When Lewis Morris moved from Wales to Canada in 2008, it was supposed to be just for the summer. But by 2011, he had decided to look for permanent residency — and take a career-setting leap into financial services.
“A close friend of mine who’s now a director at our office introduced the idea to me,” said Morris, a financial security advisor at Freedom 55 Financial. “We’d spoken about it over a year or two, and he helped me understand how it can be very entrepreneurial: you make your own schedule and build your own practice. That really appealed to me.
“I knew that it would be challenging,” he added. “When I commit to something, I commit 100%. So I decided that I wouldn’t get into the business unless I had at least a five-year plan.”
Morris studied for months to earn his license as an investment representative and to provide insurance planning strategies. Six years on, he said he has learned a lot more on the job than he did from his initial preparations. At the same time, he has managed to build valuable connections.
“It’s about the client relationships, and the building of trust that creates,” he said. “The products, the numbers, the solutions, the market trends, all that sort of stuff … that’s obviously important. But at the end of the day, when you’re building that partnership with a client or clients, that’s what makes the role so rewarding.”
Morris gets fulfilment from finding common ground; for him, connecting at a level that has nothing to do with business is a critical piece in working with people. Building that initial trust is important, especially since he works with clients who need a firm helping hand.
“My target clients are young — all under 40, basically — so a lot of the conversations we have are new to them,” he said. “Often, it’s their first go at something outside a bank. The process can be a bit slower, but it gets more rewarding as the relationship goes into the long term.”
Working with younger clients, Morris has found it useful to advise them on the importance of commitment — the same cornerstone that he’s built his career on.
“Sometimes the challenge is getting them to realize that it’s not going to help them by putting off their plans by three, four, or five years,” he said. “There’s also helping them understand that setting up any financial tools shouldn’t be a transaction; everything is part of a plan that needs to be revamped and adjusted over time, be it Insurance or Investment planning.”
To make those adjustments, Morris said he keeps a close eye on interest rates — a costly area where insurers tend to make updates. “A lot of my clients are eligible for products on the living-benefits side … nine times out of 10, when insurance companies update rates, they go up rather than down,” he said. “I also keep an eye out for discounts or benefits that my clients might be eligible for, whether it’s for students or young professionals.”
On the investment side, he believes that most fund industry professionals are just getting caught in regulatory measures that are meant to police people who “aren’t necessarily doing their job correctly.”
Morris said he’s found the new mutual fund reports required by CRM2 to be very helpful. “Before, a lot of the clients I spoke to said they were so confused with the statements that they didn’t even bother trying to understand them,” he said. “Clearer statements, in my opinion, should help advisors consolidate a good relationship.”
Good relationships are especially important for all advisors, but it’s especially critical for those in the self-employed space. Those working in the niche, in Morris’s experience, often tend to have impractical expectations as to the time it will take to establish themselves, and quit within a year or two, so he advises anyone just starting out to really evaluate their decision.
“Don’t underestimate how tough it is to establish yourself. Don’t have a short-term vision of just one, two, or three years to achieve that, because that’s unrealistic,” he said. “And never advise solution-first; try to avoid weighting your recommendations toward any particular product just because it’s something you think you’re an expert at, or it yields the highest pay cheque. As long as you work hard, get to know the client, and give honest advice, you’ll be successful.”
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