A Transition Like No Other
Adam Seeto, Financial Advisor, Sterling Mutuals Inc., shares how he managed the successful transition of his father’s practice during a global pandemic – finding ways to enrich the client experience and make it his own.
Putting in the hours
I’ve always loved the fact that in business, the harder you work, the better results you get. I decided to join my father’s advisory practice in 2013 with a vision of taking over his book when the time was right. Due to COVID-19 and a health concern, the transition was fast-tracked, so my dad was able to retire earlier.
Coming in as a younger Advisor with an analytical, data science background, I’m always looking for ways to improve our service and bring something new to the table. From the introduction of software programs to streamlining our day-to-day operations to leveraging simplicity where possible, my focus is on true value add for our clients. That mindset also filters through to our investment approach: using more managed solutions, we don’t try to be stock pickers. Instead, we spend our time on where we can bring the most value, like financial planning, estate, tax and insurance strategies. As an example, we recently advised a woman in her late 60s that through pension splitting, she could collect just as much income than if she continued her employment – without the risk to her health during a global pandemic.
It’s all about helping people. I was always the type of person that when someone has a question, I’m happy to explain or walk them through it. That’s why this profession is so attractive to me, because the importance of the work motivates me to sustain those long hours. And clients recognize that, which in turn drives growth. Assets under management have increased more than 60% since I joined.
Coming in as a younger Advisor with an analytical background, I’m always looking for ways to improve our service and bring something new to the table.
Creating a smooth transition
The transition was a relatively smooth process, despite being earlier than planned. Since I worked in the business for about seven years before taking the reigns, clients knew me. And in the last year before COVID-19 hit, both my father and I were Advisors on every client account, so I had face-to-face interactions with everyone and was able to build that essential trust.
When a successor is not in the family, the handoff process can be more difficult because typically the buyer wants the seller to get out as quickly as possible. But it’s important to take the time and push for that in-depth conversation with clients. Why is the new Advisor well equipped and how are they a fit? For us, it was going beyond the financials to explain the cohesion and similarities they would experience moving forward. Fundamentally, I learned from my father, so we think in the same way when it comes to client service. Even though we experienced little client hesitation, having my father in my corner throughout provided vital support and continuity, and I was able to pick up right where he left off.
For us, it was going beyond the financials to explain the cohesion and similarities they would experience moving forward.
New age, new ideas
I’ve also since introduced ways to enhance our service offering that helped, including an agenda with explanations for all my recommendations. That resource is what I give our clients after our meetings, because this way, they don’t forget what we’ve just discussed and they know I’ve done my due diligence. Clients appreciate that transparency. It’s also a win for compliance because it’s easily scanned into our back-office system, so there are no regulatory issues in the future.
Our industry has shifted into a new age of documentation. It’s no longer just about discussion – clients need to understand what you’re suggesting and why. And if they ever forget, they can always refer back to that document I provide, which also serves as a practical checkpoint to ensure I’ve followed up and addressed each item accordingly.
Our industry has shifted into a new age of documentation. It’s no longer just about discussion – clients need to understand what you’re suggesting and why.
Ultimately, what resonates the most with our clients is transparency and independent advice. For portfolios, we rely more on proven managed solutions that deliver sound performance from a trusted partner that helps me focus on what I do best. I’ll also use Morningstar software to keep watch on a set of complementary funds to avoid complication. It’s about simplifying investment management as much as possible to allow us to provide high-touch service and continuous value add.
For example, I’ll often help clients structure investment properties so that the interest is tax deductible, or I will guide them on the right questions to ask when creating wills so they aren’t overcharged for basic services. I won’t be paid for that time, but it’s about building a long-term relationship and bringing awareness to issues they need to understand.
Virtual communication and its many applications have also helped tremendously in terms of client pain points. I’m able to just share my screen and show them exactly where to go to find the specific information we need. The bulk of my clients are pre-retirees, so even small
like telling them how to find CPP and OAS online is now much easier, and though it’s not my focus, I know how much it impacts their financial situation. I’m also able to connect digitally wherever and whenever so clients can obtain what they need when it’s convenient for them.
The bulk of my clients are pre-retirees, so even small things like telling them how to find CPP and OAS online is now much easier, and though it’s not my focus, I know how much it impacts their financial situation.
Striking the right balance
Moving forward, I’m looking to bring in a licensed assistant Advisor, so when I’m ready to retire, or there’s an unexpected event, there will be a sound succession plan in place. Importantly, it will be with someone who intimately understands my philosophy and my clients’ needs. Who is going to support me down the road and ensure continuity? That’s a process I would like to start within the next 10 years because I never want to leave people hanging. Our clients know they’ll always be well taken care of with us.
In my mind, balance is the ideal target. Not just growth for growth’s sake. And we’re achieving this in a number of ways: from setting minimum thresholds to aligning my own values with clients, to servicing a smaller book so we’re always able to deliver that high quality of service and expertise people have come to expect from us. Because ultimately, we’re working in a service industry, so clients come first.
Adam Seeto on BMO Global Asset Management
We think BMO ETF Portfolios are an effective core strategy, because at the end of the day, they offer both equity and fixed income exposure. Not everyone has a CFA that knows how to value a stock or bond to the ninth degree. Fundamentally, we want to help the client understand how much risk they’re taking and what returns they should expect, so these funds are ideal since they provide broad diversification at a low cost. Another pick for our portfolios is the BMO Covered Call Canadian Banks ETF Fund as banks provide stable income – even through turbulent times. That’s something easy and tangible clients can always understand, so it’s a great product to integrate. We also like BMO Sustainable Opportunities Global Equity Fund because I think ESG issues will become increasingly important as we move forward.
For more ideas to enhance your practice, or build a resilient portfolio, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative.
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