Why iA Securities is now ready to seize the spotlight

New President John Kelleway tells WP about the true impact of the HollisWealth acquisition and a more aggressive recruitment drive

Why iA Securities is now ready to seize the spotlight

For a long time, iA Securities was the best kept secret on the street, according to President John Kelleway.

A large Canadian company in the wealth space, the firm is no longer content to simply grow quietly in the independent advisor arena.

Then came the acquisition of the HollisWealth business from the Bank of Nova Scotia in 2017 and Kelleway’s ascent from Regional Vice President at HollisWealth to President, iA Securities, a position he assumed three months ago. He has a different vision.

He told WP: “I am new in the leadership role with iA and I look at the opportunity to get our story out a little more aggressively. I think we have a really good platform to share with independent advisors.”

Kelleway believes the HollisWealth acquisition changed the latter extensively and that the platform now has the infrastructure and scale in place to accelerate its business expectations. Kelleway’s IIROC side alone manages $36 billion in assets and, including the MFDA division, iA’s total distribution channel swells to $80 billion.

He said: “In the independent world, I believe scale will become important. I think the smaller companies are going to have a hard time implementing some of these regulatory and technical expectations that both the industry and clients have. Given our size, we have the scale to invest into our platform quite easily.”

The other part of iA’s drive to raise the noise around its progress is a more aggressive recruitment process. He admitted that not too many people knew about the firm but believes that is now starting to change.

He said: “We’re now getting recognized a lot more often, not only clients but also advisors, as a result of our recruitment efforts the past couple of months. We are getting calls we wouldn’t have gotten before and the people that are calling us are the quality advisors we are looking for.”

That search for high-level professionals is necessary, Kelleway believes, because clients now expect a lot more from their advisors. They want the one thing they can’t get quickly on the internet: true advice.

He thinks advisors have to work harder than ever to separate themselves from the competition, including the new kids on the block – the robos. The other big challenge for advisors, said Kelleway, is the rise of fee-based platforms.

“We’re seeing this across independent and corporate channels at the bank and we have seen tremendous growth in our fee-based platform. With that comes a great deal of transparency with regards to what the client is paying, which I think is fair.

“When the advisor recognizes what the client is paying, the good outcome of that is advisors are looking to validate that every month. That is a client win – advisors are trying to have more timely meetings, have more information that is being shared with them to validate the fees that are getting paid.”

Consolidation is another trend that Kelleway believes is happening at a dealer level as well as advisor level. He said iA will continue to look for more opportunities to expand but many advisors are feeling the pinch of succession planning and regulatory pressure.

He said: “It’s something that’s been going on for a good five years now but I think it’s starting to accelerate when you have a mature independent platform.

“When I say mature, the average age of an independent advisor is well into the 50s and we’re seeing it at our dealer and we’re seeing it with our competitors as well, too, where a number of sale of books are taking place.

“We’re seeing succession planning top of mind for a lot of advisor so definitely that consolidation is happening at the dealer level and the advisor level.  It’s one of the top things that we do today when advisors reach out to us for help.”