How pension-style diversification fuelled firm's national expansion

Growth and client approach is compelling to prospective advisors, says managing director

How pension-style diversification fuelled firm's national expansion

After Nicola Wealth, along with much of the wealth industry, hit a record high last year, it roared into 2022, wondering how to maintain the momentum for another year.

“Coming out of such a good year, we honestly felt the pressure to keep the good momentum going when we were doing our business planning at the end of 2021,” Danielle Skipp, Nicola Wealth’s managing director for Ontario and chief legal officer, told Wealth Professional.

“But, fast forward one year, and we’re ending 2022 with an even more exceptional year for us.”

Skipp attributed part of that to Nicola Wealth’s continued national expansion, which included acquiring the Levine Financial Group this fall to offer its insurance services to Ontario medical professionals. But, she said their clients also weathered the year much differently than others.

“It really speaks to our diversified portfolio and the fact we give our clients that pension-style diversification with exposure to alternative asset classes,” she added. “That goes back many years to when John Nicola had the vision to create a platform where our clients have exposure to hard assets, real estate, private equity, and private debt mortgages. When you’ve got that in place and you get a market event, like we experienced in 2022, you manage the volatility.”

Nicola Wealth benefited because its core portfolio fund increased by 7.97%2, which she said is very appealing to the advisors whom it is trying to attract, too.                                                                                                       

“When you focus on your clients and get them exceptional outcomes, the business falls into place,” said Skipp. “But, 2022 was an exceptional year for us to showcase how you build the portfolio with that diversified approach. It also goes with the client experience and focus on financial planning.”

The result is that Nicola Wealth’s private client assets under management (AUM) for Ontario, which were $500 million last year, have grown by 62%.

It also bought an institutional real estate manager in 2020, so the growth in its institutional division has helped it increase its total AUM by ten-fold in the past three years.

Nicola Wealth’s 2022 AUM is $12.8 billion – of which $2.2 billion is for its whole Ontario operation.

It also supported about two dozen community events with sponsorship and charitable donations. That included everything from sponsoring the National Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty to heart and kids’ mental health events.

The Toronto office has also grown from five to 83 employees in the past three years, and plans to move into a new expanded space in January.

“Our business plans for next year are for more growth in all of our functional areas, but we’re really excited to bring this story and showcase it to advisors,” she said. “We really feel  that, as a firm, we have a way of working with clients. So, when we do a good job of explaining that to an advisor, it’s a very compelling story, and we hope they will come and join us.”

Nicola Wealth is still increasing the number of its advisors, adding more in Vancouver and Victoria this year, starting conversations with others in Calgary, and beginning 2023 with four new advisors in Toronto – one of whom is external and three who are moving up internally from the associate level - and planning to add more yet. It now has five advisors in Ontario, but will have nine by the end of January. It’s still focusing on recruiting more who will be a cultural fit with a planning-first philosophy, even as it grooms more through its internal apprenticeship program.

Skipp said that Nicola Wealth will also maintain its focus on exceptional client outcomes and expanding its community footprint in Toronto by supporting more events in 2023.

“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities where we can be seen as a community partner,” she said. “That’s on the plate to continue to work on in 2023”.


2*As of November 30th, 2022