when wealth changes hands.

And Investor Economics data suggest that when assets are transferred to a widowed spouse, only 55% keep the same advisor. When transferred to children, a whopping 98% dump their parents’ advisor.

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