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On the job with a Financial Advisor

Financial Advisor, FCSI, CMA, FMA, CIM, CFP, Berkshire Securities

1. How did you get into the business?

I am a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and worked for more than 25 years in the financial analysis and accounting field. Iíve always been interested in investing and planning and so in 1995, while I was working as a senior financial analyst at the Region of Durham, I enrolled in the CFP and I started working part time with a Financial Advisor at TPA Financial Group. Working part time I was able to gather $5,000,000 in client assets within five years. Out of 100 calls, I would get maybe 1 appointment. It was a learning experience. I took the CSC in 1999. I started full time in 2000 when I took over the advisorís business. Then in 2002 Berkshire Securities Inc. bought TPA Financial Group and Iíve been with Berkshire Securities Inc. ever since. I love the business. I have 28 million in client assets.

2. Most advisors consider the hardest part of making it in the business is getting clients. Do you consider yourself lucky to have been given the opportunity to take over the existing Advisorís practice?

Yes, it was definitely an opportunity, however I put a lot of work into working with those clients and building a relationship with them.

3. What is the key to building relationships?

Understanding the clientís risks, goals, their objectives Ė not yours. Making sure they are diversified and balanced. Making sure they understand what they are invested in and why. If you work with them, then they will work with you.

4. What skills/qualities do you think are most important to succeed in this business as an Advisor?

Communication, listening, body language. The soft skills. Also, donít say that you can do something if you canít. Be aware of clientís expectations. The only way you can do it is if you listen to them and understand the client. Each client is different and each situation is different. You must communicate in a way they understand. Sometimes the simplest language is best and you have to show them that there are other people who are just like them.

5. What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually wake up at 5:30 am. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I exercise 1-1/2 hours, I get my three teenagers off to school and am in the office by 9:30am. I start up my laptop, check with my assistant, and set up and check email to see if there is anything I need to take immediate action with. Usually the night before, I will check my schedule for the following day. Yesterday, for example, I spent the morning preparing for three client meetings. At lunch I try to go home to eat. If I donít have time for lunch I will have a meal replacement drink Ė it only takes 15 minutes.

Tomorrow I have a coaching session so I need to make sure that today I prepare for my client meetings tomorrow. Of course, I handle client calls throughout the day.

6. Do you make outgoing client calls?

Yes, Iíve segmented by clients so I know who I have to call every week.

7. Do you work at night and/or on the weekends?

I work evenings and some Saturdays during RSP season. I will also work a few nights a week if I need to reach clients who canít be reached during the day.

8. Do you travel to see your clients or do they come to the office to see you?

Both. Iím flexible. If Iím going to travel to a certain area, I will make sure to book appointments with other clients in that area. For example, if I am going to be in downtown Toronto, I will arrange to meet up with clients in Mississauga.

9. Do you think wealth management is where the industry is going?

Yes, as clients mature, they are more and more interested in the holistic approach. I have a client the other day who said he is interested in ďplanned givingĒ. I had to make sure I kept up with that.

10. What differentiates you?

I think being a woman in the business. I think my designations differentiate me. I make myself more knowledgeable for my clients. I care about what they want. Integrity is very, very important for me.

11. How do you get new clients?

I donít actively pursue new clients. Iím fortunate enough to get referrals from my existing clients.

12. How do you ask for referrals?

I host client appreciation dinners with my top clients. I find if I invite 5-6 couples it works well. I update them on my practice, the seminars or courses I have taken, the mission of my practice, my unique value proposition. It gives me a chance to find out about their families. The stuff that matters to them.

In May I will be forming a client advisory board. The objective is to let them in on what I am doing in the coming year and get feedback on what they want and what Iím doing. Iíll ask them how I can improve my service, as well as my newsletter, brochure, etc.

13. It sounds like you have a lot of systems and processes in your business (segment clients, coaching), is that true?

Yes, right now I am following the Wayne Cotton best practices system. It comes down to treating your practice like your business. You need to have an idea of what kind of client you want to work with. For me itís 40-55 years with over $200,000 in investible assets and someone who I get along with. Advisors will inevitably find that their best clients are similar to them. I also survey my top clients, usually informally at the client appreciation dinners that I host.

14. What do you enjoy the most about your job?

The diversity of my day. Every day is different, itís a new day. A varied day Ė I love it!

15. What are the biggest challenges?

Being consistent with contacting my clients. The key is setting a time aside during the day to make outgoing calls. If I donít make the calls, they get carried forward to the following week. Itís funny how itís easy to find other things to do.

16. What is your compensation structure?

Commission and more towards fee based investing.

17. How have designations played a role in your career success?

My company recognizes and asks who has achieved any new designations. I have my designation certificates up on the wall in my office and I have them listed in my client brochure.

Iíll never forget meeting with one of my larger clients who had assets elsewhere and who usually hesitated when Iíd recommend something. He asked me once what a ďbetaĒ was and I had just finished one of CSIís courses and was able to explain to him what it was. He not only transferred more assets to me, but he now trusts me more. Itís funny, now clients expect me to know everything! Building relationships however is the key.

18. Do you have any advice for those starting out or who want a career change?

You must work hard at it. Itís going to take three years minimum to get the income and the number of clients coming in. Youíre going to have to work at it, be flexible, maybe work evenings and weekend. Itís not easy to get into the business anymore. It takes real commitment.

The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of the firms where they work.