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Dynamic Duo: Lessons from a Winning Partnership

Advisors Stéphane Arcache and Mitchell Mares reveal the key to staying in step with their clients – and each other.

February 2022

Stéphane Arcache

Mitchell Mares

After knowing each other professionally for over a decade, Advisors Stéphane Arcache and Mitchell Mares, Investment Advisors at PEAK Securities Inc., teamed up to grow their business. The secret to sustaining their successful partnership – and integrating the books they buy – is a focus on fit, and a strategy that’s always aligned with client goals.

The power of partnership

We first met over a decade ago working together at PEAK in Montreal and, over time, realized that beyond similar values and a common investment philosophy, we were both driven. In 2018, we decided to take the next step, joining forces. Teaming up had the intended result: a partnership that immediately created value.

Not only did we double the size of our administrative staff, and develop a more robust infrastructure to better serve clients, but we also merged complementary skill sets. For example, Stéphane’s background is in insurance and retirement planning, so those have been part of our DNA from the beginning. These disciplines are key to our offering, and demonstrate our focus on developing a long-term strategy to achieve client goals.

While each member of our team at large is essentially responsible for their own client base, at the end of the day, we’re Steph and Mitch – a duo. From day-to-day matters to more complex situations, someone is always

there to help. And while there’s the practicality of redundancy, and two heads are better than one, when we got together, we had a bigger picture in mind. First – succession; our clients can count on continuity for the next 10-15 years. And equally critical, our structure has positioned us well for growth – one of our shared goals from the start.

When there’s a natural fit in terms of philosophy, strategic growth through acquisition can make a lot of sense.

Growth at a reasonable price

We’ve always been growth-oriented, but we’re selective in how we take on new business. We have a three-pronged approach: organic growth through client referrals; recommendations from our professional network, such as accountants or mortgage brokers with whom we have good relationships; and finally, acquiring books from retiring Advisors. Here, the most important consideration for us is fit. We’ve successfully integrated books in the past, when they’ve been right for us, and are in progress again now, as we speak.

We zero in on opportunities for growth at a reasonable price. Because referrals alone are sufficient to bolster our revenue stream, what we look for in an acquisition is quality, not quantity. In fact, we’ve turned down a few peers with a high volume of accounts because we want to ensure that existing clients continue to receive optimal service levels. Doing right by them is our first priority. But, when there’s a natural fit in terms of philosophy, strategic growth through acquisition can make a lot of sense. And our infrastructure lends itself perfectly.

For the last few years, we’ve been concentrating on smaller transactions, so we can onboard efficiently. And we’re pacing these out, to spend the time necessary with new clients, and also give them 100%. Continuity is crucial; the outgoing broker will work with us anywhere from a few months to a year, whatever it takes to smoothly pass the baton.

When the fit is exactly right – and that’s been the case as we’ve acquired books from other PEAK Advisors – everything just clicks. It’s almost seamless, and that makes such a difference to the client.

We start with a meaningful conversation – taking the time to really understand where clients are coming from and where they want to go.

Fit is an ongoing process

Our industry can often be very fee- and return-oriented; it’s easy to get bogged down in the details of individual stocks, and forget what matters most to people. So, when we meet a prospective client, we simply ask: What’s your end game? We start with a meaningful conversation – taking the time to really understand where they are coming from and where they want to go. That’s the springboard to creating an individualized plan to achieve their goals, supported by a tailored investment strategy.

We don’t focus on one particular niche or set specific asset limits; as long as we’re on the same page, we’re open for business. We’re looking to work with people who share our long-term mindset and understand the importance of planning vs stock picking, because fundamentally, we all invest for a purpose – retirement, a new home, legacy and so on. The result of mutual ‘vetting’ through a few preliminary sessions is that clients quickly learn who we are and what we’re all about, and they have a chance to communicate their needs. To us, there’s no reasonable expectation that’s too high.

Ensuring the right fit is an ongoing process. The classic once-a-year RRSP season touchpoint – that’s just not us. We often hear from clients that we’re approachable and present – any time they have a question, idea, or concern, we’re only a phone call or text away.

We were also able to hit the ground running at the start of the pandemic because we were prepared.

Lessons from the pandemic

The past two years have been a challenging experience for everyone, and as Advisors, we’ve learned a lot. With the economic downturn in early 2020 and an overall mood of uncertainty, clients were especially eager to stay up-to-date. So, instead of typical hour-long meetings where you review everything from A to Z, we got together more often for targeted 15–20-minute Zoom sessions. Clients appreciate that it’s easier to concentrate and stay engaged with this approach.

We were also able to hit the ground running at the start of the pandemic because we were prepared. We’d already been cloud-based for five or six years; and even before COVID-19, we thought being online would be useful for things like document sharing, without having to print off dozens and dozens of pages. While none of us could have anticipated just how essential applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams would become, we’d already embraced new technologies, which gave us the flexibility to seamlessly transition to the virtual space when that became necessary.

Though it sounds counter-intuitive without face-to-face meetings, the pandemic has humanized our practice even more. Mitch has young kids, occasionally in the background of a Zoom call, and the baby monitor is in plain sight on the desk. Clients see real life; we’re authentic and honest because relationship-building is our business. People have to genuinely like you as a person and feel comfortable – without that they might not stick around, even if you’re the best Advisor in town.

Advice on teaming up

For investment professionals thinking of teaming up, it’ll come as no surprise that we reiterate: it all comes down to fit. Whether it’s joining forces with another Advisor, dealing with a seller, or a prospective client – get to know them well. If you enter a partnership just because you need a bit more support, or someone to handle your clients when you’re away, the whole process can derail. There has to be a deeper compatibility and alignment of philosophies. Working side-by-side for many years, we knew that our personalities gelled, let alone our business approach. So, if you find someone who is equally motivated to serve clients, enhance their offering – and grow – consider taking the leap.

Stéphane Arcache and Mitchell Mares on BMO Global Asset Management

What we like about BMO ETF Portfolios is their simplicity. And the corporate class structure is a big plus. We often talk about the combination of active and passive management with clients, and with these portfolios, you get the best of both worlds. They include the benefits of a low-cost, passive approach, but offer increased flexibility – they’re not just set-it-and-forget-it.

For ideas to grow your practice, or information about how BMO ETF Portfolios can benefit your clients, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative today.

PEAK Securities Inc. Disclosures

Stéphane Arcache and Mitchell Mares are Investment Advisors attached to PEAK Securities Inc. and are also independent Financial security advisors with the AMF. PEAK Securities Inc. is a full-service dealer that is registered with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and whose activities involve investment products, including stocks, bonds and mutual funds. PEAK Securities Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Please see https://cipf.ca for more details.

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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.

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