In-depth with No. 1 from WP's Top 50 Advisors in Canada

WP gets down to the nitty gritty with number 1 on this prestigious list, as he shares his insights on today's market in a candid Q&A.



Company: The William Douglas Group Inc.

Revenue: $500,000

No. of Clients: 1,200

Q. What makes a good advisor?

A: A good advisor listens to clients and talks to them at their level. I have acquired many large clients and the complaints that they have about the previous advisor are usually one of two things: the advisor doesn’t understand what the client is looking for; the client doesn’t understand a word out of the advisor’s mouth. If you have the credentials, you don’t have to impress the client with your jargon and a bunch of graphs and charts. The client can’t trust you if they don’t feel comfortable with you. That means listen and communicate on their level.

Q. What do you like most about being an advisor?

A: I like helping people, whether that means making them money, saving them taxes or providing them with viable solutions to improve their financial situation. Whatever it is I do for my clients, I enjoy the personal satisfaction of being appreciated for what I do for them.

Q. What has been the best thing about the last 12 months?

A: A lot has happened: I bought an existing practice, moved my office to a larger location, got my CIM and qualified for Manulife’s prestigious Five-star Master Builder award. It’s been a year of change for me. I would say that the best thing has been my renewed enthusiasm for this business. It can be very exciting and fast paced if you work at it.

Q. What is your top tip for other advisors?

A: Diversify. I have built a multi-income-streamed office by focusing on the three things that are important to businessowners: Life insurance, investments and Group Benefits. When the financial markets are not attractive to investors, I always have something to fall back on. I have become the “go to” person at my clients’ company. Whether it’s a buy/sell, group benefits, pensions or the personal needs of the staff, I can help them out.

Q. What are your top tips for gaining, and retaining, clients?

A: I would say the number one tip is get IIROC licensed. Clients are becoming more sophisticated and want more out of their advisors. If you cannot provide
them with stocks and ETFs you will surely lose them over the long term. My second tip would be to develop and nurture as many COIs (centres of influence) as you possibly can. These people are the gatekeepers to potential new clients and if you have their blessing, you don’t even need to be a great salesperson, just deliver the product/solution.

Q. What targets do you have for the coming year?

A: I hope to increase the size of my business by a minimum of 10 per cent in assets per year not including market growth.

Q. What has been the biggest challenge for advisors in the last 12 months?

A: The biggest challenge has also been the biggest opportunity. Although many people are still concerned about the markets, and cash flow into the markets by the retail investor is still low, there are many potential clients out there with complacent agents. Either they are not contacting the clients or they are only reactive to client calls. Whether it was poor investment choices or home-country bias that has caused a potential client’s portfolio to perform poorly, there are so many options and alternative solutions to prove your worth to prospective clients and quickly gain their trust.

Q. How do you plan to adapt to the many regulatory changes that are set to affect the financial planning industry?

A: I have made a conscious effort since the tech bubble to invest all of my clients in either a 0% front-end fund or a fee-for-service account. I do not sell anything on a deferred sales charge basis. I think going forward, there are going to be a lot of questions asked of advisors and the big one is going to be “What am I paying you for?” I personally feel more comfortable explaining my 1 per cent fee on a million-dollar account than I would trying to explain a 5.5 per cent upfront commission plus a 0.5 per cent trailer to any client.

Q. What are the biggest issues facing the financial advice industry today?

A: I think there are several problems out there. The biggest one is churning followed by DSC (deferred sales charge) sales method. I prefer to be transparent, our offering consists of investments we think will outperform the market and I choose the one’s that I think will benefit the client the most based on their risk tolerance.

Related Stories:

In-depth with No. 2 from WP's Top 50 Advisors in Canada

In-depth with No. 3 from WP's Top 50 Advisors in Canada

In-depth with No. 4 from WP's Top 50 Advisors in Canada