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Working remotely was supposed to be a temporary measure when the pandemic first hit in March 2020. But almost two years later – and amid yet another round of lockdowns – many advisors are finding themselves still running their businesses and managing their teams from home.

Globe Advisor spoke with Wes Ashton, co-founder, portfolio manager and director of growth strategy at Harbourfront Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver, about the pros and cons of running a remote team. He’s also ranked as one of The Globe and Mail and SHOOK Research’s Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors.

What’s the current working arrangement at your firm?

My team and I are generally working remotely as a result of the current COVID-19 situation. However, we have the ability to go into the office as needed.

What are the downsides of working remotely?

People and relationships are extremely important to me – and having those interactions is what I love about my career. Not being able to see people in person means I have to work harder to maintain the culture and connect with them. That can still be accomplished in a work-from-home environment, but sitting together with a family or having the ability to mentor the team ‘on the fly’ has its benefits.

What benefits have come from remote work?

The pandemic has accelerated technology by 10 to 15 years, and we now have new ways to engage with and educate clients. They can customize their preferences and are no longer required to spend time in the car driving to the office, dealing with traffic and parking, etc. They can now sit in the comfort of their own homes, with their favourite coffee mug and have a virtual meeting if that’s their preference.

What are a couple of leadership skills you’ve put to the test during the pandemic?

I have tried to be a calming influence for the families and individuals I work with. Projecting confidence and having the ability to communicate and reassure them they’re in good hands, and that we’ll navigate whatever this pandemic throws at us together, brings a certain level of peace of mind. Another is being able to pivot and adapt to change, which has been the difference between maintaining relationships and serving our family’s needs.

What will the working arrangements be at your firm when the pandemic subsides?

It will likely be a hybrid of working from home and the office, which benefits our clients, business, and team. There’s something to be said for maintaining a work-life balance. We have individuals with young families, and work-from-home arrangements provide flexibility for them to be present with their kids and have the opportunity to grow up with them, which is priceless.

What are you looking forward to the most when life returns to ‘normal’?

From a client relationship perspective, I enjoy seeing the families that we work with. We’ve been able to adapt to virtual meetings, which have their own benefits. However, connecting in person is more intimate. I’m looking forward to the time when we can offer both options without any constraints. Business-wise, I look forward to collaborating more closely with my peers. Spontaneous brainstorming sessions or mentoring individuals in the moment are valuable experiences.

- Brenda Bouw, special to The Globe and Mail

Must-reads from Globe Advisor this week

Pandemic-era entrepreneurs face financial realities

Setting up a business on the side may seem like an exciting and lucrative thing to do, but many new business owners have little business experience. More are focusing on whether their product or service will sell and not spending enough time on understanding taxes, cash flow, and income expectations from the start. Saira Peesker spoke to advisors on how they’re helping clients with their newfound ventures.

What happens when the best investment advice is don’t invest?

Canadians are mired in debt more than ever before. In fact, some say the drop in debt levels during the pandemic are misleading because many creditors stopped or slowed collections. Advisors have a regulatory obligation to ask prospective clients about their debt levels, but there’s no requirement to advise them to redirect their money toward paying down debt. Dale Jackson spoke to advisors on how they plan when clients carry high debt.

So much for betting on a greener future – when will renewables bounce back?

Renewable stocks took a beating in 2021, and it’s been more of the same so far this year. But rising energy prices and economies making the transition to net-zero emissions with new policies should boost the sector, according to experts. Adam Mayers highlights the exchange-traded funds and stock picks that could buck the trend.

How do advisors feel about the new securities rules?

It’s become easier to report outside activities to regulators and there’s also been an extension to certain reporting deadlines to notify of changes in registration information. But there have also been changes to how advisors use executive titles and professional designations. Brenda Bouw spoke to advisors on what the final amendments mean and whether these new rules will affect how they work.

Also see:

More investors are using advisors while managing portfolios themselves

Brookfield expands hedge fund business into Europe

How advisors are helping small business owners manage debt and even reinvent themselves

Nervy stock markets spark records in derivatives trading

Three ways advisors can transform their relationships with clients in 2022

What you and your clients need to know

Bitcoin throws tantrum like a 13-year-old

The original cryptocurrency is embarking on its teenage years, and while it’s showing signs of becoming a mature financial asset, experts warn to watch out for those tantrums. It’s also no longer acting as a hedge against inflation. Lisa Pauline Mattackal and Medha Singh report on its journey and what lies ahead.

Anxious about math? Here’s how it’s affecting your finances

People who are anxious about math can feel nervous, scared, or panicked when faced with anything involving the subject, one expert says. The media also has a role to play in that. Leah Golob reports on how this feeling can worsen on the false belief that mathematical intelligence is an indicator of overall intelligence.

Why girl green power is on the rise

Women and girls have the most to lose when it comes to the harmful effects of climate change because 80 per cent of those displaced by climate-related disasters and changes globally are female, according to recent research. Juliette Baxter talks to three remarkable women leading the charge toward a more sustainable future in Canada and around the world.

Compiled by Globe Advisor staff

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