Three Pillars. Exponential Business Growth.
As specialists in wealth management, insurance and estate planning, Derek Nicoll and Scott Robertson, Partners at Finuity Wealth Inc., share how they leveraged their complementary strengths to start a practice driven by three simple pillars.
As specialists in wealth management, insurance and estate planning, Derek Nicoll, CFP®, CHS™, RWM™ and Scott Robertson, CFP®, CHS™ Partners at Finuity Wealth Inc., share how they leveraged their complementary strengths to start a practice driven by three simple pillars. The result: 50% growth in AUM in three years, driven by their process, client relationships and referrals received.
Combining unique skillsets
Beginning our careers in the early 2000s at one of the largest insurance companies in Canada, we went from colleagues to fast friends and had always entertained the idea of starting a financial advisory practice together, but our paths took us in different directions. We each gained unique experience (Derek as an advisor and director of business development and Scott in a different wealth management partnership), and two decades later we both found ourselves at a pivotal crossroads and decided to embark on a new venture.
What we’ve created at Finuity Wealth is based on a combination of individual expertise that allows us to specialize in the business owner and retiree niche markets. Located in Alberta, which is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, we’ve developed strong relationships with clients whom we knew we could help in many different areas along their life journey – right from business start-up through to sale, transition and gathering assets post-transaction. That last stage is essential in terms of the strategies we apply to our retiree clients too, and it also plays an important role in generational wealth transfer, which is becoming a greater focus for many families, and for us as we expand our practice further.
As wealth strategists with a holistic approach, our goal is to ensure that assets remain intact and are managed effectively through life’s transitions – not just for a one- or two-generation stint. We look at the bigger picture, integrating specialist expertise when necessary to achieve long-term success and a foundation built on trust.
We have developed strong relationships with clients whom we knew we could help in many different areas along their life journey – right from business start-up through to sale, transition and gathering assets post-transaction.
3 pillars: Accumulate, Protect, Transition
Our disciplined process is based on three pillars: accumulate, protect and transition. At the core of that is our steadfast commitment to ensuring our clients don’t have to earn their money a second time and that wealth is transitioned smoothly for generations to come. We tell our clients that we see ourselves as architects, developing and then executing on a strategy so that we will meet their current – and future – needs. As a first step, we create a blueprint, which helps us ensure assets are being strategically placed in the right areas, and that we’re continually aligned.
During the accumulation phase, what we’ve seen over the years with many business owners is that the company becomes their major – or only – investment. As it matures, they will often want to reinvest back into the business where they feel they have the most control over returns. While we don’t discourage this, we always recommend a diversified accumulation plan, finding opportunities in various investment platforms (from segregated funds to ETFs to Private Wealth Portfolio Managers) that offset their risk – and helping to create tax-efficient strategies to withdraw assets from the corporation. We work together with our clients to protect their prized asset and the sacrifices they’ve endured, ensuring there are formal shareholder agreements in place, funded using life, disability and critical illness insurance to avoid potentially expensive and detrimental consequences.
We always recommend a diversified accumulation plan, finding opportunities in various investment platforms (from segregated funds to ETFs to Private Wealth Portfolio Managers).
Our hand-holding approach to maximizing and transitioning wealth is key at every life stage, and helps them understand that they can rely on us for whatever unexpected life event comes their way – whether they’re business owners, families or retirees. For example, we have an elderly, widowed client who was left a significant amount of money from her spouse who had Alzheimer’s disease. They were married later in life, so she was not aware of all the holdings, which were spread over many different accounts worldwide. We helped her gather those assets and referred her to an accounting firm to ensure the taxes on all the accounts located were properly taken care of, giving her peace of mind moving forward. Her affairs are now all in order (will, power of attorney, and personal directive), her wishes and philanthropic goals are documented and assets are invested so that they are passed on to the next generation in a less burdensome way than she experienced. Through the loss of a loved one, or the suffering from an illness, our comprehensive planning strategies help our clients carry on, giving them a little bit of solace during an otherwise difficult time.
Ensuring a smooth next-gen transition
The “transition” stage (our third pillar) is also where we start to bridge the assets of our existing clients and their parents, to ensure they’re effectively – and efficiently – transferred to the next generation. This involves legacy planning, which is about far more than assets, but instead an opportunity to reflect on our clients’ family values that they want passed down, which could include anything from wealth management education to establishing trusts and carrying out philanthropic goals.
With the majority of our clientele being 45 plus years in age, it is imperative we build relationships with generations above and below (parents to children) to ensure the wishes of the older generation can carry on as intended. Much of our planning here is ensuring wills and beneficiary designations are current, and items such as the family cottage can be transitioned tax efficiently. We also recommend our clients use an estate organizer tool, which is something we offer as part of our process. Best of all, properly executed estate planning helps enable “legacy in action” – or the implementation of strategies during a client’s lifetime, which allows us to work closely with younger generations.
Best of all, properly executed estate planning helps enable legacy in action – or the implementation of strategies during a client’s lifetime.
Keeping clients for the long haul
Trust is crucial to our practice, which is entirely referrals-based. We both have many clients who have been with us since we started our careers in the early 2000s. Quite simply, it’s because people will stay with you if they believe in what you’re doing – knowing you have their best interests in mind. Our process isn’t a quick sell: we’re not just investment advisors, we’re Certified Financial Planners, and the educational component is an important part of that to help clients understand what we’re planning – and why.
With this in mind, if we decide to introduce clients to external partners, such as accountants, lawyers or tax experts, then they’re confident and comfortable with that decision because they comprehend the logic behind it. They know that we are prioritizing their best interests, whether it’s protecting income from illness, death, or taxes. And if we encounter any uncertainty or hesitation on their part, we take the time to explain our tactics, assuring them that there’s no pressure. At the end of the day, it’s our relationships that matter most – and we make the time to carefully manage them. By design, we don’t sit and monitor stock market movements, but rather apply rigorous criteria to partner with portfolio managers that do that for us, allowing us the ability to properly focus on our clients.
We both have many clients who have been with us since we started our careers in the early 2000s.
A personal profession: empathy is key
For Advisors looking to start their own practice, it’s important to remember that wealth management is a personal business. Ultimately, it’s our clients’ assets that we manage, and their plan – we’ve just been afforded the opportunity of working with them because they’ve placed their trust in us. So, you have to be entirely humble in your approach, and learn how client emotions can inevitably come into play. It’s often the little, customized things we each do that add up over time: the connections we make, the details we remember, and the empathy we demonstrate for our clients every day that are constant reminders of our authenticity and high-touch service.
Derek Nicoll and Scott Robertson on BMO Global Asset Management
Starting up in the insurance world, segregated funds were – and still are – a valuable estate planning tool for us to ensure clients a smooth and timely transition to named beneficiaries for non-registered accounts outside the will. We also look for investment managers that deliver on the same top-notch experience we promise our clients, and who are aligned on style and risk tolerance. BMO Guaranteed Investment Funds (GIFs) and the service we receive from their team meet our criteria on both these fronts. In particular, we like to include the BMO Tactical Balanced GIF, which focuses on achieving consistent, stable, risk-adjusted returns with low volatility in every economic climate. The transparency and communication style of portfolio manager Larry Berman is what we value most.
For more ideas to enhance your practice, and build a resilient portfolio, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative.
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This information has been prepared by Derek Nicoll and Scott Robertson, partners at Finuity Wealth Inc. The views and opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer of solicitation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. The information contained herein may not apply to all types of investors.
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