The importance of preparing for change

Douglas Griffioen shares how anticipating change has helped him grow a successful practice

The importance of preparing for change
With all the years of financial planning under his belt, many would think that Douglas Griffioen has seen it all. But there’s only one thing the nearly 20-year veteran is certain of, and that’s the constant need to adapt.

“I find it a fascinating business,” said Griffioen, portfolio manager and director of the private client group at HollisWealth, a division of Industrial Alliance Securities. “It’s constantly changing, so you’re constantly learning.”

After graduating from both York University in Toronto and Nijenrode Business School in the Netherlands, Griffioen earned his designation as a certified management accountant. Because of that experience, he is well-equipped to not only keep up with changes that occur in the industry, but to help clients with customized financial solutions.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping people,” he said. “If we could save them some money on tax, or develop a plan for them that helps them achieve their goals, that’s really what I enjoy.”

Of course, advisors aren’t just concerned with the vagaries of the financial markets — they are also entrusted with the very delicate affairs that tie into their client’s money. That can involve anything from their relationships to their personal wishes and desires. “As someone in this business, you become almost like a therapist,” he said. “Each client is different, and each new day we’re doing different things.”

Aside from typical high-net-worth Canadians and their families, Griffioen is also able to work with a somewhat specific clientele whose histories affect their attitudes toward money. “We talk to a fair number of clients who are immigrants, and they remember what it was like growing up after the Second World War and how there was nothing really around. …That’s really impacted them in terms of their relationship with their investments and their money.

“We have one client whose dad literally kept cash in his bed,” he said. “They lived in Greece around fifty years ago, and they didn’t trust the banks. The banks shut down with people’s money, so this client’s dad used to take his cash wages and literally shove it into his bedposts.”

As the son of two Dutch immigrants, Griffioen has found it easier to understand and connect with clients who came from such difficult circumstances. But according to him, his success comes from more than just his education or family background.

“We have really good people working in our office,” Griffioen said. “They’ve been with me for a long period of time, 10 years or more in most cases. I’ve been very blessed to have them working with me for that period.”

More and more management experts are realizing the value of flexible work arrangements — a model to which Griffioen largely attributes his team’s loyalty. “We have some part-time staff, and we’re able to offer employees a day off or a couple of days off a week,” he said. “We also have cross-training built in so that if somebody’s away or a crisis happens in someone’s family, which happens over 10 years, somebody else can step in for long periods of time.”

Like many other top-tier portfolio managers, Griffioen has been a step ahead of numerous industry developments. His firm has anticipated the need to become fee-based, as well as the increasingly beneficial position of having discretionary authority over clients’ portfolios. He has also been able to observe his clients’ changing needs and desires as they retire.

“Most of my clients haven’t really made major life-altering changes,” he said. “But as they age in their early retirement years, I observe that a lot of them will travel, whether it’s to Florida for three months or a big trip to Europe, spend some money on getting together with the kids or the grandkids. Those types of experiences tend to be more meaningful to them, where they can spend some of that money on the next generation and building those relationships.”

To prepare clients for smooth life transitions, Griffioen believes that advisors should be constantly improving. That involves not just reacting to industry changes as they come, but also anticipating what’s ahead.

“We tend to be an aging demographic, and a lot of advisors are happy with what they’re doing; they’re not changing or anticipating the future. I think that those advisors will really struggle in the upcoming years, so I think you have to figure out where you want to be to and move in that direction. … I think the vision is the important part.”

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