Assante embraces innovation to serve its clients better
Posted on November 01, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments
It’s tempting to believe that innovation concerns only science, technology, engineering, and math professions. But at the heart of every invention, every great improvement, are people. And people, and their financial and wealth management needs, are what Assante is all about.
Assante Hydrostone belongs to a national network of 900 professional advisors, located across the country, who oversee over $46 billion worth of assets for thousands of clients in Canada. Within this group—CI Assante Wealth Management—Assante Hydrostone’s 62 advisors and staff, with offices in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, meet the needs of 5,000 Atlantic Canadian families, whose assets under its management have doubled in less than 10 years.
This kind of performance and client care doesn’t happen by accident. Assante makes it its business to see the big picture, to expect the unexpected, to stay on top of, and even ahead of, the curve. Assante believes its clients are best served through a comprehensive, integrated and cooperative approach to wealth management. And that includes incorporating advances in technology and innovation.
Assante’s advisors are committed to continually enhancing their skills through ongoing training, education and professional development on many different fronts—including digitising traditional processes and structures, employing cloud computing and data orchestration. Indeed, things like video conferencing, social networking, self-service portals, and enhanced digital security services are becoming second nature to an increasing number of financially responsible savers and investors.
“These trends have been underway for some time now,” says Alex Skoke, a Senior Financial Planning Advisor with Assante Estate and Insurance Services Inc. at Assante Hydrostone’s Stellarton office. “But the onset of COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the process. How we communicate with our clients has changed rapidly—in a matter of months as opposed to years.” He and his fellow advisors are certainly not alone in the industry. According to a recent article in Investopedia, “40 per cent of financial institutions are working to make digital improvements to their business.” Meanwhile, the article pointed out, “innovative technologies are making it easier for consumers to stay informed about their investments and reshaping their relationships with advisors as changing demographics will play a role in how advisors engage with their clients in the future and what types of advice they’re able to offer at key life stages.”
Just as importantly, however, is an emerging trend towards even closer levels of customer care in the industry. As Dan Egan, managing director of Behavioral Finance & Investing at Betterment, told Investopedia: “We’re going to see a really nice Renaissance that’s far less about investments and more about what’s really important in their lives. For that reason, the really good financial planners are the ones who are good at having those tough conversations directly with their clients. By taking away the least human parts of financial planning—the math and the investment management and rebalancing—we’re allowing ourselves to become more human, and spending more time having the tough conversations that only we can answer.”
For their part, Assante advisors are hosting more virtual meetings with clients who have not been able to come into offices for face-to-face consultations due to COVID. On the other hand, the trend in this direction appears to be systemic and inevitable as younger savers and investors, who tend to be tech savvy, enter the marketplace.
What matters, Skoke says, is that “they still want to be able to review all of their planning and investment portfolios as they would by being physically present with an advisor. So, we’ve learned how to conduct those [meetings] with peak efficiency and with proper digital presentation techniques on a regular basis. The effect provides the same connection with the client, but with even better information on hand and more reliably available in a virtual space. That is certainly a big service innovation.”
“How we communicate with our clients has changed rapidly—in a matter of months as opposed to years.”
Alex Skoke, Senior Financial Planning Advisor
In fact, this willingness and ability to adapt to changing circumstances, while remaining attuned to client needs, are qualities built into Assante Hydrostone’s corporate DNA. As business owners themselves, the company’s advisors are uniquely positioned to counsel clients with a level of credibility and trustworthiness that’s not always available in the institutional sector. Even under the most precarious circumstances, they function like coaches who understand that their clients’ lives and workplaces are increasingly integrated these days and that they are susceptible to the same fast-moving trends and events that affect everyone. Assante’s focus on their real and particular needs and objectives is crucial. With any new technology or process innovation, what’s important is the continuity of the commitment to human relationships.
“The role of any technical innovation is, I think, to support time-tested principles, productivity, profitability and growth,” says Bob MacKay, a Senior Financial Advisor with Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Assante Hydrostone’s Halifax office. “It’s not to displace them. I use technology in every aspect of my business, but how it’s delivered to the end client is what’s important. It may be different from one client to another, depending on whether one is more technologically experienced than another. There’s got to be a commitment throughout the organization in order to make it work. And I think that’s what we’ve been seeing here over the past couple of years.”
“The role of any technical innovation is, I think, to support time-tested principles, productivity, profitability and growth.”
Bob Mackay, Senior Financial Advisor
In fact, many of Assante’s clients are high-growth oriented business owners who operate in the technology sector. They’re often inclined to think only in terms of high growth. Many, however, will meet hurdles along the way, even innovation challenges out of their control. What sets Assante apart in the wealth management field are both the richness and depth of its talent pool. It employs people from many backgrounds and educational experiences, including innovation and technology. This means it can and does provide separate areas of expertise to meet the needs specific to these types of difficulties. It’s also willing and eager to share new ideas within its own community of advisors.
Mike Nicoletopoulos, Senior Financial Advisor at Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Halifax echoed this approach when he told Atlantic Business Magazine not long ago, “We are not working against each other. We allow the advisors to position themselves in the marketplace according to their own speciality—whether that’s tax planning or inheritance issues or business succession or overall wealth management. We don’t tell our advisors what their specialty is. We offer a significant number of resources to allow people to be the experts they need to be in their respective fields. This translates up and down between the local and the national levels.”
“At the end of the day, what counts is how easily we can make our tools work to keep our clients comfortable, knowledgeable and, of course, coming back for more.”
Marc Pinet, Wealth Management Advisor
That also applies to technology and service innovations for new generations of investors and savers who may already be more comfortable with the rapid pace of change.
Says MacKay: “One thing I think that we’re doing very well is updating and keeping ahead of the trends and changes through, for example, updating our website to make it more streamlined, efficient and user-friendly. It’s becoming a more eloquent system that’s seamlessly able to incorporate social media.”
Adds Marc Pinet, Wealth Management Advisor at Assante Capital Management Ltd.: “If we use the technology at our disposal correctly, then it doesn’t get in the way of the crucial work we do to serve clients in a systematic, sensitive manner—in a fiduciarily responsible way that is completely compliant with the highest standards, technology actually becomes a force multiplier of these principles. It becomes an ultra-tool.”
Ultimately, he says, stacks of paper sitting on a desk are no more useful to a client with an urgent problem or a probing question than are ramps of desktop computers, laptops or video chat accounts.
“At the end of the day,” he says, “what counts is how easily we can make our tools work to keep our clients comfortable, knowledgeable and, of course, coming back for more. That’s what drives internal process and innovation improvements for us, I think. It really comes down to the practicalities.”
In other words, it comes down to people and relationships. And that’s what Assante is all about. •
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