An unquenchable passion for innovation

For industry veteran Charlie Spiring, filling gaps for businesses and individuals means pushing the envelope

An unquenchable passion for innovation

Look at Charlie Spiring’s professional history, and you’ll see that he’d rather make waves than go with the flow. A 37-year veteran of the investment industry, he may be best known for founding Manitoba-based Wellington-West Capital Inc, a wealth-management firm that was acquired by National Bank of Canada in 2011 for $333 million.

Not one to sit still, Spiring decided to set up another independent firm last year.  With the cooperation from National Bank, Spiring and his team, along with other former key Wellington employees and senior producers, the firm combined with another practice, Altus Securities. Today, the entity operates as Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, where Spiring is executive-chair and is responsible for all strategic direction and oversight.

“The most fulfilling aspect of the business for me is taking the stress out of a family’s life concerning their financial worries and helping them achieve their life goals,” said Spiring, who holds the RR and ICD.D designations. “It gives me great satisfaction when we can tell our clients, ‘You are going to be more than OK.’“

He also gets fulfilment from being able to create financial-market innovations. As a young Charleswood man in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he developed a fascination with the magic of compound interest during university. That interest expanded into a passion for preserving capital and creating solid compound returns, which he used at Wellington West to help families as well as business owners.

“We saw a big void in capital formation in Manitoba,” Spiring said. “So we created a connection between entrepreneurs and capital markets. Wellington West was successful in taking many companies from inception to becoming multi-billion dollar corporations; that includes the Boyd Income Group and Exchange Income Corp.”

Today, Spiring’s critical eye and forward-thinking mindset are as active as ever. At Wellington-Altus, he says he is surrounded with like-minded individuals who monitor industry trends, identify shortfalls, and craft creative financial solutions to bring to the Canadian market. That includes honing and sharpening existing business models to better support investment professionals and the clients they serve, most of whom are on the high-net-worth end of the spectrum.

“We are seeing the delegated model constantly evolving. The UMA/SMA structures are the next winning trade,” he said. “The delegated money management style allows top investment advisors to assist considerably more families and address their financial needs.”

Working from the view that unified management accounts and separately managed accounts are the way forward, he believes that the best-performing wealth management firms are starting to gravitate increasingly toward diversified teams of specialists. As firms become responsible for a wider variety of assets and investments, creating a holistic, comprehensive plan becomes more challenging, and requires expertise in a variety of areas.

“Wealth management firms have raised their bar considerably through the use of the team concept,” he said. “They’re incorporating services such as financial planning, estate planning, insurance planning, trust services, taxation advice, portfolio construction, to name a few.”

The need for diversified expertise is becoming clearer, Spiring said, especially as the regulatory pendulum continues to swing toward greater accountability for firms to protect their clients’ interests. For that reason, he advises other professionals to never settle for the minimum compliance-required level of education; instead, they should always raise their game, well ahead of any requirement from regulators.

Aside from that, he believes that advisors shouldn’t settle when it comes to client selection. At the end of the day, an investment advisor should protect their clients’ interests not because of rules handed down by government institutions, but because they have a genuine interest in doing so — and that becomes easier when there’s a good fit.

“Pick your clients well. Match them to your style,” he said. “Do not try and fit a square peg into a round hole; otherwise, it will not be a successful relationship.”