Dale Lamb* has worked as a leading financial advisor for Sun Life Financial in Kelowna, BC, for almost 25 years. His firm – DKL Financial Services – was awarded Sun Life’s Top Advisory Firm in Canada (2018). His expertise has earned the firm a Top of the Table for 10 consecutive years and Life and Qualifying memberships with the Million Dollar Round Table association.
While Dale serves a wide variety of individual and business clients, he’s also developed a strong niche in his client base – serving the needs of current and former NHL hockey players.
We talked with Dale recently about the growth of his practice and his philosophy and passion in serving clients.
When you started out, how did you grow your client base?
I think a key strategy for building a practice is to create a holistic planning shop and expand your focus to offer multiple products. In our world, that means health, wealth and life products. It takes a little more work upfront, but it’s worth it. There are so many crossover needs – a business owner needs health insurance for employees, wealth management for their own portfolio and life insurance to help cover tax liabilities. You can cover it all.
And you don’t need to be in the large cities to be successful. Kelowna has a population of approximately 140,000 people – the needs and opportunities are in just about every region of the country. [tweet this]
How did you develop your niche with professional hockey players?
It started with just one retired player, and then he referred another, and then it evolved by word of mouth into the active player community. I now have about 50 active clients who are current or former players. It’s about 20% of my practice.
These players clearly see something they like – any sense of what that is?
First, the need is there. A lot of players have agents, but the agency firms don’t want to get involved in the financial side, leaving a large gap for these players to get the advice and structure they truly need.
I’m also a straight shooter. I’m honest, upfront, and they can tell that I’m not trying to sell them something. I think that’s a big one. Our main goals are to help protect them from downside risk and to make their life simpler. They are approached by a lot of people – with big, sexy investments like restaurants, businesses and nightclubs to name a few. So, there are no big promises – just compassion, knowledge and a focus on risk management.
That means we act as financial quarterback for everything – house purchases, taxes, co-habitation agreements, cross-border issues, you name it. We’ve got a great referral network of lawyers, accountants and other professionals to do this, and I have a great team in our office to help coordinate things.
That sounds like a lot of time on your end.
It is, but I’m careful not to take on more clients than I can handle. As the TV ads will tell you, there are cheaper ways to invest your money. We bring value as advisors by providing great service: we listen to clients, ask questions, and give advice and solutions that are based on deep relationships that develop over time. That’s the huge value-add, so I never want to short-change that.
Is there value in focussing on a niche or segment of the market?
I think there is. By targeting your business approach to a select audience, you can develop deeper connections, allow for cross-selling and gain referrals. [tweet this] You gain expertise in that area and can leverage this knowledge as a thought leader.
But you have to choose that segment carefully. Focus on an area that you know well, and that you have a passion for – that goes a long way to developing trust. It also helps if you’ve “lived their life,” at least some to some degree, so you understand where they’re coming from. For example, I don’t have professional hockey experience, but it helps that I know and have played the game.
Do you see disadvantages in segmenting?
There can be a few. If you’re specialized, it can be an all-encompassing business. You can suddenly find yourself as the go-to person for many different needs. So, you need to get administration help to ensure your business runs as smoothly as possible and that you maintain a high level of service for clients.
One last tip – you should definitely diversify outside of your specialty area as well. If your niche falters for any reason, having clients in other areas helps. It’s just good risk management. But if you manage these risks, the rewards of segmenting can be many.
*Mutual funds distributed by Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc.