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Production data has value as a way to gauge an advisor’s experience, but taking it out of the ranking algorithm allows advisors’ other qualities to shine.MicroStockHub/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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An adjustment to the ranking algorithm, an influx of nominations, and the introduction of the Best in Province rankings have changed the face of – and some of the faces featured in – The Globe and Mail and SHOOK Research’s second annual Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors.

The biggest methodological change between the way advisors were selected for the first and second annual lists was motivated by the implementation of the Canadian Securities Administrators’ client-focused reforms.

“[As of] the end of last year, advisors now were not allowed to promote any award that ties to revenue or production numbers, so we removed that from our ranking algorithm,” says Callie Almes, senior associate vice president and project leader at SHOOK Research LLC in Boca Raton, Fla. “We still have the firms verify the data … but they’re not used in the ranking algorithm.”

RJ Shook, SHOOK Research’s co-founder and president, welcomes the change because it aligns with his team’s emphasis on qualitative data.

“Every other ranking focuses on the quantitative side … but how do you recommend an advisor based on how much money they make?” he asks.

Mr. Shook says production data has value as a way to gauge an advisor’s experience, but taking it out of the ranking algorithm allows advisors’ other qualities to shine through.

“We want the industry to get away from the numbers and focus on the quality and the impact on clients’ lives,” he says.

“Every time we talk to an advisor, we’re thinking, ‘Is this someone I would recommend to a family member or friend?’ And certainly, we’re not going to ask the advisor, ‘How much money do you make?’ Why would we care about that?”

In the end, Mr. Shook says that removing production didn’t have a big impact on the ranking’s composition, although it did have some effect on the order of names within the list.

Many more submissions in 2022

“What changed the order even more is the fact that this is the second year we’ve published [Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors], and we had a lot more advisors who were nominated,” Mr. Shook says.

In fact, Ms. Almes estimates that SHOOK Research received about 40 per cent more nominations in 2022 compared to 2021. As a result, there was much stiffer competition to get into the top 1,054 who were invited to complete surveys.

Mr. Shook reviewed each of those completed surveys personally before passing them along to his research director. Then, a research team of 24 got to work. They analyzed the responses, dug deeper for additional information, and followed up with advisors through telephone, videoconference and in-person meetings. All of that information contributed to compiling the final list of 150 top wealth advisors across the country.

“Every year, we’re adding more questions, so we go deeper with advisors [and] we learn more about them,” Mr. Shook says. “There are certain characteristics that we look for in advisors [that indicate] how they impact clients’ lives [including] the best practices, service models, investing process, how their teams work together, how they rely on specialists.”

There are also characteristics that the research team found make great advisors, he adds.

What SHOOK Research has learned from its work with advisors in Canada and the U.S. is that advisors who are considered innovators and who are more purposeful in their work tend to rise to the top. To assess a quality like innovation, the team has to stay one step ahead and understand where the industry is headed so it can tell if an advisor is out in front.

“The industry is always changing,” Mr. Shook says. “The question is, are the advisors changing with the industry?”

Local insight through Best in Province rankings

One further change in 2022 is the inclusion of Best in Province rankings, which launches on Nov. 9. Identifying top advisors in every province shines a spotlight on advisors doing great work outside Canada’s biggest cities.

“Focusing on some of those smaller provinces, where a lot of advisors are not as out in front of the general population [gives a higher profile to] those advisors who aren’t getting the recognition they may deserve,” Ms. Almes says.

The Best in Province ranking also make this year’s list easier to use for clients who are in search of a local advisor, says Fiona Collie, program manager, business and financial products, at The Globe and Mail in Toronto.

“This is a great way of showcasing the work that advisors do [and] how they’re working with clients,” she says. “It’s about … who is providing that full service for their clients and who’s going above and beyond.”

The list also benefits advisors, Ms. Collie adds – even those who don’t appear on it.

She notes that it represents an opportunity to learn how top advisors run their businesses and approach client relationships, and perhaps incorporate some best practices into their own work.

“Advisors can always learn from other advisors,” she adds.

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