Strategies for managing a thriving advisor business.
With more than 20 years of wealth management expertise, Marc Hamel, with Ontario-based Hamel Wealth Management Group, is deeply committed to a personalized business approach with his client base, which includes successful family businesses, professionals, executives and trusts.
As technology continues to evolve at record speed, there are still a few fundamentals of running a strong advisor business that have stood the test of time. In a recent conversation with Manulife’s David Grice, advisor Marc Hamel offers a few insights on what has helped him truly enjoy two decades of helping clients with their wealth management planning.
“I love what I do, and haven’t had to work since 2006,” says Hamel. “I think of it as a client giving us the privilege and opportunity to be a part of their lives – a very important part. And when you think in those terms, you love going to work because you get to help people stay on track with their investing goals.”
Over the course of his career, Hamel says three things have been particularly important when it comes to delivering quality service:
- Consistent client service and attention
- Cultivating an effective team
- Making use of technology
Value your client
It goes without saying that clients are the lifeblood of an advisor’s business. Understanding how to enhance these relationships takes a keen mindset where softer skills such as curiosity, empathy and patience come into play.
“If we think about our role in the business, what’s really important is not products or portfolio performance, but rather what’s important to the client – things going on in their life, their goals and where they are in terms of reaching their goals,” says Hamel. “When you realize this is all about the client, that changes your approach to business.”
Sometimes it’s simply about being authentic.
“You can have processes in place and research to support the advice you offer, but ultimately, the client is going to ‘feel’ whether you care,” says Hamel. “When clients ask why they should work with me, I tell them they’re going to have a team that really cares about what’s important to them.”
During times of higher market volatility, many investors can feel tempted to make snap investment decisions that they may later regret – but fostering a strong client relationship can help to keep matters in perspective and on track.
“I’ve had conversations with clients who are quite concerned about the market drop and how much their investments have lost in recent months,” says Hamel. “But I’m able to quickly show them that they are still comfortably on track, based on a longer timeline – keeping the conversation focused on what’s important.”
Putting your client at the centre of all that you do is a key ingredient for success, but how you operate your business is another vital component.
Processes and culture
Starting out, you may have the best of intentions to offer first-class service to your clients. But you might soon begin to feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s when it’s important to map out your own business goals.
“There comes a time for all of us when you have to do a bit of ‘painful’ investing for the longer-term benefit of the business that you’re building,” says Hamel. “It’s about proactive planning. If you want to grow, you need to invest in those things that will help you grow. You don’t want to wait to hire support staff when you’ve already reached the point of saying that you just can’t do this anymore. Your clients will feel the impact of your stress and potential burnout.”
And along with growing the size of your team, consider the type of office culture you want to encourage. “Culture flows downhill, and it starts with you,” says Hamel. “In hiring additional colleagues, you want to ensure that they have similar values and the work ethic to ultimately support your clients.”
The right tech
“When I think of technology, it’s the ability to provide continuity of information and service for our clients that is a driving value,” says Hamel. “When I choose to step back from the business, I know my clients won’t have to worry about finding a new advisor because they are still dealing with my team, who knows them well.”
The backbone of Hamel’s business is the client relationship management (CRM) system that keeps the unique details for hundreds of clients well organized, accessible and secure.
“Instead of being in chaos and trying to operate from memory, a CRM allows everyone in our office to easily understand the client’s needs, latest touchpoints, previous discussions and future needs that a client may want to explore,” says Hamel.
But a CRM isn’t Hamel’s only technology upgrade in recent years.
“We’ve moved to digital storage of client information, which is much more efficient than paper storage, which we have phased out,” says Hamel. “Electronic files make it easier to share information with clients, and most importantly, it’s secure.”
Electronic calendaring has been another important advancement, giving clients greater control over their schedules. “We have a great system that clients really like, and it puts the power in the hands of the client where they can go into the system and schedule their own meetings with us. They like the ability to say, That’s convenient for me,” says Hamel.
But whatever system is being upgraded, the changes always happen with the client in mind.
“Technology is extremely important now for growing a successful practice, but I always start with asking if this will be a beneficial change for the client,” says Hamel. “We will always focus on what’s most important for the client because that’s the gift that we get coming into work every single day – the privilege of being part of the lives of these wonderful people.”