Like many financial advisors, Ryan Lamontagne is a busy guy. He has a full roster of clients who need more than just investing help – they also want to talk about estate planning, budgeting, tax strategies, inheritance issues and more. Even the most organized advisor would find it hard to cover all those bases.
“You feel like you could use more time,” he says.
The founder of Ryan Lamontagne Inc., an Ottawa-based financial advisory firm, has been able to free up some of his schedule by hiring an accountant, partnering with a lawyer in the same building and training a junior financial planner. He’s also looking to technology for help.
“[Making more time] is not something that happens overnight,” he says.
It’s a challenge facing many advisors these days, as they are being asked to do considerably more than provide investment advice.
“The trend is towards advisors being holistic in their practice,” says Greg Pollock, president of Toronto-based Advocis, a professional membership organization for financial advisors. Add to that the pursuit of additional certification – “We are seeing advisors undertake more education,” says Mr. Pollock – and that doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
Advisors, Mr. Pollack says, are paying a price.
“We have seen the number of clients that advisors take on go down,” he says, though he emphasizes existing clients are getting better service.
It’s time to save time
The key to success today, he says, is outsourcing certain duties. Mr. Pollock believes that integrating technology whenever possible, such as having a robo-advisor handle certain investing functions, is a must.
“The most successful advisors will be those who say: ‘How do I balance technology with personal finance advice?’” he says.
Jordy Chilcott, head of Investment Distribution at Sun Life Global Investments in Toronto, also thinks that incorporating technology can serve advisors and their clients well.
“I don’t believe robo advice is a threat to advisors,” he says. “The firms that are adopting components of robo are making their advisors stronger.”
For example, onboarding clients, which involves the sharing of vast amounts of financial information, could be done partly by a robo interface to streamline the process, Mr. Chilcott says.
The use of managed solutions is another example of how advisors can free up more of their time, he says. These products are all-in-one outcome-based solutions that can hold multiple investments and come with different risk levels to suit an investor’s specific needs. They have the additional benefit of continuous monitoring and optimizing by a professional portfolio management team as necessary.
“If advisors have a portfolio management team selecting investments and providing constant portfolio oversight for their clients, it gives them time to assist their clients with the more complex needs that are required, such as tax and estate planning,” Mr. Chilcott says.
Each portfolio is broadly diversified,” he says, pointing out that Sun Life Global Investments offers these kinds of products through its Granite Managed Solutions. “[Advisors] are partnering with professional managers for the oversight of these portfolios, so it frees up more of their time.”
Advisors who do take advantage of software or these kinds of managed solutions may find that they do indeed have more time to work on other things. But what should they be focusing on? Here are some ideas.
Develop stronger client relationships
Mr. Chilcott feels that fulsome interviews at the outset of a client-advisor relationship as well as ongoing discussions can yield more tailored investment strategies focused on outcomes. “You’re able to spend more time at the front-end to determine what the actual needs of the client are,” he says. “You can have portfolios tracking to each one of those requirements, and help those clients stay with those long-term goals, rather than making decisions based on emotional reactions.”
Provide more value-added services Mr. Lamontagne has many incorporated-business clients who need advice on taxes, which are ever-changing and complicated to navigate. “It would be nice to take it one step further and look at how these businesses bank, to see if they are paying the least amount of service charges or have the best interest rates on the cash sitting in their bank accounts,” he says.
Build a bigger business
Mr. Lamontagne says that he’d like to take the high level of service he already provides one step further, such as helping people shop around for a discounted mortgage rate. “If I had more time, I wouldn’t mind being able to negotiate on behalf of the client to find a better rate than what’s being offered.”
Digitize their practice
If millennial clients are opting for robo-advisors, human advisors need to ensure they have that digital capability, Mr. Chilcott says. “While robo-advice can be a valuable first step for clients, as they grow and develop more complex needs such as tax and estate planning or any of the other myriad of life events, that’s something that these platforms can’t easily replicate. I don’t think robo-advice will replace human interactions for these more complicated needs.”
Mr. Pollock concedes that exploring robo options, pursuing continuing education and providing a larger menu of services is time-consuming for advisors. But, he says, the payoff is a better client relationship. “It’s about investing the time and the resources,” he says.
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