Special Feature

The mentorship advantage

Part one of this three-part series on mentorship highlights the value of mentoring for both junior and senior advisors. Part two, on Friday, explores strategies for finding the right person for the partnership, and part three, on Monday, breaks down the mentoring process. Photo copyright: imagesbavaria/123RF.

Practice Management

A well-suited mentor is not necessarily someone who is more experienced than you, and he or she may even be in a different industry

By Tessie Sanci |

Having the right mentor is important to ensure that both partners in a mentoring relationship can collaborate and work toward fulfilling the goals of the advisor looking for guidance in building his or her business.

Finding the right match begins with ensuring your mentor is someone you trust and respect and has a similar work ethic as you, says Kirsty Thomson, principal financial advisor with Victoria-based Willow Wealth Management, which operates under Toronto-based Raymond James Ltd.'s umbrella

"Without those fundamental [characteristics], I don't think there is ever going to be a meeting of the minds or an understanding of where [each person] wants to go," says Thomson.

It was that such "meeting of the minds" that convinced Thomson to join the practice of Sybil Verch, founder of Willow Wealth Management, not long after she returned to the investment industry as a sales assistant following a five-year hiatus. Thomson found the industry she returned to required more in terms of education and regulatory compliance and she felt Verch was the right person to guide her to become an advisor in this new era.

"So much had changed and [when] you're older, it can be a bit overwhelming and daunting," she explains. "As a person whom I respected and listened to, Sybil was able to walk me through those steps."

It's important to seek out potential mentors who will impart knowledge without the fear that they are helping a competitor, says Verch, who is also national director of wealth management with Raymond James: "There is more than enough [business] to go around, and I know we're all unique in what we bring to the table."

The right mentor is not necessarily always someone who is more experienced than the individual seeking the guidance. Peer-to-peer mentoring relationships that involve professionals who are in similar stages of their career are quite common now, according to Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist Business Development in Montreal.

Sandi Martin, a fee-only financial advisor in Gravenhurst, Ont., has 12 years of financial services experience under her belt and is in a mentoring partnership with a fellow fee-only advisor who has been in the industry for 19 years.

After Martin founded her fee-only practice in 2013, she was specifically looking for guidance on running that type of a business, especially in an environment in which practice management and financial planning resources were targeted to traditional compensation models.

"Even though [my mentor and I] are both experienced in what we do, the way we're doing it is pretty new," says Martin.

Advisors may also want to consider seeking mentors who are employed outside of the financial services sector for guidance on general business matters, suggests Gilbert. For example, an advisor may want guidance on managing a team, which is a skill that could be learned from any professional who employs others.

Although finding a well-suited mentor is a key factor in the success of the relationship, advisors seeking guidance must realize that their own attitude is also a very important part of the equation.

The individual who's being mentored should respect the ideas of the individual providing the advice — even if the mentee does not follow through on every single idea, says George Hartman, CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto.

However, should the mentee feel it unnecessary to implement any of those ideas, he or she may want to consider what the lack of action demonstrates to the mentor.

"If there's no respect there, and you're in a [mentoring] relationship where the mentee second guesses or brushes the ideas off … and doesn't execute on anything," says Verch, "that's just wasting both people's time and that is a sure way to end a relationship."

This is the second article in a three-part series on mentorship.

Up next: Navigating the mentoring process.