Engineering his own path

Based on his past interactions with financial advisors, Manulife Securities advisor William Frenn has created his own view on how to help clients

Engineering his own path

The impressions we form early in life can stick with us for a long time. In the case of Manulife Securities senior investment advisor William Frenn, the interactions he witnessed between his father and his financial advisor soured him on the profession. But years later, Frenn has come full circle by learning the right way to work in the industry and teaching that ideology to others.  

“I never wanted to be a financial advisor because I had seen a negative side to it,” he says. “My father lost a lot with an advisor who was merely selling him products but not providing any advice. He was the victim of fraud and was not protected. It left a sour taste in my mouth because I didn’t know there was another way to do it.” 

Instead, Frenn set off down a different path, earning a degree in civil engineering from Concordia University in Montreal. However, he soon realized he didn’t want to be an engineer and still had an interest in the financial industry. After completing an MBA at the University of Montreal’s business school, Frenn looked for another opportunity in the industry.  

“One day I was approached, at church of all places, by the co-founder of a Manulife Securities office here in Montreal,” he says. “He explained his approach, and I fell in love with the idea. He showed me that good advisors can be a key resource for all of an investor’s financial matters and provide holistic advice on a wide range of subjects.”  

Now in his seventh year as an advisor, Frenn has embraced that approach and bolstered it with some of the skills he learned from engineering.  

“Training as an engineer taught me to think in variables and particulars – it’s all very structured, and I brought that diligence with me,” he says. “The one difference is that engineering is very scientific – there is always a right and wrong; it is non-negotiable. In finance, there are different philosophies; you are dealing with numbers but also people. I feel like I brought the analytical approach to my practice. The numbers don’t lie – they speak to clients and can be worthwhile.”    

Frenn’s analytical approach has helped shape how he views his role in relation to his clients. “My vision of what good financial management should be is a family office,” he says. “I try to say we have a virtual family office. We are not just a broker; technology can do that. Today, it’s not enough to merely manage a portfolio – you have to be a key resource.” 

One of the ways he acts as that key resource is by providing access to different experts for his clients to help them integrate portfolio, tax and retirement planning.  

“Wealth management, to me, is integrating advisors with professionals and having the network to refer clients to those professionals when they need a question answered,” he says. “I try to be my clients’ chief financial officer, understanding their objectives and giving them the tools to make decisions.”   

So far, the results have spoken for themselves. Frenn says one of his biggest highlights is when he gets referrals from his clients who say that he fulfills that role of a personal CFO.  

Now, Frenn is turning his attention to helping pass on his ideology by training other advisors. “Showing them this same ideology and helping them develop their own practices has been very rewarding,” he says.  

One of the key things Frenn tries to pass on is some valuable advice he received when he started. “The best piece of advice I received is that the business will teach you what to do if you put clients first,” he says. “You will develop skills and resources if you spend the time to find out what is important to each individual client. That’s something that I try to pass on to all the others I train – take it one client at a time.”