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Succession in Progress: Lessons from a Buyer and Seller

How do you ensure a smooth handoff from industry veteran to successor? Certified Financial Planner, Roy Vokes and Wealth Advisor, Jeff McDaid at Armour Wealth and Worldsource Financial Management Inc., share a client-centric strategy that’s resulting in sustainable growth.

December 2021

Jeff McDaid

MBA, CIM, Wealth Advisor, Armour Wealth, Worldsource Financial Management Inc.

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Roy Vokes

Certified Financial Planner, Armour Wealth, Worldsource Financial Management Inc.

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A meeting of the minds

Roy Vokes: I've been in the industry for over 30 years, had my own dealership, and continue to work directly with a long-established client base. When we met, Jeff was one of the few wholesalers I’d come across to lead with, “Tell me how you work with your clients, then we’ll see if there’s a fit.” Over time, the business relationship evolved into a friendship, where he expressed interest in becoming an Advisor, and I began to take stock of what I wanted to accomplish next in life.

Jeff McDaid: I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur. In fact, I registered my first business, selling skateboards and snowboards, at age 18. Early on, I took an interest in finance, and became a student of the industry. By 2007 I was a wholesaler, absorbing everything I could from a wide variety of Advisors. Tapping into my entrepreneurial roots, I started to contemplate that career shift – having done my due diligence by learning best practices from a large pool of business partners. Among them, Roy, and his client-centric approach, stood out as a fit.

RV: Fit is everything – from personality to model to work ethic. Many of my clients have become friends over the years; they’re people I’ll see after I retire. So, my primary concern was finding someone who’d continue to care for them in the same way. For many Advisors, it’s an easier road to sell to someone in your firm, get out of the way, and hope for the best. But I wasn’t a motivated seller – I simply wanted to do right by my clients.

JM: Roy was transparent about his business. He extended trust right out of the gate, and I reciprocated.

RV: And despite his investment acumen, Jeff didn’t walk through the door and say, “I know how to manage money better; I’ll make your clients rich.” He said, “I’ll work with them to find out how best I can help.”

Getting the deal done

RV: As part of our research, we interviewed buyers and sellers, identified effective processes, then wrote up a deal ourselves. We were so aligned that Jeff and I used the same lawyer to vet what we’d put to paper, we were able to recognize fairness on both sides. We actually suggested things that were fairer to each other throughout the process.

JM: It was helpful talking to peers not only about deal mechanics, but about their personal experiences – what worked and what didn’t. Worldsource was also a great resource, sharing succession intelligence with us.

RV: A pivotal moment for me was a lunch with Advisors who shared details about how their transition was going. I walked away with a few pointers – and the seller’s blunt advice: “Just get on with it!” So, we did. We signed a deal – faster and earlier than I anticipated – but from that moment, Jeff had ownership and responsibility for the business, and I had instant backup with clients.

JM: We initially committed to a one-year transition, but then… COVID. It wasn’t that it didn’t go smoothly; the definition of smooth had to be completely re-written. So, we kept the lines of communication open, and agreed this would have to be an organic process without challenges seeping into the client experience. There’s a deal, then there’s what ultimately matters – ensuring it’s mutually beneficial. Two years in, we’ve remained flexible and adaptable to change.

How do you make it look like you care? You don’t. You actually care.

Transition in action

RV: At the start, Jeff took a deep dive to analyze every account and assess every fund. He knows where clients are now, and where they’re headed to achieve their goals. So, on a practical level, he works with everyone on the investment side, and I come in when there’s a tax planning component.

JM: The approach is highly individualized. We’ve taken it client by client because those relationships are vital. If you were to ask, coming into an established practice, how do you make it look like you care? You don’t. You actually care. This business is personal – and I stepped into a practice where clients already felt top-of-mind – and happy.

RV: They’re smart, inquisitive people, so being transparent is essential. Some started asking me when I’d retire, and it was reassuring to be able to say something’s in place. In fact, once Jeff and I had a game plan – even before our deal – I began sharing with clients that he was coming into the practice.

JM: It’s been overwhelmingly positive. Clients see a new face and recognize that there’s additional support. And because Roy trusts in me, and they trust in Roy, they know their continued wellbeing is paramount.

