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The low-interest rate environment that followed the global financial crisis and ended last year created an unprecedented bull market, leading many investors to question the value of financial advice. That pushed many advisors to go beyond providing just investment advice by adding holistic wealth management services to their practices, such as tax and insurance planning.
The evolving needs of an aging population with an impending wealth transfer have also led to a greater need for living benefits advice and estate planning. The pandemic highlighted having an empathetic, personalized approach. With client expectations at an all-time high, it’s become critical for advisors to be able to cater to clients’ every need.
“In the past, you could get away with being a generalist,” says Maili Wong, senior wealth advisor and senior portfolio manager with The Wong Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. in Vancouver. “But less so today. The stakes are way higher.”
Enter the dream teams of today – carefully curated offices staffed with experts boasting a variety of specializations and lengthy credentials. These teams include chartered financial analysts, certified financial planners, and insurance and tax experts. These advisory team members work together to ensure they’re addressing client needs holistically, whether that’s by holding joint meetings or employing software that manages each client’s suite of products.
The model is decidedly like that of a family office – a private wealth management firm that works with ultra-high-net-worth families to deliver a high level of service. At the same time, advisors recognize that augmenting their offerings with outside experts, each steeped in their area of specialty, is still necessary – and good for business.
“At the end of the day, I have a dream team but it’s also good to work with outside specialists,” says Guy Côté, senior wealth advisor and portfolio manager with Guy Côté Integrated Wealth Management Team at National Bank Financial Wealth Management in Montreal.
‘A bespoke solution’
Advisors have always focused on tailoring their investment offerings to client needs. But now that customized approach includes diversifying into other areas, providing a very robust basket of financial products – along with a focus on customer service.
“Clients are seeking an integrated approach,” says Debra Wooding, investment advisor and portfolio manager with The Wooding Group at CIBC Wood Gundy in Calgary. “And people want simplification.”
In the past, a client would visit five or six advisors for guidance on a variety of issues. Now, advisor teams are staffed with specialists who can work alongside other advisors to provide answers in one visit or call.
“It’s a bespoke solution,” Ms. Wooding says.
Hiring the team is a careful process in ensuring candidates are a good fit, she says. A big part of managing a dream team is ensuring that team members work well together, ensuring there is little, if any, turnover.
To that end, there is a lot of internal hiring, creating pathways for talented staffers familiar with the firm’s internal processes and approaches, Ms. Wooding says. Senior team members sit in on final interviews with the ability to weigh in on a candidate’s suitability.
Cross-training also ensures that team members can provide advice on a wide range of topics if a colleague isn’t present, Ms. Wooding says.
At Ms. Wong’s office, having a wide breadth of expertise can prompt conversations with clients about topics beyond a review of their investment portfolios.
“Even if clients aren’t outwardly requesting it, they may want to know more about starting an education fund for their kids. Or the tax implications of their retirement planning,” she says.
Holistic-minded advisors have the capability to handle these types of topics as well as provide what she calls a high level of “care factor.”
Using technology with teams
Many advisor dream teams are also turning to technological solutions to serve their clients. Ms. Wong says her firm utilizes a client relationship management tool that has “been an absolute enabler for us.”
The software allows team members to view a checklist of action items for every client, as well as timelines, allowing each specialist to fill in any service needs that may have been overlooked. Plus, it frees up team members to concentrate on servicing clients and building new business rather than performing manual tasks, Ms. Wong says.
In addition to using technology to track a client’s investments and financial needs, Ms. Wong says she also relies on short daily meetings with her team to determine what issues need to be resolved – and what targets are being met.
In addition, a strategic consultant also visits the team quarterly to ensure goals are being met and “that everyone is accountable,” she says.
Despite the comprehensive offerings of advisory dream teams, there is still a need to bring in outside guidance when necessary, Mr. Côté says. He says many of his clients have worked with the same accountant for years, and he always recommends that if they’re happy with their services, they should continue that relationship.
His team fosters collaboration with these outside specialists. Ms. Wong too says she relies on outside research consultants, cross-border lawyers and mentors.
“More eyes on the files is good,” Mr. Côté says. “We can all work together.”
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