How will you help me develop my financial plan, establish my investment goals, evaluate my risk tolerance, and determine my asset mix?
The heart of my service as your financial advisor is a combination of first asking you the right questions to help you identify your needs, and then carefully listening to your answers. This process is combined with the use of qualitative and quantitative software tools developed by the country's leading financial consulting companies to develop your plan and asset mix.
How long, on average, have you worked with the majority of your clients?
I have been a financial advisor since 1993 and there is a very high retention rate of clients in my practice. I attribute this to the fact that advice to clients, even in situations where only one specific need exists, has always been given in a broader financial planning context. Taking the time to find the broader context before providing recommendations has resulted in satisfied clients, and formed the foundation for long-term relationships. It is these long-term relationships, some of which go back to 1993, that are both the most enjoyable aspect of my work and one of the greatest benefits of my service.
If I talked to your clients, what would they say about you?
I think that most clients would say that I endeavour to understand their needs, and that I do a thorough job of preparing and explaining my recommendations. I am confident most clients would also say that they are impressed with the quality of my staff and the promptness, professionalism and courtesy they experience in our follow-up.
Do you only give advice, or can you help me implement my plan?
I can assist individuals who require fee-for-service planning. However, the primary source of my compensation are fees paid to me when I assist clients in implementing their plans. There are several local accountants and lawyers that I also routinely refer clients to for advice on specific issues.
What are your areas of expertise?
My expertise is in assisting individuals and families in planning and implementing their retirement saving and life and health insurance solutions. I also assist partnerships and corporations in designing benefit plans to deliver retirement saving and life and health insurance solutions for their employees.
What ongoing training and education have you received?
A commitment to continuing education can best be demonstrated by the constant addition of financial planning designations that I have earned throughout my career. Although teased by my colleagues at the start of my career as a "professional student" due to the number of courses I enrolled in. The effort has paid dividends for me throughout my career in terms of my ability to quickly understand, properly assess and assist with diverse and complex planning situations.
Do you, or does someone in your firm, offer special services (e.g., estate planning, tax counselling, personal portfolio management)?
Yes, Assante is a firm that is built on a philosophy of providing complete solutions to clients. Within the firm, there are experts in almost all planning areas. Over my long career I have also developed an extensive network of local expertise that can be drawn upon as required.
Will you work together with other professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and insurance specialists, when required?
Yes, I will integrate my advice with the planning work done by our clients' existing lawyers and accountants, or recommend other professionals as required.
What financial products are you licensed to sell?
As a fully licensed securities representative, I am licensed to sell stocks, bonds, GICs, mutual funds and other more esoteric investment products such as hedge funds. This full licensing allows me to assist clients who transfer their stock and bond portfolios created at other brokerage firms. An important point here is that usually your existing portfolio of investments does not have to be sold, but can simply be transferred under our care, and we can then make improvements as necessary. Also, I am fully licensed to sell life and health insurance products.
Are you limited to selling products from certain companies?
Unlike some of our competitors, I am not limited to simply using the products manufactured by my firm. Assante operates as a brokerage company, meaning that we can hold most investments that you may have purchased at other firms within our accounts. Having access to the products of a wide range of investment companies ensures my ability to recommend changes should a particular investment underperform relative to similar investments. For fixed income investments such as GICs, I can usually search the market to secure for my clients higher rates than they could receive when dealing with only one bank.
How are you paid?
I am paid fees by the investment or insurance companies we use when we implement your financial plans. Usually our clients are already paying these fees, but the fees are going either to their current advisor or to their bank branch. For example, the GIC rate received by our clients on a bank GIC is exactly the same as if the GIC was purchased from the bank directly; however, the bank sends the fee to us that they would normally have sent to the branch for selling the product.
What is your investment philosophy?
The vast majority of my work with investment portfolios relates to retirement savings. This being the case, I have developed my investment philosophy to mirror the approach taken in managing retirement savings by the large pension plans like the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. This means a balanced approach combining fixed income and equity investments. The use of professional money managers, especially for the equity investments, ensures well diversified portfolios. I do not believe in frequent trading of individual securities. I also believe that keeping a tight control on investment management fees is important to ensure a satisfactory long-term return.
What kind of independent research does your firm do?
Assante Wealth Management Research regularly publishes papers to assist advisors and clients in understanding important concepts or changes in wealth management. Some of these papers are available to the public and can be viewed at the Market Commentary Archive.
What information will you provide to me on your investment recommendations?
Normally, your investment recommendations will include a summary of your current asset allocation, a review of your investing time horizon, your goals, the risk tolerance that we have established together, and restrictions or constraints that you have asked for in terms of investment options, and your recommended asset allocation. Your investment recommendations will also normally include a detailed set of next steps which explain to you precisely how we would implement our recommended approach.
How often will you contact me and what will be the format?
My staff and make regular calls to clients generally regarding administrative issues or an improvement that we have scheduled to make. If we have not spoken for a while, the telephone call might be just to say hello and ask you if you have any questions. We also send our regular client communications via mail and email.
If I call you, when can I expect you to return my call?
All calls to my office received before 4:30 p.m. are returned the same day. If I am away or in meetings, this call might come from my Service Associate who works with me full-time to assist clients.
How often will I receive account updates?
Account updates are sent out quarterly to our clients. We send a set of portfolio updates directly from our office to all clients. This set of portfolio updates gets reviewed by me personally before it is sent out, and allows me to present you with a statement for all of your accounts in one place. This is especially appreciated by clients with multiple accounts such as RRSPs, Cash Accounts, RESPs, and Joint Accounts. Depending on the type of accounts and investment products used, accounts updates will also be sent to you directly by the investment company either quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
Can I view my accounts on-line?
Yes, for clients who wish to view their accounts on-line, we can choose investment accounts that allow this. We use a variety of investment accounts with our clients depending on their unique needs - not all of these accounts currently have online access.
Do you carry liability insurance?
Absolutely! I carry the most comprehensive liability insurance available to a financial advisor in Ontario. Often called Errors and Omissions Insurance, this insurance protects you were I ever to make an error in my advice. Throughout my career, and throughout some very difficult bear markets, I have never had a claim against my liability insurance. This reflects the careful planning work we do prior to recommendations and the conservative nature of our approach.
Insurance products and services are provided through David Phipps