Taking a Big Swing: 5 Tips for Buying a Book
To Matthieu Bouchard, PEAK Investment Services Inc., golf is a metaphor for life—and for business. His secret to acquiring and integrating four books in only five years? Hit it straight, trust your follow-through, and don’t be afraid to shoot for the green.
Teeing It Up
You might say that a strong risk appetite runs in my family.
For over 35 years, my grandfather was a widely respected and successful Financial Advisor. My father, Remi Bouchard, is an accomplished professional golfer, having turned his passion for sport into a thriving career. For both, risk was a part of their daily lives—and growing up surrounded by finance and golf, I learned the value of taking a big swing.
My journey as an Advisor began when I acquired my grandfather’s book of business in 2017—not long after I graduated from Concordia University, where I studied finance and played on the golf team. Since then, my practice, Group MCB Private Wealth Management, has grown significantly. We’ve just completed the acquisition of a third book, and a fourth purchase will be finalized by March of 2023. Over the past two years, clients and assets under management have both doubled, to 600 and $120 million respectively.
There are many commonalities between our industry and golf. Every hole on the course is unique, and so is each experience buying and integrating a book. Over the last several years, I’ve learned more than a few tips and strategies that may help guide other Advisors’ growth aspirations.
Growing up surrounded by finance and golf, I learned the value of taking a big swing.
Tip #1: Take What the Course Gives You
Growing a business starts with creating – and then seizing – opportunities. For me, that’s meant capitalizing on connections made on the golf course. At my club, for example, I make an effort to play with members I don’t know. We start off talking about the game, and after a few holes, the conversation naturally evolves. When they find out that I’m an Advisor, they often tell me about their investments or suggest setting up a meeting. One of my first big breaks was exactly this kind of scenario—I met two couples, each with over $1 million in assets, and now they’re among my biggest clients. While not all deals are made on the fairway, the opportunity to purchase some of the books I’ve acquired has similarly come through personal relationships. It’s important to be tactful—you don’t want to let prospecting get in the way of fun, for you or the potential client—but for sports or hobby enthusiasts, opportunities may be right in front of you.
Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Go for the Green
When I purchased my grandfather’s book, I could’ve been content to “lay up” and stick to servicing his former clients. But as an Advisor, that’s just not who I am—I’m the one who pulls out the big stick and goes for the green. To grow aggressively, I knew I needed financing. My BMO loan enables me to keep 70% of my revenue in my business, which has provided the flexibility needed to continue to expand my client base. If your financial reports look good, you have the necessary collateral, and you feel you can successfully manage the debt, it’s a strategy I’d highly recommend. When I’m doing my due diligence in advance of a potential acquisition, I’m looking for a few things. Client age, assets under management, and price are obvious considerations—we’ve typically bought books for between two-and-a-half and three times revenue. But it’s also important to be aware of any red flags. For instance, we were contemplating one book recently that’s owned by a Greek-speaking Advisor. Many of her clients also speak the language. That barrier could potentially make it more difficult to communicate, so ultimately, we determined it might be a service issue. That being said, you don’t want to be too picky. It’s not every day that you come across another Advisor that wants to sell their business to you. As we say on the course—sometimes you just have to grip it and rip it.
It’s not every day that you come across another Advisor that wants to sell their business to you. As we say on the course—sometimes you just have to grip it and rip it.
Tip #3: Get It Up and Down—No Matter the Lie
When you’re integrating a book of business, you’ve got to be adaptable and convert when the pressure is on. Each of the four transitions I’ve experienced has been different, but in every case, I’ve met face-to-face with new clients. While platforms like Zoom are amazing tools, there’s no substitute for in-person meetings, which can help forge personal bonds and lead to higher retention rates. You also never know when new opportunities might present themselves. The outgoing Advisor in my most recent transaction hadn’t been particularly active in servicing his clientele over the previous several years and didn’t want to stay to pass the baton. While this could have made the scenario trickier, it ended up being a net positive, as the clients were blown away by the attention they were now getting from me and my team. In the end, our flexibility turned a potentially challenging experience into a rewarding and profitable one. Nimbly responding to unforeseen circumstances has never been more important than during the COVID era. Suddenly, digital communication was the rule rather than the exception. For my team, online resources like DocuSign are a benefit, because they save us time and streamline our processes. But for many clients, especially those I’ve acquired from older Advisors who weren’t particularly tech-savvy, these digital platforms were entirely new. The solution in these situations is preparation. We’ve learned that if you simply take the time to show people how to do it once or twice, they’ll be good to go—even those in the 85+ age bracket. We’ve even put together standard emails and tutorials to demonstrate how the process works, and now, over 95% of clients are on board. It’s like when you’re driving into a narrow fairway—a little forethought goes a long way.
Tip #4: Visualize the Next Shot
Looking ahead and planning for success is crucial in life, golf, and business. At my firm, I’m already in the process of bringing on a second Advisor, my friend and colleague Maxime Bourque, who is now overseeing the book I most recently purchased. I was fortunate to have my grandfather as a mentor, and I’m honoured to do the same for Max. It boils down to client care—in my experience, anything over 500 is too many accounts for one person to manage. With two full-time financial professionals, we’re free to not only grow as a company, but most importantly, to continue to provide the high level of service that we’re known for. I’m hopeful that within the next ten years, we can add two or three more Advisors under the Group MCB umbrella.
It boils down to client care—in my experience, anything over 500 is too many accounts for one person to manage.
Tip #5: The 19th Hole (or, Take the Risk)
Every golfer’s favourite hole is the 19th—the clubhouse. There, you can look back on your round and evaluate your game. As an Advisor, I’ve learned a lot through the experiences of buying books, and I’ve come away with one big lesson that I happily share with peers—TAKE THE RISK. Acquisitions typically mean a sizable investment, and that can be daunting; it’s so much easier to grow slowly and organically through referrals. But for those with the risk appetite and the ability to pay off the purchase in a reasonable timeframe, the result feels better than a hole in one.
Matthieu Bouchard on BMO Global Asset Management
I like the BMO Income ETF Portfolio, which provides approximately 80% bond exposure and availability in the Class category. I also support the newly-launched BMO Brookfield Global Renewables Infrastructure Fund, offering exposure to sustainability infrastructure assets, which is rare in other mutual funds.
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Managed investment products such as Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs are offered through our Mutual Fund Dealer, PEAK Investment Services Inc. Financial Advisory, Risk Management, Investment Management, Due Diligence and other related services are separate from PEAK Investment Services Inc and are solely provided by Group MCB Private Wealth Management.
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