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On the job with an Investment Advisor

Investment Advisor, FCSI, CIM, CSA, CH.P. Strategic Wealth®

1. How did you get started in the financial services industry?

I got started right out of university. I completed the CSC and must have made 100 calls to a branch manager at RBC Dominion Securities before I got into their training program.

2. How did you build your business?

Iíve been in the business over 13 years. Now, 95% of my business comes from referrals. I have about 175 clients. My goal is to have 100 families (get business from my clientís children and parents.) I believe itís better to have a smaller client base and give them great service.

For the first four years in the business, I did cold calls. I was very disciplined. Iíd book a boardroom and make my calls every day. Some of my best clients have come out of that.

You also have to network. Thatís extremely important. I am the president of United Way for my region. Iím also involved in fund raising for local hospitals and women shelters.

Here are a few networking tips. First, donít join any networking or service clubs just to get business. You have to be there for the right reasons and that is to serve. If you do that, get to know the people involved and be a good member. It takes time to develop these relationships. If you try to rush things, you will be seen for what you are Ė a person who has joined just to get business.

Second, you have to get involved. It makes no sense to me to go to networking events or join clubs and then just stand in the corner. Get in the mix, let people know who you are and do everything with a smile. Again, it takes time to build trust, so you have to be there.

Finally, join groups you are going to enjoy. If you are 30 and the Rotary club you join is all 66 year olds, you may not have as much fun. Find something you enjoy, and you will be more likely to go consistently.

3. Do you have an assistant?

I have a full time service associate who does all of my administrative work, makes calls to clients, issues statements. She is licensed but does not give advice to clients. She basically runs my calendar and makes sure everything in the office is running smoothly.

I think it is absolutely necessary to have a service associate to be successful. When I began in the business I use to share an assistant with another advisor because I couldnít afford one of my own. But if you want to get your business to the next level, you canít afford not to have a full-time associate!

4. What characteristics do you look for in a service associate?

A service associate has to be conscientious and empathetic. Kindness is important. Find someone with whom you can speak freely.

I have a great service associate. She does all that she can to solve problems. Sheís unique.

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

On most days Iím in the office at 8:30am. I leave mornings open for client calls. I usually have lunch with a referral. In the afternoon, I review portfolios, return calls and reply to emails. By 5pm, I am ready to leave the office.

This is a typical day for me now but I worked longer days when I started off in the business. You can probably expect to work long hours the first 4 or 5 years in the business.

My business runs smoothly because I have been able to create processes and systematize everywhere possible. Ideally, you want your business to run without you having to be in the office every day.

6. What skills are necessary to be a successful investment advisor?

You have to genuinely care about your clients. You can be extremely smart, organized, disciplined but if you donít care about your clients, it will eventually surface.

Focus on your goal. When youíre at work, really be at work.

Learn to deal with rejection but keep in mind that rejection is not always about something youíve done. Thereís always something else happening. I remember once when I was trying to get a client and didnít. I had worked so hard and thought I really had the client. Later I found out that his child had been diagnosed with cancer. Obviously dealing with that became the priority.

I cold called for four years and I can tell you that itís not for everyone. You get turned down more than you get accepted. Donít take it personally. Take a step back and focus on what youíve done well.

7. Do you have any advice for people starting off in the industry today?

Itís tougher today than when I began. Cold calling is a lot harder. My advice is to find a niche and work on that. If you played sports, focus on that. Build the business that you want. Really put yourself out there. Expect to fail before you succeed. Remember that the first few years, youíll be working long hours. Be ready for that.

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