Advisor has built a practice around a generational approach to clients, overcoming adversity in her life and career
Anne Huntley didn’t notice when she crossed $100 million AUM. Her assistant had to tell her and remind the Waterloo-based advisor that she’d promised her office lunch and a spa day when they crossed that milestone.
“I’m not really one to look at [AUM] all that much,” Huntley, the president of Generations Financial Solutions at Assante, told WP. “I love what I do.”
Huntley’s outlook should come as no surprise. The dedicated financial advisor and single mother of five focuses on her clients, their investments, and the human side of her business before she ever starts counting her own AUM. Helping people has always been her priority, and she’s managed to do it despite her fair share of adversity.
“I think I’ve reached that milestone because, in part, of good performance in the market and the great support I have from my staff. I think clients really like the service we provide, and that's why we're getting more and more referrals,” Huntley told WP. “And my older kids have been very helpful to me. They’re 31, 29, and 27 now. Even though I was on my own, they would help me a lot with the younger kids.”
Huntley started in the business at 16, at the office of an advisor named Paul Rockel. She fell in love with the work. She started learning about investments and meeting local luminaries like David Chilton and Michael Lee-Chin, both of whom worked in that office for a time. She saw a life of flexibility, too, and one where she could help people. Before Huntley stepped into Rockel’s office she’d wanted to become a physician, like her father. In financial advice, she saw a different avenue to a similar end.
“My father liked to help people, and I’m very much the same.” Huntley said, “I’m lucky, I can help people even more than he was able to, because he would end the day at five o’clock. I can spend seven days a week helping people.”
Once she decided on financial advice, Huntley went about obtaining her licence and CFP certification. She found the course easy at first, but by the time she got to the sixth segment, Huntley had given birth to her first child. She had to study and write exams with a newborn in tow. “That was hard,” she said. By 1989 she’d obtained her CFP.
Huntley didn’t have the easiest time building her practice. In the early ‘90s the mutual fund industry was in its infancy and Templeton charged almost 9% commissions. Huntley would lay out all the benefits of a mutual fund, only to have clients balk at the price. They might also balk at who she was.
“Growing the business was difficult because I was a female…and very young,” Huntley said. “[Clients] were probably thinking, ‘what does this young girl know about any of this?’”
Huntley soon learned that demeanour and appearance are key in breaking down those barriers. She took cues from her boss, “a very bold lady” named Ann Henderson. Henderson showed her how to carry herself in those meetings and wasn’t afraid to offer some constructive criticism.
“One day she said to me, ‘why do you always wear dresses? It looks like you're going to a party,’” Huntley said. “I went out and bought some suits…and I think that made a difference.”
From those small changes, Huntley found her niche by taking a generational approach. The name of her firm, Generations Financial Solutions, was picked intentionally. She started the office 12 years ago by building her advice into major family milestones and educating clients about some options they might not have heard of.
Many of Huntley’s older female clients come to her to learn about CPP. Huntley says they commonly miss out on the child-rearing provisions they’re still eligible for. One of those clients got a $1,400 lump sum back and a $100 monthly increase in CPP benefits, just by filling in that form. Other senior clients are low-income and Huntley makes a concerted effort to help them apply for the guaranteed income supplement. That’s not a small amount of work, holding a senior’s hand through the bureaucratic jungle that is Service Canada.
Helping parents and grandparents pays dividends for Huntley. She’s seen their kids and grandkids come to her, knowing she did a great job with mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa.
“I have clients covering four generations, great grandparents right down to the babies,” Huntley said. I get thank you notes from some of these kids. [They say things like] ‘thank you for getting my parents to do an RESP for me. I was able to graduate without debt'. Those are really, for me, very special.”
Huntley thinks she’s stood out overall because she’s a good listener. She takes a thorough approach to client interviews and onboarding, making sure her clients feel heard. Listening was one of the key lessons she took from her parents, who she says were instrumental in supporting her through the challenges of motherhood and a career.
Huntley, twice divorced, raised five kids as a single mom. Her youngest is now in grade eleven and still lives at home. Even if it means doing emails in the evening or meeting clients on a Saturday morning, Huntley tries to have dinner with her daughter every night. Another one of her daughters has since followed Huntley’s path, and become a financial advisor herself. She works for a fund group in Toronto, and as much as Huntley might like to bring her on board to help the family business, she knows that her own daughter can succeed striking out on her own in this field.
For all the challenges she’s overcome and milestones she’s reached, Huntley is remarkably humble about her life and career. She’s quick to point to all the people who helped her on the way, and shift praise away from herself to those around her. Even as a single mom, overcoming all the difficulties that come with that, she puts herself in other people’s shoes.
“There's lots of single parents,” Huntley told WP. “I'm not any more special than anyone else.”