Inside iA Private Wealth's expansion, offerings for advisors

Regional VP outlines how the dealer has driven its growth and what it wants to deliver for advisors now

Inside iA Private Wealth's expansion, offerings for advisors

Geoff Wilkinson looks back fondly on 2023. The regional vice president for Western Canada at iA Private Wealth notes that his firm had a record year of new recruits last year, coming from competitor organizations across the industry. Tech played a big role in that recruitment drive, as the tech stack iA offers was — to Wilkinson — a key driver of their success. That tech stack was recognized by the recent JD Power 2023 Canada Wealth Management Digital Experience Study, in which iA Private Wealth placed second. Wilkinson believes that their influx of talent and investment in tech will continue to drive success in 2024.

Wilkinson told WP some of how he expects iA to drive its next growth stage this year. He outlined what he sees as their advantages in the advisor space, including in the support for independent advisors. He highlighted, as well, some of the challenges he sees ahead for advisors and financial services professionals as a whole.

“I think most advisors, even the most successful ones, are continuously looking to grow their practices and they look to us as the deal to help them create additional capacity in their practices so they can take on more clients,” Wilkinson says. “We’re able to provide a very strong practice management department that can help assess advisors’ practices and provide objective advice on how they can do things differently to help accomplish their goals.”

Wilkinson notes that while advisors provide great service and can serve as great salespeople, they often have trouble with the business ownership side of their work. He views that less as a personal failing, however, and more a matter of equipment and training. Advisors are often not given the tools to run a large business and Wilkinson sees it as the job of the dealer to provide that support.

Part of that support comes in the form of workload sharing. iA private wealth has something they describe as an ‘internal national branch,’ called the iA Wealth Advice Centre. That group of internal advisors can help independent advisors manage their somewhat less demanding client portfolios, those who have relatively simple needs. That frees up the independent advisor to focus more on their more complex clients.

Support systems like this are an essential tool for advisors in Wilkinson’s view, because he believes the age of the generalist advisor is over. Advisors cannot be everything to everyone. The route to success, instead, is to focus on a few centres of influence, segments of the population, or subject matters that they are experts in. That specialization often results in better overall client service and a better use of an advisor’s already-stretched time.

Managing that stretched time is also a matter of managing the regulatory burden. From a dealer standpoint that means advocating to the regulators on behalf of advisors to help them modernize with technology. It also involves an investment in technology that can reduce the immediate burden as much as possible.

At iA Private Wealth, meeting that regulatory burden meant building a dual platform capability to serve both former MFDA and former IIROC advisors under the new amalgamated SRO in CIRO. They’ve rolled out those tools through a new desktop program called AX360 which gives advisors immediate access to all the tools and resources that iA Private Wealth can offer them. They’ve also added to their digital onboarding platform, allowing advisors to transfer their whole practices over to iA in a matter of weeks — rather than spending a year getting wet signatures from each of their clients.

Advisors will need these tools and resources as they help their clients navigate what Wilkinson still sees as uncertain markets and a shaky economy. He believes interest rate anxiety will continue to play a huge role in 2024, both on markets and in personal finances as mortgages come up for renewals. Demographic changes will be key for advisors to grasp, too, at the Canadian population ages. Many advisors are aging too, and questions of succession and exit planning may become more pressing this year. These are all areas iA Private Wealth is working hard to find solutions in.

“I really think all wealth management firms need to spend more time thinking about the people they are really trying to serve. At iA Private Wealth, we look at our advisors as our clients,” Wilkinson says. “Really giving proper attention to the individuals our advisors are hoping to serve is important, because more than ever advisors’ clients are bombarded with so much information from so many sources in various forms of media, that it's not helping to make decisions. It's confusing them more and more. And more than ever, they need the assistance of a high-quality advisor that has their best interests at heart.”

With reporting from Leo Almazora