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For the 2023 WPC 5-Star Advisors – Eastern Canada awards, we asked a simple question: What makes the best wealth advisors in the region?
“Advisors should be trusted and disciplined financial coaches and have the ability to listen to clients’ wants and needs and empathize with them and be able to embed their expertise and provide guidance that’s very contextualized to clients,” says Lindsey Tropea, wealth and asset management consulting executive at EY Canada.
For the survey, investors ranked advisors on communication, portfolio performance, product knowledge, client trust, and customer service.
Tropea says these categories are important for the following reasons:
Two of the winners this year are from Nova Scotia, and while one might think a limited number of traditional wealth managers would dominate in a provincial region – compared with the numerous wealth managers in the greater Toronto area, for example – that doesn’t appear to be the case at first.
“There’s a lot more people chasing the masses now,” says Brian Himmelman, president of Himmelman Associates, based in Halifax. “There’s plenty of robo advisors and do-it-yourself people on YouTube and TikTok – everybody’s coming at them.”
Ultimately, he sees the abundance of information online as potentially confusing and limiting for traditional advisors aiming to attract clients under 40, while competition for a share of the older, higher-wealth demographic, conversely, continues to shrink.
“It’s kind of unfair that the masses are going to be dumbed down with a lot of different mass versions of advice and service, and it just seems like it just keeps percolating towards the top,” says Himmelman. “That’s a little unfair.”
Catherine Metzger-Silver, based in Annapolis Valley, is a financial advisor and limited partner at Edward Jones, and she agrees with Himmelman.
“In light of all the robo advisors and all the noise in our industry, one of the things that’s going to continue to evolve is the personal advice and human connection,” says Metzger-Silver. “That’s really being highlighted and deepened by all the noise around it.”
Meanwhile, Tropea sees the noise and new technology as a possible force multiplier for the next generation of advisors and their companies. “[Many firms] are focused on getting the most out of data and technology while they’re learning the craft of wealth planning and advice,” she says. “So, I think firms that are embedding that into their process and developing the next generation of talent will be well positioned.”
From an early age, Metzger-Silver has known the value of a dollar. “When I was six, every day after school I walked down to my parent’s restaurant and peeled carrots for an hour,” she says. “Growing up in a small business lit the fire in me to help others succeed.”
Now well into her career, she views wealth management from a societal perspective and appreciates how it’s serving women in a more meaningful way.
“Women aged 50 to 70 have become the healthiest, wealthiest, most educated generation of women in history,” she adds. “As someone who belongs to that segment, I continue to be excited about the work we do together. Many are very interested in having a solid understanding of how their financial goals and activities align with the lifestyle that they wish to have over time. I do a lot of seminars and financial education with a female focus, often in partnership with other female professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, and have seen a big uptick in their interest to have the knowledge to work in partnership with their advisors.”
According to Metzger-Silver, only 9% of those with IIROC (Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada) licensure are women.
For Himmelman, the sociological development that rings supreme is a loss of a sense of accountability in the face of increasing regulatory oversight. “There was a time when, especially on the investment side, there was a sense of personal responsibility to look at multiple alternatives and compare costs – no different from any consumers looking for anything. Now, the pendulum’s gone so far over to regulators and the army of lawyers and admin-type compliance people.
“Clients are demanding more, yet they’re constraining our resources and our time. So, it forces the market up and it hurts the masses or the upper-middle because only certain groups of people are probably getting really elite or high-level advice, which seems unfortunate.
“Regulators are almost counterproductive. They’re trying to help the masses, but the reality is they may not be over time.”
Ultimately, the 2023 WPC 5-Star Advisors – Eastern Canada awards celebrate the best wealth managers – those who stand out from the crowd. So, what makes Himmelman and Metzger-Silver shine?
“First, we’re holistic,” says Himmelman. “Next is transparency. About 15 years ago, we moved to a fee-based platform with full disclosure on costs and breaking things out. There’s a lot of talk about it, but I still think a lot of people don’t understand how they’re paying what they’re paying and what they’re getting. Finally, there’s scale. We’re a small office with a reasonably good-size book of business. Whether it’s just five of us, somebody still answers the phone at 8:30 a.m. Then five minutes later we’ve got the answer. Then there’s responsiveness. As people get older, they don’t want to be on call centers for 40 minutes or being moved to junior personnel.”
As for Metzger-Silver, she says, “I find extraordinary ways to build my practice in a way that is meaningful and in alignment with my – and the community’s – needs and values.
“As a volunteer, I created, spearheaded and executed the first Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce Women of Excellence Awards. I developed this high-profile program to recognize women who pursue excellence in their various fields. The inaugural biennial event was an in-person gala in 2019 and was the most successful event for the chamber of commerce that year with 326 people in attendance and gross revenue of more than $25,000. The COVID-19 pandemic forced me, with my organizing team, to re-imagine the 2021 Women of Excellence Awards. I pivoted to create a live broadcast interspersed with pre-recorded videos. In a four-month project, I visited, interviewed, and filmed all 88 nominees to create the content for the show. I did it so I could connect personally with each to find out what they do, share what I do, and explore ways to strengthen success between us all.
“In 2021, I headed a Women’s Personal Hygiene product campaign to address period poverty in the community. After interviewing a Women of Excellence nominee who ran a foodbank, I toured the foodbank and noticed the shortage of these products. I used social media to connect with other women in the community and solicited donations, which I personally matched. More than 850 packages of pads and tampons were distributed among three foodbanks.
“I am very active in providing financial education to the community. I have done discussions at the public library for young kids to teach them about money, the differences between needs and wants, and how to budget their money. I speak with teenagers frequently to help them understand how to get themselves started with savings and how to avoid the pitfalls of credit. Two of the most frequent discussions that I host are estate planning, which I often do in conjunction with a lawyer and accountant, as well as one specifically designed to educate women on investments, financial planning, and protection strategies.”
As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter expert below for an independent analysis of this report and its findings.
Wealth and Asset Management Consulting Executive
Wealth Professional conducted its second annual search for 5-Star Advisors in Canada. Our goal was to answer one question: who are the best advisors in Eastern Canada when it comes to acting in their clients’ interests? From a diverse cross-section of financial professionals, we got the opportunity to spotlight remarkable examples of passion, dedication, and commitment.
From January 23 to February 17, the WP team undertook a rigorous marketing and survey process, leveraging its connections to thousands of advisors across the country. Investors were asked to nominate their advisors and rate them on five key criteria: communication, portfolio performance, product knowledge, client trust, and customer service.
The most voted-for advisors that received an average score of 4 or higher were named 5-Star Advisors who are recognized based not on AUM but rather the service provided to their clients.
The 5-Star Advisors report is proudly supported by the Canadian Association of Alternative Strategies & Assets (CAASA).
CAASA is Canada’s largest association representing the alternative investment industry in Canada with more than 370 members — including alternative investment managers, pension plans, foundations, endowments, family offices, and service providers. Its membership and activities span all alternatives from hedge funds and venture capital to real estate and cryptocurrencies.
Founded in 2018, CAASA’s mission is to bring Canada to the world and the world to Canada by promoting information sharing, networking, and collaborative initiatives between its members and the industry at large.