'An educated client is a happier, more profitable client'

Pension fund-style philosophy helps provide smoother ride for investors, says portfolio manager

'An educated client is a happier, more profitable client'

If you ask Travis Forman why his B.C.-based team won the W.A. Robinson Asset Management Award for Advisory Team of the Year (under 10 staff) at the 2022 Wealth Professional Awards, his first response is hard work.

But, as he digs down, he also cites the fact that every client has a written financial plan, highlighting the most tax efficient ways to meet their goals, especially for portfolio construction and asset allocation.

“With those combined, we’re delivering on our service commitment and making sure we do what we say we’re going to do,” Forman, who is a portfolio manager with Strategic Private Wealth Counsel, Harbourfront Wealth Management, told Wealth Professional.

Read more: Wealth Professional award winners revealed

But, then, he digs down a little further and decides the underpinning is that “we firmly believe everything starts with education. An educated client is not only a happier client, but an easier client. And, selfishly, from a business owner’s perspective, an easier client is a more profitable client.

“There’s always a certain leap of faith when you cultivate a new relationship. But, if we can inform them as much as possible and get them from, say a one to a four or five so they think we’ve done our job, they’re comfortable and easier to work with, and then we continue to inform them along the way with portfolio construction and by delivering truly holistic financial planning. So, not only are they educated, they’re also comfortable, and that all circles back to our success, and we’ve got a lot of referrals because of that.

“If we get more referrals, we can help more Canadians. Not only does that feel good, but it also means that everybody – all eight of us – who work on our team are able to provide better lives for our families at the same time, so it’s truly a win-win.”

Forman noted they adopted pension style asset allocation themes, so have a healthy allocation of private alternative investments, such as private real estate, private equity, and private debt.

“We’re experts at replicate and duplicate. So, what we do is take a look at what the pension plan from the super endowment funds in the ultra-high-net worth are doing and adopt that philosophy in our asset allocation model, which gives us great success, even through the COVID days,” said Forman. “So, we deliver a smoother ride for clients’ portfolios, which I think, again, translates into that referability.”

Read more: Harbourfront Wealth Management

On the asset allocation side, the team leans on education, providing a bi-weekly insider’s report that makes the public and private markets more transparent to clients. Between those, it provides clients with a lenders’ report that informs them about increasing interest rates in an inflationary environment and how that affects them. It also provides a monthly protection report that is geared toward risk management to protect the household income, even in estate planning.

“It starts to open the door, so it become a little bit more palatable to broach those topics that they might not otherwise want to talk about,” said Forman.

Beyond that, Forman does a lot of public speaking. Strategic’s team has done a video series, dinner events, and mental health awareness event. During COVID, it also started a “brighten your day” campaign, where it sent flowers to various clients, which cheered them up and won more referrals. 

“We weren’t using this to monetize it. We literally thought it was just a feel-good thing because we were feeling so terrible. But we kept at it because everybody seemed to be having one kind of bad life experience or other. So, three years later, we’re still doing it and it’s amazing how it truly brightens their day,” said Forman. “If you create a bridge, then it’s easy for them to walk over.”

Now that we’re moving further away from the pandemic lockdowns, the team is looking forward to spending more time with clients, especially at dinner events where they can meet people but also maintain relationships.

“It might be a little bit slower, but it’s little bit more fun,” said Forman. “So, we hope to start going back to maybe 30% of the norm.”

Strategic’s team tends to deal with high net worth individuals, but is large enough to accommodate a large range of clients. Forman said he anticipates the team will grow to at least 10 over the next year or two. But, Strategic’s assets under management are about $180 million and have been growing at about $40 million per year for several years. He anticipates that it will again this year.

Reflecting back on his business, as well as winning the award, Forman said, ”the number one thing is we really start with that education. But, it also goes along with our fundamental philosophy of helping more Canadians. That’s the only way you should grow your business. And that’s the number one thing that we’ve learned over time: start everything with education.”