Taking diversification beyond portfolio management

Taking diversification beyond portfolio management

Taking diversification beyond portfolio management Great things start from small beginnings, they say. And that’s how it was for Mr. Sean Harrell, a senior advisor and founding partner at Howe, Harrell, and Associates, who was inspired to enter the financial services industry from a young age. “I grew up in an entrepreneurial family so I was always witnessing ‘money management’ and it definitely intrigued me,” he said.

Whether his interest in finance was inherited or developed from his immediate family could be debated, but it didn’t matter: his interest inspired him to take business courses at the University of Brandon, after which he lived with his cousin and his cousin’s wife in Winnipeg.

“My cousin was the retirement investment services manager at London Life at the time,” he said.  “One night he asked me what kind of job I was looking for. He looked at my resume and took it into the Regional Manager at London Life at the time and the rest is, as they say, history.”

For Harrell, history began in 1999, when he started as a London Life advisor at with about 400 households to service – a significant challenge, which he seized as an opportunity.

“I serviced those clients well, grew their AUM and got good referrals from them. A lot of those old London Life clients are still my best clients today,” he said. “After about 5 years in the business I decided to really focus on business owners and their unique needs.”

His focus eventually led him to establish Trilogy Wealth Management in 2006, which he was able to grow into a practice with more than $100 million in AUM by October 2015 at an average of $400,000 per client. Driving this growth was Harrell’s passion for helping people.

“It is hugely satisfying to have someone come to you and thank you for helping them,” Harrell said. “Whether it be teaching people what investment vehicle best suits their needs or teaching them the different types of investment taxation, I get a kick out of helping people solve problems to ultimately meet their goals.”

He shares this mentality with Don Howe of Don Howe Financial Services, another firm with which Trilogy merged in January this year. “[Don] has a great reputation and has an amazing work ethic, I couldn’t ask for a better business partner and mentor,” Harrell said. “We merged to bring together two successful firms that could service our clients better together.”

The fusion has given rise to a one-stop-shop for financial advice, a setup appreciated by clients who now have access to a wider range of specialists. “Because they trust us with one piece of their business already, they are typically happy to consolidate the rest of their business with us now that we can properly take care of [it].”

The positive impact has also been felt by the different members of the team, who are able to feed off each other’s strengths. “Everyone has a different strength in the office which we can all leverage. Don is as good as or better than anyone I have ever seen with Pension and Benefits Plans. I am strong in Investments. My wife Melissa is an Insurance Specialist.  And Andrew specializes in the family market. Even our admin staff leverage strengths from each other.”

Together, the team has generated returns that both they and their clients are happy with. “We follow a conservative planning approach with all our clients. Mostly long-term buy and hold with a cash reserve for either emergencies or opportunities,” Harrell shared. “We were actually kind of disappointed that the US election didn’t create a buying opportunity for some of our clients!”

This year has been fraught with significant and unexpected changes, causing uncertainty in markets and among investors. For advisors who need to guide clients through turbulent times, Harrell has the following advice:

“Build a good conservative plan for your clients and stick to it.  Meet regularly to update it and adjust the plan if necessary.  Help them see more than just a rate of return.  Always know what your clients’ goals are and help them meet those goals by managing their emotions when times are tough.”

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