A platform for growth

JM: We've recently rebranded to Armour Wealth and have a new website under that banner. It’s not about changing what works; it’s about being open to new directions. Part of that is growing the practice, so we’re in the process of bringing in another Advisor I’ve known for years. Karen, a Certified Financial Planner, provides her clients with a similar experience that we’re proud of offering to ours. As a passionate insurance and financial planning specialist, she’s a natural fit as an addition to Armour Wealth.

RV: The succession path we took serves as a benchmark for onboarding. Ultimately, we want this to work for all parties, especially our clients – providing them with better service and opportunities. They’re already seeing that our extended team works well together and is greater than the sum of its parts.

In terms of growth, it’s always been a word-of-mouth business, but Jeff coming in has opened the door to other referral sources. Bolstering our holistic offering also gives clients the confidence to make a recommendation knowing we can take on more.

JM: Roy created a family in this practice, and we’re extending that to a younger demographic to support the transfer of intergenerational wealth. I’ve known many Advisors over the years who segment millennials as a specific target group, but research shows there’s a better relationship between generations than most recognize. That’s been our experience too – estate planning inherently brings the whole family to the table; when work with parents, adult children choose to be involved.

RV: We’re also building out new processes – using what works as a foundation for moving forward. What’s been helpful to me is Jeff’s ability to look at operations with new eyes and identify areas of improvement.

The path we took – in terms of succession – serves as a benchmark for onboarding

Bottling the secret sauce

RV: Our clients have known, since day one, that we’re their quarterback for any financial concerns – from tax issues to mortgages to credit card debt. We’re their first call. It’s not about trying to get all their business; we respect that they have preferences. It’s about making sure they don’t lose money, and in that process, helping them become fiscally responsible.

JM: Communication is also a differentiator. At the start of pandemic, for example, when clients had a hard time getting through to some of their other professionals, we answered our phones – live – and put out a weekly newsletter. We received many appreciative comments about being accessible that during a particularly stressful time.

RV: We care – and that’s across the board at Armour Wealth, including our supportive team. Antonella, for example, has worked with me for more than two decades and knows every client file. The rapport she has with each client who calls in is genuine.

From the seller's point of view, it's easy to go on forever, so once you make your decision, commit.

Advice for buyers and sellers

RV: From the seller's point of view, it's easy to go on forever, so once you make your decision, commit. It’s critical to keep your conviction the whole way through, and by doing so, create clarity for your successor. I've seen too many situations where an Advisor decides to sell, without really committing. For me, the deal itself might have been earlier than expected, but Jeff was the right fit, so I committed to making it work. I also highly recommend doing your homework – seek out peers who’ve bought or sold a business, and cherry pick the best ideas. Why reinvent the wheel?

JM: The truth is, there are many practices, and approaches to succession, that look nothing like ours and are incredibly successful. The common thread is alignment. If you share a focus on what you’re trying to achieve, and put your clients first, it’ll be a much smoother experience.

Roy Vokes and Jeff McDaid on BMO Global Asset Management

As a former wholesaler, I had good insight into the companies I wanted to work with. The product lineup at BMO is expansive and well diversified. The platform offers access to multiple independent equity management teams, providing core solutions like the BMO Concentrated Global Equity Fund. What also resonates is the breadth and depth of the income group - especially important right now - accessible in multiple facets through the BMO Retirement Portfolios and BMO ETF Portfolios – BMO GAM is a workhorse partner offering a solid foundation for us, without overpromising on what they’re trying to deliver. ~ J. McDaid

We also have to give credit to Sanjay Singla, our BMO Global Asset Management wholesaler. He looks at what we need, suggests dependable solutions and supports them well. What he says will happen, happens. That’s a good partner. ~ R. Vokes

Worldsource Financial Management Inc. Disclosures:

Worldsource Financial Management Inc. is the sponsoring mutual fund dealer of Roy Vokes, Jeff McDaid and Karen Okimi. Mutual funds and Segregated Funds provided by the Fund Companies are offered through Worldsource Financial Management Inc. Other Products and Services including financial planning services are offered through Agora Inc. and Karen Okimi.

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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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