Skip to Main Content

Cutting Edge: Champion Strategies from an Athlete-Turned-Advisor

Advisor Markus Leminen shares the insights he’s carried over from his previous career as a world-class figure skater.

February 2022

Photo of Markus Leminen

Markus Leminen

Partner, Wealth Achievers, Investia Financial Services Inc.

Read bio

Advisor or athlete – drive and dedication matter

Before I became an Advisor, I was an athlete. As a six-time national figure skating champion in Finland, I had the opportunity to travel the globe and learn from some of the sport’s greats. That, in fact, is what brought me to Canada. In the late 1990s, I moved to Barrie, Ontario, to train with competitors like Canadian figure skating legend Elvis Stojko. And about 10 years ago, another Canadian champion, Jennifer Robinson, helped set the stage for my career as an Advisor. She introduced me to a friend who ran an investment firm, and he was generous enough to take me under his wing. The rest, as they say, is history.

While figure skating is still a major part of my life, I’ve been able to carry over many lessons from sports into my Advisory practice. I volunteer as a coach three times a week, and whether I’m working with a young skater or an investor, my job is the same: to give the best advice possible from a place of knowledge and experience. Sports also teaches kids important skills that they can take with them all their lives, like drive and dedication. A famous Canadian coach of mine used to say this about practice: “Be the first one in and the last one out.” That’s stuck with me ever since because it’s equally applicable to the world of wealth management. If you’re dedicated and put in the work, your clients will notice and be more inclined to trust your advice.

Whether I’m working with a young skater or an investor, my job is the same: to give the best advice possible from a place of knowledge and experience.

Servicing high-net-worth clientele

Through both my sports background and my Finnish heritage, I’ve been able to make connections that have contributed to my unique list of clients. Ex-athletes make up around 10% of my book, and they include former Canadian champions, athletes from other countries, and hockey players. Building a personal relationship with these clients is natural because we have something in common. And in my experience, ex-athletes understand the long-term. They know not to expect results overnight. Investing is a process, just like sports, and we as Advisors expect performance results to mature and improve over time much as any athlete would.

I also advise a number of major real estate developers in Toronto and Barrie. In fact, there are quite a few developers from Finland that have come to Canada, and I’ve been fortunate to cultivate referrals from many of them. Because of the high-income individuals in my book, I have found the average size of assets under management is relatively high. But for me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a $10 million client or a $10,000 client—I always strive to provide the same exemplary level of service to everyone.

In my experience, ex-athletes understand the long-term. They know not to expect results overnight.

The value of teamwork

I’m a huge team player, which is part of the reason I joined Wealth Achievers—a registered trade name of Investia Financial Services Inc.—from IG Wealth Management in 2020. From the start, Jason Miller, my friend and the founder of Wealth Achievers, and I had the same philosophy: on a fundamental level, we just want to do the right thing for people. With the help of our team, we’re able to manage separate books of business while backing each other up—if, for instance, one of us can’t be at the office or something has to be taken care of in a hurry. And, like any great team, we each have our separate skills and roles which I think is a real strength. The support is what allows me to focus on what’s most important: working with clients, educating and advising them on their finances, and seeking out new business.

That said, building a winning culture isn’t always easy—it’s only natural that you’re going to have disagreements from time to time. When I was on the Grand Prix figure skating circuit, I’d spend about five months of the year on the road traveling to major tournaments like the European and World Championships. I’d stay at hotels, which sounds exciting, but which can become very tiresome, and I’d have no choice but to learn to get along with the people around me, some of whom were my competitors. The lesson I learned is that, whether in sports or business, you simply have to find common ground—otherwise, you’re going to be one lonely soul.

Building a lasting connection with clients

Oftentimes, after I’ve handed a prospective client my business card, they’ll go home and Google my name. Then they’ll call me up and ask: “Hey! Are you that guy on Eurosport?” My situation is unique, of course, but that kind of immediate familiarity gives clients a sense of trust right off the bat.

Surface-level familiarity isn’t enough, though. To be able to successfully advise a client, you need to understand their goals, be able to anticipate their concerns, and know what their endgame is. I touch base with my clients constantly, and make sure to schedule longer meetings with them at least three or four times per year, either in person or virtually over Zoom or Teams. We also send out a weekly newsletter. Most importantly, my clients know that I’ll be there for them whenever they need me. Often, clients will call just because they want to come in and have a chat over coffee. Other times, a client will drop by my office in Barrie on their way up to the cottage. We may not even discuss their investments. It’s all about comfort, because Advising is, at its core, a business of personal relationships. Getting to know each other is the foundation of any successful Advisor-client partnership.

