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Moving the industry forward
If there’s anything the past two years have taught us, it’s that professionals can stand on the front lines and yet still operate in the background – and wholesalers are a perfect case in point.
They may not be sitting across the table from mass affluent or high-net-worth clients, but the value they contribute to the investment industry is all too clear. Because of the keen product awareness, professionalism, agility, and sensitivity to broad market trends that wholesalers bring to every conversation, advisors are able to deliver the best possible service to the individuals and households they cater to.
To recognize the best in the industry, Wealth Professional asked advisors to nominate the wholesalers who have gone above and beyond to make sure their clients are equipped to safeguard the financial futures of individuals and families across Canada. With hundreds of responses gathered, the survey rated and ranked wholesalers based on their performance across six categories.
“Wholesaling is a balance of two things: pure investment knowledge and a robust sale process. … you really need both at a similar level to gain credibility with advisors and to be able to raise assets in the region”
Eric Hudon-Dufour, Manulife Investment Management
Adapting to the shifting product landscape
Wholesalers don’t operate in a vacuum. As unsung educators and partners that help move the industry forward, they confront more than their fair share of headwinds.
With the recent introduction of the client-focused reforms and the associated KYP requirements, advisors are rationalizing and right-sizing their product shelves. At the same time, they have greater expectations than ever with respect to investment knowledge and education on new investment products. This year’s 5-Star Wholesalers definitely delivered here, with an average score of 4.96 out of a maximum possible score of 5.
“Wholesaling is a balance of two things: pure investment knowledge and a robust sale process,” says Eric Hudon-Dufour, district vice president in charge of the Lac-Beauport, Quebec territory at Manulife Investment Management. “Some will be better salespeople and others will excel in analytical skills, but you really need both at a similar level to gain credibility with advisors and to be able to raise assets in the region.”
While wholesalers must know the ins and outs of every product that exists within their firm’s catalog, that’s not enough. To make the cut and defend their value to their advisor partners, they must also be aware of what rival firms offer, the comparative and competitive advantages provided by their own funds, and the benefits their products can confer to clients’ portfolios in different situations.
“There’s been a lot of conversation around complementary products and how to help advisors put together portfolios that are properly diversified,” says Mark Shimmin, district vice president for the Kelowna, BC region at Manulife. “We’ve been having more elevated conversations not just about our products, but also about how we compare to some other providers out there, and what funds may fit together better than others.”
“The ongoing pressure on fees and demand for sustainable investments are also transforming the industry,” adds Andrew D’Iorio, another wholesaler in the Quebec region for Manulife. “This has pushed us to become product and subject matter specialists for advisors to help them navigate this new investment environment.”
“I think as we come back to what looks more like a normal environment, we’ll have more tools in our toolkit and become better at what we do”
Patrick Landucci, Manulife Investment Management
A wider world of communication
The pandemic’s disruptive impact over the past two years has short-circuited traditional face-to-face modes of communication. But rather than let these obstacles slow them down, the best wholesalers have rightly recognized the challenge as an opportunity to expand their relationships.
“Over the past two years, I can confidently say I have been able to be in touch with advisors more frequently, for longer conversations,” says Christian Tucci, who works with advisors in the Greater Toronto Area for Manulife. “In 2021, I spoke with more advisors than any other year in my career and I feel my value has never been higher.”
The need for responsiveness was clear and present among the advisors who responded to the 5-Star Wholesaler survey. After product knowledge, the best wholesalers distinguished themselves most based on their quick response time, garnering an average rating of 4.90. It’s no wonder, given the increase in sophistication and digital expectations among investor clients.
“The volume of contacts that the investment advisors receive from the investment community has increased substantially. … The investor’s appetite for information has increased as well during the pandemic,” D’Iorio says.
As the threat of the pandemic slowly wanes, in-office conversations are making a comeback. That’s not to say that professionals across the industry will abandon the digital forms of communication they have relied on for the past two years. In fact, the best wholesalers recognize platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and Webex will continue to be useful long into the future.
“I think as we come back to what looks more like a normal environment, we’ll have more tools in our toolkit and become better at what we do,” says Patrick Landucci, who works with retail investment advisors mainly in the downtown Montreal area.
“While using all the novel communication methods, a good wholesaler must find ways to bond, gain trust and take the time to know his client at a human level,” adds Rachid Boufarsi, district vice president for the Greater Montreal Metropolitan Area at Manulife.
“Today you really have to be holistic as a wholesaler because guess what? Advisors aren’t just discussing investment management anymore. … If you’re satisfied with the status quo for the next 10 years, you’re not going to survive”
Tanja Mirazic, Manulife Investment Management
Harnessing an infinite mindset
As partners in the growth of an advisor’s business, this year’s 5-Star wholesalers are not content with presenting pitches and making sales. Instead, they go the extra mile by listening and appreciating the needs of the advisors they work with, which earned them an average rating of 4.86 in terms of understanding their advisor clients’ business. They also offer their expertise to expand their clients’ capabilities, which translated into a solid 4.83 for the value they contribute to an advisor.
At the end of the day, the best wholesalers stay ahead of the pack by not being content with the status quo, and continuing to elevate their game to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of the industry.
“Today you really have to be holistic as a wholesaler because guess what? Advisors aren’t just discussing investment management anymore,” says Tanja Mirazic from Manulife, who has more than two decades of investment industry experience. “You have to be an expert on technology and the capital markets … If you’re satisfied with the status quo for the next 10 years, you’re not going to survive.”
“I think advisors can easily distinguish a wholesaler who is not enjoying themselves, not in it for the long term, and not committed to mastering their craft,” adds Tucci. “Wholesalers who commit to learning what they don’t know, changing what isn’t working, and always remember to enjoy what they are doing are typically the ones who do the best.”
- Al MacDonald
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