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One advisor says it’s key for a team to embrace the concept of remaining students of the business.PeopleImages

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Kathy McMillan, associate portfolio manager and investment advisor with McMillian Wealth Solutions at Richardson Wealth Ltd., took the 10 members of her Calgary-based team to a two-day retreat at a ski resort in the mountains a few weeks ago.

They worked with a business coach to set one-year and three-year professional goals. They toasted marshmallows around a campfire. They laughed, they played games, and they bonded.

The experience was one of the ways Ms. McMillan, included in The Globe and Mail and SHOOK Research’s Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors: Best in Province ranking, cultivates a close-knit team.

“It was essential to be away from the noise [and] to be walking and talking in nature. We do that in the fall every year,” she says.

“We [also] take a full day in the spring and go to a golf club or someplace that’s away from the office, and we rehash. … What was the to-do list from the fall and are we implementing everything that we were discussing and setting as goals?”

Grand objectives need to be monitored, she adds.

Ms. McMillan’s team spans the generations – the youngest is 24 and the oldest is 69 – and includes three senior advisors mentoring three successors. She sees the mix as a marriage of experience and wisdom with technology, analytical skills and formal education. All are valuable and can be directed toward the shared goal of serving clients’ needs.

“All [the members of] my team have their heart in it. They really, really care,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’m a boss. I’m a colleague, and I introduce them as colleagues.”

Chad Woolsey, senior financial advisor with Raymond James Ltd. in Saskatoon and fellow member of the Best in Province ranking, echoes that sentiment, saying that his three team members don’t see themselves as working for him. Rather, they work for the practice’s clients and develop direct relationships with them.

“It’s amazing how much further they’re willing to go when it’s structured that way as opposed to being siloed, sitting in the background doing something that’s rather repetitive and there’s a client name there but it doesn’t mean much to them,” he says. “That’s not the structure that we have.”

Of course, putting the focus squarely on meeting client needs is good for clients too. Mr. Woolsey says all his clients know they can talk to any team member about their situation and that person will either help them or arrange for another team member to step in as needed.

“It’s what I would look to find if I were seeking out this service for myself, so that’s what we’ve tried to build,” he says.

Encourage education, ownership of work

Mr. Woolsey adds that choosing team members for certain qualities can help a team gel. He describes the people he works with as knowledgeable professionals, full of integrity, and willing to work hard.

He also feels it’s key that they embrace the concept of remaining students of the business. To encourage that, “any and all continuing education or designations that have been approved are covered by myself or the firm in full.”

Joseph Bakish, portfolio manager, wealth advisor and investment advisor at Richardson Wealth in Montreal and another member of the ranking, invites his team of six to regular monthly meetings.

He always raises some topics to cover – such as keeping up with best practices or integrating technology improvements – but invariably leaves space for team members to bring up whatever they want to discuss. That kind of open, two-way communication is key to team-building.

Day to day, he strikes a balance between checking in and letting his team run with their own tasks. There’s no daily morning meeting, but team members take the initiative to ask each other questions whenever they need to.

“I don’t micromanage at all … because I have trust and confidence in them. That resonates throughout the whole practice for clients, and it also is great for team morale,” he says.

“They take ownership of things, and having teammates take ownership of responsibility really is the key for long-term relationship-building.”

Mr. Bakish says working from home hasn’t diminished communication within the team and may actually have amplified it. He’s heard about team members trading off babysitting, for example, which demonstrates they’ve got a solid bond that goes beyond their job.

They also celebrate each others’ milestones – facilitated by putting one person in charge of keeping track of everyone’s birthdays and special occasions.

Another benefit of remote work is that it has enabled some team members to become client-facing because they can join virtual meetings efficiently and still accomplish all their other responsibilities. He’s happy to step back and let them present, giving them the satisfaction of seeing their work through.

“They all feel like a part of a service that really helps people, and that’s a good motivator for anybody,” Mr. Bakish says.

“One of our biggest strengths we provide to our clients is a solid team. … Clients know that there’s this pool of experts, and a really tight-knit group of people working together, adds that intangible that allows them to have more long-term, lasting relationships with us.”

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