Like so many others, the pandemic has obviously had a tremendous effect on my business and the way I interact with clients. As a small team, we’ve been able to run a very tight ship at the office in terms of health and safety protocols like sanitization and mask-wearing. This has allowed us to continue to see clients in-person on a limited basis, which has been especially beneficial for elderly clients, some of whom aren’t comfortable with virtual conferencing technologies. That adaptability—tailoring our service to the individual—is one of our ongoing strengths. Some clients would just prefer to look you in the eye and sign documents right in front of you rather than on a computer, and that’s something we’re happy to accommodate as long as we can do so safely.

Getting to know each other is the foundation of any successful Advisor-client partnership.

Let the experts be experts

As Advisors, there are times when we need to put our egos aside and not try to be jacks-of-all-trades. I had a recent conversation with someone who asked: “Do you think the head coach of the Maple Leafs is coaching the goalies?” And I said no, because they’ve got a goalie coach for that. I view myself as something of a head coach—an overseer, someone who concentrates on the big picture—and am happy to let others contribute on their areas of expertise. If you know your own strengths, you can rely on your colleagues’ strengths, and everyone will benefit.

Markus Leminen on BMO Global Asset Management

What I really like about BMO’s Covered Call Suite, such as the BMO Covered Call Canadian Banks ETF Fund, is the dividend yield. Recently, we’ve been in a period of significant market volatility, and in that environment, there’s real value in lowering your downside and ensuring enhanced income through the options premium. For the time being, it’s a great space to be in. And when it comes to these and other insights, I’ve received great support from Ed Ku, my BMO Global Asset Management wholesaler. I receive an email from him almost daily, and he’s a fabulous resource whether I need information on a BMO product or strategies to grow my practice.

For ideas to grow your practice, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative today.

Investia Financial Services Inc. Disclosures:

Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Please read the prospectus of the mutual funds in which you invest. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended to constitute specific legal, accounting, financial or tax advice for any individual.

BMO Global Asset Management Disclosures:

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name that comprises BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc.

Any statement that necessarily depends on future events may be a forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Although such statements are based on assumptions that are believed to be reasonable, there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations. Investors are cautioned not to rely unduly on any forward-looking statements. In connection with any forward-looking statements, investors should carefully consider the areas of risk described in the most recent simplified prospectus.

This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.

Commissions, management fees and expenses (if applicable) all may be associated with investments in mutual funds. Trailing commissions may be associated with investments in certain series of securities of mutual funds. Please read the fund facts, ETF facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

For a summary of the risks of an investment in the BMO Mutual Funds, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus. ETF Series of the BMO Mutual Funds trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

BMO Mutual Funds are managed by BMO Investments Inc., which is an investment fund manager and a separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.

®/™Registered trade-marks/trade-mark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

* As compared to an investment that generates an equivalent amount of interest income.

®/™Registered trade-marks/trade-mark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

BMO Global Asset Management is the brand name for various affiliated entities of BMO Financial Group that provide investment management, and trust and custody services. BMO Global Asset Management comprises BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc. Certain of the products and services offered under the brand name, BMO Global Asset Management are designed specifically for various categories of investors in a number of different countries and regions and may not be available to all investors. Products and services are only offered to such investors in those countries and regions in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of Bank of Montreal (BMO).

BMO ETFs are managed and administered by BMO Asset Management Inc., an investment fund manager and portfolio manager and separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal. Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in exchange traded funds. Please read the prospectus before investing.

Exchange traded funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.

BMO Mutual Funds are managed by BMO Investments Inc., which is an investment fund manager and a separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.

Commissions, trailing commissions (if applicable), management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the ETF facts, fund facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.

For a summary of the risks of an investment in the BMO Mutual Funds, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus. ETF Series of the BMO Mutual Funds trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

BMO Life Assurance Company is the issuer of the BMO Segregated Funds individual variable insurance contract referred to in the Information Folder and the guarantor of any guarantee provisions therein. The BMO GIF Information Folder and Policy Provisions provide full details and govern in all cases. BMO GIF products are offered through BMO Life Assurance, a separate legal entity than BMO Global Asset Management and wholly owned by BMO Financial Group. Segregated funds are only available for sale by individuals with appropriate insurance licences and are not considered a mutual fund. Segregated fund fees are higher than mutual funds as they include insurance fees to provide for the guarantees on deposits at maturity or on death.