An advisor at Sun Life Financial explains how other advisors can up their game
Being able to offer sound, comprehensive tax planning advice is key for any modern advisor. As regulations tighten and competition continues to heat up, advisors are under pressure to differentiate themselves from the crowd. For advisors who live by the misconception that all tax related work should be the responsibility of the accountant, Blake Griffith, an advisor at Sun Life Financial, urges a shift in perspective.
“Many accountants are focused solely on tax filing but not planning, which means they’re predominantly looking backwards and not forwards,” Griffith says. “A financial planner’s role is all about looking forward to the future and that includes tax planning.”
Tax planning is an extremely complex field and advisors shouldn’t expect to fulfil the role independently. More Canadian advisors are recognizing the benefits of building a team of tax experts in an attempt to improve satisfaction and ensure that clients are not tempted to move to a rival who does offer those services. “Considering the complexity of organizing one’s financial affairs today, clients are increasingly looking for holistic advice and are gravitating towards the multiple disciplinary team approach,” Griffith says.
Griffith works closely with a lawyer and accountant who specialize in strategic tax planning, which both simplifies a client’s financial situation and enables him to make more informed recommendations. He describes his approach to tax planning as “one of his key advantages”. “Being the quarter back for the client in that team of professionals is a natural fit for the financial planner,” Griffith says. “Not only does it allow them to learn from the other team members, it enables them to earn good will from being the one who developed the overall strategy.”
Griffith gives the example of a client who was selling his engineering firm four years ago. At the time, the client’s tax accountant was adamant that no advantage could be gained from a tax planning standpoint but Griffith urged the client to meet with his tax lawyer and accountant, which the client agreed to. The result: Griffith and his team were able to save the client over $600,000 in taxes payable.
“It’s really a testament to this multi-disciplinary team approach, which enables the financial planner to see things through different sets of lenses,” Griffith says. “Since then, the client has given subsequent referrals and invested the sales proceeds with us. That approach can enable an advisor to not only grow their business faster but also offer more to their existing clientele.”
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