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Listening Before Leading: Secrets to an Advisor’s Growth Success

Financial planner Anthony Visconti shares how he turned a lifelong interest in investing into a thriving Advisory practice.

March 2022

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Anthony Visconti

Certified Financial Planner & Investment Representative, Visconti Financial Group Inc., Quadrus Investment Services Ltd.

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The power of listening

My practice has grown steadily over the past seven years, both in terms of number of clients and assets under management. Referrals from existing clients are my main source of new business, but I’ve also developed close relationships with other professionals—lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers, realtors—who often refer clients to me. In 2016, I acquired a small book of business from a retiring advisor, and more recently, I’ve been exploring the possibilities of using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool. In all cases, my focus remains the same: putting in the work with clients, going deeper to understand their needs, and continuing to add value to those relationships.

My clientele includes over 200 families, and while my practice provides a wide range of services, we do much of our best work advising those approaching retirement. Some have small businesses, some are senior executives of companies at which they’ve had long careers, but the one thing they tend to have in common is that they have multiple sources of income and assets. Gone are the days of retirees being able to rely solely on a pension from a single company; now, there may be a pension from a previous employer, a rental property that’s generating income, an RRSP, a TFSA, a potential inheritance, and more. There are often a lot of moving parts, and frequently I’m looked to as a quarterback—someone who can see the whole field and provide clarity. By putting the various puzzle pieces together, I can help create a congruent and logical plan for the client moving forward.

When onboarding new clients, my first step is a deep fact-finding process—going above and beyond to understand a client’s objectives and values. Oftentimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, and the initial meeting reveals unexpected dimensions to their goals, obstacles and time frame. It’s not just about making a high return—it might be about ensuring they can live independently, or that their kids will be provided for. On many occasions, my clients have said they’d never been asked these types of questions before. Once that initial fact-finding process is complete, we formalize an engagement agreement and dive into the details in subsequent discussions. Typically, it takes between two and four meetings over a several-week span to get a full plan put together. And my clients know that I’m always available for further discussion and adjustments.

Oftentimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

An enduring passion for investing

When I was a kid, my father was an investor—not a professional, but an enthusiastic and successful amateur. He used to get investment newsletters delivered to our home, and I can vividly remember running to the mailbox to grab them and read them before anyone else.

Investing became my passion, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I went on to study business in university. Gravitating towards finance, I spent much of my time reading and studying because, for me, it wasn’t just schoolwork—it was fun. A couple of my professors motivated me to get into the financial services industry and, after graduation, that’s exactly what I did, beginning my career at CIBC before being recruited by London Life/Freedom 55 Financial (now Canada Life Assurance Company).

Experience is something you can’t fake, and for me, those early years were really about drinking from the proverbial firehose and absorbing as much information as I could. After a period of intense learning at Freedom 55, I joined a boutique financial planning outfit in Newmarket. Then, in 2015, after years of additional experience, I incorporated my own practice to fully leverage my personalized approach to client service. Adding value to each client engagement has always been my top priority, and that philosophy has continued to guide me over the past seven years, helping grow my business by more than 221%.

Experience is something you can’t fake, and for me, those early years were really about drinking from the proverbial firehose and absorbing as much information as I could.

The two keys to success: flexibility and authenticity

My approach to client service can be summed up in two words: flexibility and authenticity.

Being flexible means listening to your clients—letting them lead where they want to go while guiding them with your experience and expertise. Mine is a financial planning-first model, and I take the time to really get to know my clients before diving into the details of investments, insurance, and so on. Quite often, I remind clients that their biggest problem in the moment may not be the biggest problem overall, and that keeping an eye on the future will allow us to better identify and achieve their long-term goals. It’s a measured approach, but it’s always served me and my clients well, and it has the benefit of forging personal relationships that can lead to referrals and growth.

Letting the client point the way can lead to some unusual situations. For instance, one of my clients recently told me that she’d like to sell her house and travel for a year. She’d been through some significant life changes recently and wanted some time to consider her future. Once I’d heard her perspective, we started discussing how to manage the money from the house sale. It was no different than if the client had been most concerned about something like retirement or taxes: I listened, asked questions, and put a plan into action.

Equally important as flexibility is authenticity. Regardless of their questions, my clients know that I’m going to provide constructive advice without sugarcoating anything. For me, part of building that trust has been switching to a fee-based model, which I did in 2017. It’s been a big transition, and while there are merits to a commission-based model, going fee-based has underscored the fact that my advice is truly aligned with their objectives. No matter the recommendation, my clients know that whatever solution I’m proposing is in their best interest. That kind of authenticity goes a long way.

Being flexible means listening to your clients—letting them lead where they want to go while guiding them with your experience and expertise.

Keeping an eye on the future

In this business, it’s never too early to think about the future. Though I’m only 38 and expect to have decades of rewarding work ahead of me, I’ve also got succession planning in the back of my mind. Hiring a paraplanner—a professional with experience who can assist with client service—is an immediate goal, and as that relationship evolves over time, they could potentially begin to build their own book and become a second Advisor within the practice.

That said, I can’t see myself retiring early. Financial planning is truly rewarding work, where you can make such a huge difference in people’s lives. In the end, what more could one ask for?

Anthony Visconti on BMO Global Asset Management

Depending on a client’s investment profile, comfort with risk and investment suitability, the BMO ETF Portfolios can be an efficient option for the average investor to gain access to the market. The BMO Concentrated Global Equity Fund provides investors with active portfolio management. BMO’s Covered Call Suite, such as the BMO Covered Call Canadian Banks ETF Fund provide solutions to potentially enhance yield in a tax-efficient way, and provide for retirement income in certain cases.

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

Quadrus Disclosures:

Insurance products, including segregated fund policies are offered through Visconti Financial Group Inc., and Investment Representative Anthony Visconti offers mutual funds and referral arrangements through Quadrus Investment Services Ltd. Quadrus, Quadrus Investment Services Ltd. and design are trademarks of Quadrus Investment Services Ltd. Used with permission.

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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.

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