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All the advisors on SHOOK Research and The Globe and Mail’s inaugural edition of Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors ranking are creating value for clients by having shifted their practices away from just stock picking to a more holistic wealth management approach.Dilok Klaisataporn/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

One of the best compliments Peter Kirby has received in the past two decades as a financial advisor comes from the spouses of various clients who thanked him for enabling their loved ones to retire earlier than planned.

“You’re buying people time – there’s no better compliment you could ever get,” says Mr. Kirby, a former entrepreneur, who is now director, wealth management, senior vice-president and senior investment advisor with Kirby Private Wealth at Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, where he has spent the last 16 years.

He also says it “means a lot” every time a client sends his team money to invest.

“They’re effectively saying, ‘Here, hold my wallet for the next 20 years or so.’ They’re putting a lot of trust in us,” says Mr. Kirby, whose team provides investment guidance to high-net-worth clients. The unit is integrated within Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management’s investment banking arm, which allows it to provide certain investors with access to private placements and new issue opportunities based on suitability.

These are some of the offerings he says help him and his team stand apart at a time of rising competition in the investment industry and increasing investor expectations. His approach to managing client relationships and expectations has earned him a spot on SHOOK Research and The Globe and Mail’s inaugural edition of Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors.

In fact, all the advisors in the ranking – regardless of where they are in the country or at which firm they run their businesses – are creating value for clients by having shifted their practices away from just stock picking to a more holistic wealth management approach that includes investment, tax, legal, business and estate planning, and even philanthropy. In addition, these advisors are also approaching their work more like therapists, applying behavioural economics to their relationships with clients to keep them on track with their financial goals.

“I try to tell my clients, ‘Sometimes, what I’m going to try to do is just keep you from getting in trouble,’” says Mr. Kirby, such as when he’s protecting their investments during panic selling that causes stock markets to tumble or when they’re considering buying into a risky investment that might derail their plan. “A lot of times, the value of an advisor is just managing clients’ expectations.”

Guiding and educating clients

Laura Barclay, vice-president and senior portfolio manager at TD Wealth Private Investment Counsel in Markham, Ont., also says behavioural economics is a big part of an advisor’s job today, as well as providing clients with individualized wealth management plans.

Ms. Barclay, who has also been recognized in the ranking, refers to her role as a “puzzle constructor,” who works with a broader team of investment, tax and legal professionals to develop more effective and well-rounded financial and estate plans.

She says good advisors help clients think through their unique family and business circumstances and guide them to better understand the choices they’re making on everything from buying property and investing to transferring wealth to the next generation.

“When I’m bringing folks on to my team, I look for people who are really thoughtful in the understanding that it is our privilege to serve these families,” she says. “It’s our job to take care of clients and their wealth.”

She says advisors should also work with families to help teach their children to respect and govern family wealth. Advisors also need to be prepared to “have the hard conversations,” with clients, which might include putting in place prenuptial agreements or reviewing estate plans – with the support of legal professionals.

“Having advisors who are willing to educate multi-generations, and just really be a service provider, is critical,” she says.

Ms. Barclay has also focused her practice on helping women become more financially savvy and empowered, whether they’re housewives, running a business, or retired.

“It’s important that women are at the table,” she says. “Even if the men are leading the discussion, their wives need to be included because, just from a basic demographics’ standpoint, women will often outlive men and need to be informed.”

The ‘customized’ approach

Christina Anthony, vice-president, director, portfolio manager and investment advisor at Odlum Brown Ltd. in Vancouver and one of Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors, says the role of an advisor today is to help clients “move themselves, their lives and their families forward.”

She sees her role as a quarterback that lines up the direction of the other players on a wealth management team.

“The advisor should be at the centre point of where all those professional advisory services intersect,” she says. “It means taking the responsibility to get to know as much information as they can about the person … and really getting to the heart of what they’re actually trying to do and accomplish in their lives now and in the future.”

Ms. Anthony says the value advisors bring is recognizing that every client requires individualized wealth and estate plans. Advisors need to consider each client’s unique tax planning needs that are specific to their income and assets and come up with an investment approach that meets their goals and values. For example, a client might be interested in sustainable investing or want to put their money in specific sectors or jurisdictions.

“There are myriad reasons why customized portfolio management is so important for people,” she says. “Good advisors are those who can both listen and then provide a real customized approach – and not just say it’s customized, but truly customize it. Because every individual is different.”

Ms. Anthony says some of the best compliments she gets from clients are when her team helps them navigate through challenging periods, such as a divorce, illness, or even death. They’re grateful to know the advisory team is looking after their financial well-being.

Even as technology slowly chips away at the financial advisory industry, Ms. Anthony believes many investors will continue to work with human advisors who provide personalized services and advice.

It’s up to advisors to ensure that they’re continuously evolving to provide clients with the service and advice they need.

“[Advisors] provide a day-by-day, quarter-by-quarter, year-by-year relationship,” she says. “That’s the part that you don’t get from an online brokerage relationship – and that’s where advisors can add a lot of value over time.”