Giving practice management sessions to thousands … in Vietnam

Companies are hiring up to 4,000 advisors a month, says Canadian consultant who has just returned from thriving country

Giving practice management sessions to thousands … in Vietnam

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City might be the latest boomtowns for financial advisors, according to one Canadian practice management consultant.

Grant Hicks, president of Advisor Practice Management in Calgary, spent a week in Vietnam earlier this month, leading marathon practice management sessions for thousands of advisors. He says the profession in Vietnam is growing leaps and bounds every month. Though the Southeast Asian nation might feel a world away from Canada, Hicks saw a few key similarities between what Vietnamese and Canadian advisors face on a day-to-day basis.

“They [also] struggle with finding clients and struggle with getting referrals,” Hicks explained to WP. “Canadian and Vietnamese advisors are asking how they should market themselves and how they should focus who their clients are.”

The biggest difference Hicks saw, though, stems from the age of the two countries’ industries. Vietnam is an emerging economy without a long legacy of financial advice. Clients need more education when it comes to financial services on offer and might not know what to do with their newfound investable income. Luckily for them, there seem to be plenty of Vietnamese financial advisors ready to educate those prospective clients.

Hicks was brought to Vietnam by a few different local companies who needed help training the 2,000 to 4,000 advisors they hire per month.

Hicks explained that the country of 90 million’s fast-growing middle class represents a huge opportunity for a fledgling advice industry. About half the country now fit in a middle-class bracket, but likely haven’t had any prior exposure to financial services, insurance, or planning.

“Imagine if everyone in Canada had no advisor or no exposure to advice,” Hicks said.

Hicks gave four eight-hour lectures, two in Hanoi and two in Ho Chi Minh City, teaching advisors how to build process into their practices. He took them through processes for acquiring clients, through processes for servicing clients, to processes of business management.

“I taught them to ask what I call the golden question,” Hicks said.  “‘Where do I go to meet a group of people like you and how would I meet them?’ I told them to go to their clients events and get introduced to other people as their financial advisor … they thought that was a perfect idea.”

Hicks explained to the advisors that client acquisition means going beyond the online space and finding people where they are. It also takes building professional networks and teams, creating a holistic offering. He says the Vietnamese industry already has a strong technological platform for advisors to leverage. What they need, he says, is education in process and practice management.

Hicks will be back to Vietnam soon. He doesn’t see the need for his lessons dropping off. While that country’s middle class grows, its financial advice industry is growing too. As the space grows more competitive, advisors will start looking for an edge over one another, but right now Hicks thinks the sky’s the limit for Vietnam.

“At this point it's just about getting out there and building distribution,” Hicks said. “I don't know where the end of that distribution is because of the rising middle class; there are millions of people creating huge opportunity and endless options.”