Nicola Wealth Management has been recognized as one of the leading advisory firms in Canada by being listed in the 2017 edition of Wealth Professional Canada's Outstanding Advisory Teams

Vancouver, Kelowna and Richmond, BC; Toronto, ON
Number of employees: 151
Target clients: Affluent families, entrepreneurs and professionals
AUM: $4.9 billion

Nicola Wealth Management, with a staff of 151 people and AUM of just under $5 billion, is at the high end of the scale among WPC’s Outstanding Advisory Teams. It has been a steady climb for the firm to reach that level, as president David Sung outlines.

“NWM started in 1994 as a six-person company with one location in Vancouver,” Sung says. “We now have a team of 27 advisors as part of a 151-person company with four locations across BC and Ontario.”

Such scale means the team has had to increase its service offering to reflect the increased expectations of clients. NWM now boasts an investment services team, which handles new accounts, reporting, billing, processing and trading. An in-house portfolio management team, meanwhile, manages the firm’s series of investment pools. The growth of the business also means its compliance requirements are pretty high, although this is something NWM is meeting head-on.

“In 2003, NWM resigned from the MFDA to become our own registered portfolio manager,” Sung says. “We are now registered with the Canadian Securities Administrators as a portfolio manager, investment fund manager and exempt market dealer in a number of provinces. We hold ourselves to a high standard of fiduciary duty and believe in a culture of compliance that requires greater diligence than standard mutual fund dealers.”

Finding the right people to enhance the NWM value proposition is another priority. “Our team has been growing exponentially, and we have a strategic plan in place that calls for adding more employees – especially advisors looking to develop and grow their skill set – over the next five years,” Sung says. “This year alone, we’ve added three new advisors to the fold and have had three internal candidates enter our mentorship and development initiative. This is in addition to the dozen or so back-office staff members we’ve added this year.”

It’s good to see, especially as many of the banks reduce staff numbers. In Sung’s opinion, independent firms like NWM will play a key role in ensuring the sound health of wealth management in the future.

“Independent advisory firms certainly have a future,” he says. “There will always be challenges and threats to and within the industry, but as long as one is able to look at the landscape and understand what differentiates them in the marketplace, there will be space for independent firms to thrive.”
WPC: Has the focus of your firm changed since it was formed?
David Sung:
Our firm was founded on the idea that high-net-worth business owners and their families face complex issues that require more sophisticated solutions. Our focus hasn’t changed; if anything, we have broadened the scope of our solutions to support families as comprehensively as possible.

WPC: How has technology changed your business?
NWM has always been on the leading edge of technology. We have a 20-person in-house technology department as part of an infrastructure that supports our team of advisors. We have been producing thorough, detailed rate-of-return statements that put us well beyond new CRM2 standards. Additionally, we produce client statements that include historical and projected cash-flow summaries, fiscal reports for clients’ accountants, a private client access website and a new project that provides our advisors with a ‘one-stop’ online dashboard for serving their clients.