Changing course

Tina Tehranchian looks back on her journey from her native Iran to leading her own advisory team at Assante Capital Management in Ontario

Changing course
TINA TEHRANCHIAN’S route into wealth management wasn’t exactly typical. A native of Iran, Tehranchian moved to the US at age 15, shortly after receiving her high school diploma. That was during the mid-’80s, when relations between the two countries were particularly strained, but she ended up staying in the US to complete a bachelor’s degree in political science and government at Washington University in St. Louis.

From there, she earned a master’s in communications from the University of Portland, fully intending to embark on a career in the media. After returning to Iran and starting a family, Tehranchian immigrated to Canada to start her media career – but the timing was less than ideal.

“Immigrating to Canada in 1990 – it was the beginning of one of the worst recessions in recent history,” she says. “The media industry, including CBC, was laying off thousands of people. With no Canadian experience, there was no way that I could find a job in media, so I started looking at alternatives.”

While journalism jobs were thin on the ground at that time, there were other industries looking for fresh blood. After seeing in a newspaper advertisement that Sun Life was hiring insurance brokers, Tehranchian took her career in a different direction.

“I really wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t have enough capital,” she says. “I had no idea what life insurance was, but the ad talked about an entrepreneurial opportunity where you could set your own income limits. I thought it would be a temporary measure until the recession ended and I could look for work in my own field, but one thing led to another, and I liked the profession.”

Now a senior financial planner and branch manager at Assante Capital Management, Tehranchian has no regrets about that choice. While she began her career selling life insurance for Sun Life and later Met Life, she quickly moved into broader financial planning. After obtaining her mutual fund and securities licences, she earned CLU, CFC and CFP
designations. That meant devoting a huge amount of her spare time to studying, but the knowledge she gained eventually led to her running her own team under the Assante umbrella.

“We have a wealth planning team that is one of the most robust in the industry,” Tehranchian says. “I personally work with a tax accountant, a tax specialist, a CPA and an estate planning lawyer on my team. We look at all aspects of financial planning – estate, retirement, tax, business planning. We act as the quarterback and make sure everything is coordinated.”

Tax planning is the subject of some heated discourse among financial advisors right now. The federal government’s proposed changes on income sprinkling and passive investment accounts have provoked fierce opposition among advisors. Tehranchian counts herself among those opposed, but she isn’t too optimistic that Ottawa is listening to
the growing discontent.

“Unfortunately, my personal feeling is the Department of Finance has already made up its mind,” she says. “They say they are doing consultations, but I doubt the end result is going to be very different. There are some areas where they have not come up with draft legislation, only ideas, so maybe that is more fluid. Where there is actual draft legislation, I doubt we will see big changes.”

While upcoming tax reform is a concern for Tehranchian, working under Assante has been relatively stress-free. Autonomy was one of the factors that attracted her to the industry in the first place, and that freedom is something she values highly.

“The great thing about Assante is that there are no quotas or requirements to purchase products from CI,” she says. “They have to earn our business the same as every other mutual fund company. I have clients where I do the asset allocation myself, but the bulk have private-managed accounts. That means they get to use institutional managers that are not normally available on the retail level.”

Another defining feature of Tehranchian’s business is the fact that compensation is strictly fee-based. She made that decision before CRM2 came into effect, and the new reporting standard has only proved beneficial to her practice.

“My assets have grown substantially since CRM2 came into being,” she says. “We disclose everything – not just the dealer service fee, but the entire MER. Half-baked transparency can be very misleading, which is why I make sure my clients are educated about what fees represent so they can make apples-to-apples comparisons.”