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Next Level Client Education: A Winning Strategy

Portfolio managers Scott Bonertz and Thomas Diederichs explain how education and financial planning can be winning combination for Advisors to attract clients.

November 2020

Scott Bonertz

CIM® Portfolio Manager and Life Insurance Agent, Raymond James Ltd.

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Thomas Diederichs

CIM® Portfolio Manager, Raymond James Ltd.

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Innovating to attract clients, Scott Bonertz and Thomas Diederichs, portfolio managers, Raymond James, developed a unique academic approach. These partners share their successful strategy – and explain how education and financial planning can be a winning combination for Advisors.

Teach a man to fish

Building a book of business through education came to us as a microcosm of an idea, and very quickly became one of our biggest sources of new clientele, allowing us to continually expand our practice with motivated candidates.

When we partnered to launch our business three decades ago, the concept of providing lessons in the fundamentals of investing and estate planning was almost unheard of at the time. But we found that there was a clear and growing demand among Calgarians to understand how to invest and achieve results driven by goals. We were right. Our experience has proven that well-informed investors not only make wiser financial choices, they also tend to use that knowledge in their conversations with family and friends – becoming a valued referral source.

Aside from the benefits to our practice, we also recognize the intrinsic value of client education. As November marks the 10th anniversary of the Financial Literacy Month,1 the reality is that amidst a pandemic many Canadians are finding themselves at a crossroads, where an informed decision could secure or unravel their finances.

While it may seem unnecessary to some, our experience has proven that well-informed investors not only make wiser financial choices, they also tend to use that knowledge in their conversations with family and friends – becoming a valued referral source.

4 benefits from the classroom

Our financial curriculum typically attracts those in their mid to late 50s. Almost half of the students in each class are couples, followed by singles – mainly spouses who have never engaged in financial planning.

And while our fundamental focus is on the enhancement of investment knowledge, through teaching, we've discovered a way to build our business. Here's how:

  1. Access to prospective clients: Teaching multiple courses throughout the year, we not only reach the attendees, but also their extended network of contacts. From pre-retirees who have put off investing, to spouses whom have never engaged in financial planning to those simply looking to enhance their investment knowledge beyond an annual statement, the classes attract a wide variety of people with a demonstrated interest, who are there because they are motivated to seek information and understanding.
  2. Helping others make informed decisions: Our course does not focus on investing alone. As fully licensed portfolio managers (PM) and insurance Advisors, we go into broader, more personal topics from wills and estate planning to retirement and taxation, which further enriches the individual in-class relationships and adds value for attendees.
  3. An approach that engenders trust: Our commitment to this course is on a quid pro quo basis. Besides making our knowledge and assessment available free of charge, we also maintain that there is no obligation to sign us on as Advisors. We’re there first and foremost to empower, and to provide practical and relevant wealth preservation insights. This adds to our credibility, and leads to a significant number of participants asking to continue working with us as their advisor.
  4. Foundation for a long-term relationship: Notably, many attendees seek to engage our services after they’ve taken a course, and have seen us in action. In fact, when we review the make up of our clients, it's clear to us that those who've taken the course -- and gained that educational foundation - turn out to be the best clients by far. In the end, we have a good understanding of their retirement and financial needs and receive feedback that fortifies our efforts such as, “I wish I had met you 25 years ago” or “I have to send my kids in to meet with you as well.”

We’re there first and foremost to empower, and to provide practical and relevant wealth preservation insights. This adds to our credibility, and leads to a significant number of participants asking to continue working with us as their advisor.

Going above and beyond

Many of our clients have been with us since the start, and part of the reason for this is the trust we reinforce through our course: our Advisor role goes beyond investment expertise. Our clients rely on us for essential guidance on both personal and professional life decisions from a death in the family to negotiating the purchase of a car. We also leverage our network of contacts so our clients never have to worry about credentials, making introductions where required to help them achieve long-term success. We don’t focus on product, and certainly do not sell the notion that we can guarantee returns every single time. Instead, we emphasize planning, defining and meeting goals, reaffirming that the most important thing isn’t that you make money when the markets are up, but that you don’t lose money when they fall. Our objective is to help clients answer the big question: how do you structure your investment portfolio and insurance plans using strategies that achieve goals at the right level of risk.

Our objective is to help clients answer the big question: how do you structure your investment portfolio and insurance plans using strategies that achieve goals at the right level of risk?

Looking ahead: more outreach

Given the overwhelming response to our course – evident in the number of participants who’ve become both clients and referrals sources – we have expanded our team, bringing in associates who can relate to a younger demographic in the classroom. While this is a departure from our usual target clientele, our goal is to tap into the growing trend2 of saving and investing among Canadian youth that has spiked further since the start of this crisis.

Similarly, we’re deeply engaged in our local communities, both through philanthropy and sports, which allow us to make meaningful connections and drive business growth further.

We attempt to transcend the role of money manager to that of mentor and counselor, enhancing our client relationships, with teaching as the fundamental core of what we do best.

Beyond that, we’re also planning to enhance our presence with USA-resident Canadians and Americans living in Canada, by having USA licensing. This allows clients who usually have to use multiple advisors on both sides of the border to deal with one investment management group. In other words, this simplifies the challenge of trying to coordinate and achieve the investor’s financial goals.

Across each of these endeavours, our intention is to build and maintain relationships that are founded on trust. Ultimately, we attempt to transcend the role of money manager to that of mentor and counsellor, enhancing our client relationships, with teaching as the fundamental core of what we do best.

Scott Bonertz and Thomas Diederichs on BMO Global Asset Management

BMO Concentrated Global Equity Fund checks all the boxes for us, from active management to the conviction of its holdings and downside capture. Taking a long-term view of capital appreciation, the vehicle only invests in the highest quality securities recognized by leading exchanges around the world.

Raymond James Ltd. Disclosure:

Scott Bonertz and Thomas Diederichs are Financial Advisors with Raymond James Ltd. Information provided is not a solicitation and although obtained from sources considered reliable, is not guaranteed. The view and opinions contained in the article are those of Scott Bonertz and Thomas Diederichs, and not Raymond James Ltd. Raymond James Ltd. member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

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