Many financial advisors want to enter the industry from an early age, typically because of parental encouragement or influence. Some jump in during their working years, switching from unrelated professions like teaching or sports. For William Vastis, the turning point was somewhere in between.
“When I went to university, I was attending a football banquet for the team I played for at the time,” he said. “It led me to introduce myself to a couple of fathers on the team that also attended that night.”
A single night’s small talk with two unfamiliar adults would not typically be enough to determine the course of a career. But once in a while, even the most mundane events can have life-changing repercussions.
“I had a discussion about my mother’s OAS cheques that would come to me from her passing away years before,” Vastis said. “They were both very open in discussing their industry, which I ended up pursuing. Upon my graduation, they both opened a few doors for my position as an advisor.”
He has continued onward and upward for twenty years since then, working his way up to his current position as a director and vice president of RBC Dominion Securities. He is dual-licensed in Canada and the US, and has pioneered an approach designed specifically for business owners facing retirement. The approach was developed not just from theory: it was developed from a deep and intimate knowledge of clients’ needs.
“[I enjoy] sitting down and talking with clients about their life goals and ambitions,” he said. “I have learned so much from my clients, and the least I can do is provide them with the service they deserve.”
Vastis is well recognized for his client-centered approach, and it is one that he has learned to embrace. However, before you get to the point of earning a client’s trust, you have to get their business and build it up from there.
“Finding clients is the biggest challenge, of course. In my earlier days, it was quite difficult in learning how to harvest a relationship,” he said. “It can become a challenge even to this day in an ever-so-changing business.”
The struggle to build and maintain a book of business can take a real toll on even the most optimistic agents, which is why having support is extremely beneficial. Peers and mentors can offer much in the way of practical advice, but Vastis values the steadfast support he gets from another source.
“My wife Kathy [is the secret to my success],” he said. “This industry is a fantastic one and keeps changing every day. My dear wife has stuck through and supported me along the way for 20 years, and still continues to do so.”
For financial advisors, maintaining a professional distance from clients can be very important. After all, it’s not helpful to anyone if your judgment is clouded by emotions and attachments. But that distance has to be offset with sympathy and a human touch – which can be a struggle, as Vastis knows all too well.
“Getting involved with all clients can be very personal, from growth to breakups,” he said. “The most challenging is when a client or a member of the family passes away. Working in a highly regulated industry, there are obviously the formalities involved on our side, but to create as much balance with your client’s empathy can be difficult.”
Vastis has already attained significant success in the industry. Still, he continues to strive – and encourages others to do so.
“I have always liked the quote from Aristotle: ‘We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.’ I would translate this with how hard one should work, as this business is not easy to succeed in unless you’re willing to make a lot of sacrifice,” he said. “The rewards come later in financial success, reputation and education.”
Of course, he said that success is not a reason to stop growing. “If you’re younger in the business, you can never have enough mentors. If you’re more senior and looking to transition in the business, check your entitlement and keep learning as well.”
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