Lines of communication

For Sun Life Financial’s Chris Poole, running a successful practice means earning clients’ respect through regular contact

Lines of communication
CHRIS POOLE learned early on what it takes to make a business successful. Poole was still a high-school student when he launched Yardworks 4 Life, an enterprise he ran for 12 years before eventually selling up. Today, he relies on that same entrepreneurial spirit to lead his own advisory team, CWP Financial Services, which is part of the Sun Life Financial family.

Business owners now constitute a large part of his client base, and his background means he can really relate to them. “I was basically helping people to create a blueprint for a project and then execute on the job,” he says. “I like dealing with people, managing relationships and servicing the expectations of the people around me. I also liked the financial side of running a budget on a job and creating a project.”

While designing a landscaping plan isn’t quite the same as coming up with a financial plan, Poole’s transition into financial advice was fairly seamless.

“When I found myself thinking about the financial services industry, I realized it wasn’t that different,” he says. “Instead of designing some custom landscaping, we design people’s retirement path or business succession plan.”

Now five years into his career as an advisor, Poole and his team continue to expand their reach. In his opinion, there is one key element that separates CWP from many of its competitors.

“The most important thing in our business is client communication – we are in the loop with clients’ needs regularly,” he says. “Only when underlying circumstances change dramatically do they need a dramatic change in their investments. Otherwise, it’s a series of tweaks along the way and making sure we have constant feedback.”

Currently, taxes are a dominant topic of those advisor-client conversations. The noises emanating from Ottawa don’t overly concern Poole, because he knows the open lines of communication he’s fostered will allow him to prepare clients for whatever policy comes along.

“The ability to manage any tax changes that are forthcoming is more easily done when there is an active relationship with a good advisor,” he says. “We are very proud of the fact that we maintain good relationships with our clients, because when things like this happen, it’s already part of the regular conversation.”

Poole has prioritized three factors in his relationships with clients: access, guidance and precision. The first – access – often involves bringing in outside expertise to help in specific situations.

“Whether it’s business succession planning through estate freezes, buy-sell agreements, shareholder agreements with clients, an acquisition of one company by another – we are able to have these conversations, but we aren’t lawyers or accountants, so we are providing access to highly capable and experienced lawyers and accountants with the particular expertise that is required,” Poole says.

The everyday work of financial planning is where the guidance part of CWP’s advice triumvirate comes into play. Investment strategy is tailored to each client, and market conditions are secondary to that client’s specific circumstances.

“We act as a financial Sherpa, walking people through strategies because we have been there before and know what it looks like at other companies,” Poole says. “Sometimes it’s important to weather the storm and maybe turn down risk. In other cases, it will be important to forge ahead and take advantage of the opportunities that come.”

Finally, precision comes from providing this service in a manner that ensures compliance
and fiduciary responsibility. 

When Poole joined Sun Life in 2012, Canada was still emerging from the depths of the Great Recession. Heading into 2018, things are looking much more positive, both
in the markets and the wider economy.

“It’s important to know where there are trends and where there are fads,” he says. “The conversation really isn’t that different this year compared to five years ago. We lean on certain investment products or tools to get the results clients need, but today, as always, they drive the conversation because they are the ones we are working to support.”