What makes Maili Wong an award-winning advisor

After a brace of wins at the WP awards, Canadian Advisor of the Year weighs in on what sets her practice apart

What makes Maili Wong an award-winning advisor

Maili Wong won big at the 2024 WP Awards. The Senior Wealth Advisor & Senior Portfolio Manager at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. won both the Avenue Living Award for Portfolio/Discretionary Manager of the Year, and the Equiton Award for Canadian Advisor of the Year. Wong recently sat down with WP to explain why she believes she won these awards, what sets her apart, and what she’s doing to help her clients overcome challenges now.

“I think winning the awards is really a testament to many years of dedication, to continually focussing on trying to enhance the client experience,” Wong says. “That means having the discipline to do daily huddles with our team, every day at 8am, the discipline to focus on any operational opportunities to enhance what we’re doing for our clients, the discipline to make sure that we’re always paying attention to the key areas that impact the client experience. Finding ways to move the needle every single day.”

It's those small acts of constant improvement that Wong believes have driven her and her team to grow and become successful. She says that through that approach and mindset she has been able to make a significant impact with her clients and that impact has resonated, growing her influence and presence across the community she serves. She also credits the freedom afforded by her firm to take an entrepreneurial approach to wealth management.

That freedom is best exemplified by Wong winning the Avenue Living Award for Portfolio/Discretionary Manager of the Year. She has worked as a discretionary manager for more than a decade, and been a CFA charterholder for 20 years.  Using those skillsets she offers clients what she calls a “smart risk approach.” That approach involves the application of multiple lenses to client portfolios, be they quantitative, fundamental, or risk-management. Her team can then offer investment approaches built around different client goals and outcomes.

For retired or retiring clients, who prioritize cashflow, Wong can offer a sustainable dividend focus. For more growth-oriented investors, she proposes an optimal growth portfolio aiming at capital appreciation. The goal of her management, she says, is to provide her clients with a “work-optional life,” where they have the ability to live off income from their investments so they can choose when they want to stop or slow down their work.

Achieving that end result as a discretionary manager is not easy. Wong says her team casts a wide net to capture high quality equities in North America and globally which meet certain quantitative criteria. She looks for the right blend of balance sheet strength, dividend yield, valuation metrics, size, profitability, earnings, and momentum. In addition to applying the aforementioned risk management and fundamental overlays to this process, she also consults with a team based in New York, who she has strong connections with based on her time working in New York herself. Just as her overall approach is built around constant improvement, her discretionary approach also requires constant vigilance and maintenance.

The discretionary management that Wong offers clients is part of how she helps them answer one of the core fundamental questions that she hears them asking: ‘how can I ensure that I can afford my retirement lifestyle?’ As the cost of living has risen, even affluent families, business owners, and professionals have become increasingly concerned with this question. The expenses associated with supporting the next generation, while paying for retirement, are a significant source of worry for clients.

Wong helps show her clients the answer to that question through a comprehensive, multi-stage financial planning process. That involves discovery with her clients about what their goals are and what they want their money for. It also involves determining who the people are that matter to this client, and who they want to prioritize. Wong and her team work to build a circle of trust for her clients, ensuring they are well served by trusted professionals. She also introduces key concepts like the trusted person, to protect against the impacts of circumstances like a cognitive decline. Core to her whole approach is a level of care that informs the actions she and her clients take.

Whether in the care she provides to clients and their families, or the technical expertise she brings managing their portfolios, Wong has shown herself to be a leading Canadian advisor. In winning her two awards, however, she refocused her own work on the clients who sit at the core of everything she does.

“I'm so grateful to win these awards because I feel like they’re a testament to the unwavering commitment we have towards our clients financial wellbeing,” Wong says. “This award has really fuelled our determination to continually raise the bar on our clients behalf and to continually set new standards of excellence within the financial industry based on competence and care. And we hope this inspires the industry to continue on this quest alongside us. Because in the end, when we all do this, clients win. And when clients win, we all win.”