For Glen Rankin, financial planner with Rankin Financial Planning Ltd. in Truro, N.S., serving clients is founded upon two tenets: keeping in touch and keeping it real.
The former is about doing more than sending clients an email to keep the lines of communication open. Rankin prefers telephone calls and face-to-face meetings with his clients.
"I don't like canned emails," Rankin says. "While they can provide good information, in some ways, they can be disingenuous."
The second tenet - honesty - is a personal value as well as smart business strategy for Rankin.
"I always tell [clients] the truth, even when they don't want to hear it," he says. "You have to do that to set reasonable expectations at the beginning."
Rankin spends time with his clients explaining how the investment market works and the return on investment they can practically expect. "I'm realistic," he says. "I jokingly tell them that if they make more, they can keep it."
There is one other key to Rankin's success: sweat equity. "I work hard for my clients," says Rankin, a native of Cape Breton. "I work as long as I have to to meet their needs."
Rankin has been working hard since he was a 19-year-old looking for a full-time job and a possible career. He spent a year selling disability insurance to self-employed people in Nova Scotia. It was a time before email, cellphones and texting, and Rankin spent hours on a land line making cold calls.
"That was not the most desirable vocation," he says. "But I was young and eager. I liked that you could make your own way."
The entrepreneurial seeds had been sown. Several years later, he received a call from a friend offering Rankin a job as an agent with Prudential Insurance. Being able to offer disability insurance, life insurance, education planning and segregated funds appealed to Rankin. But he noticed that the top salespeople were offering even more.
"I saw that the more successful members of the firm were doing wealth management and investment," Rankin says.
That awareness convinced him that he should take an investment course early in his career - the first of many certifications.
"I have a dedication to continuing education and ensuring I can advise clients in the best manner possible," says Rankin, who eventually went on to attain his personal financial planner, fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute, certified financial planner and chartered investment manager designations.
In 1997, Rankin joined Royal Bank of Canada as an investment and retirement planner. He was part of a group of planners who, over the course of five years, increased his department's annual sales to $250 million from $16 million.
Rankin enjoyed the work, but he did not enjoy the process, under which he would provide advice to a client, then hand over the client's file to an account manager for execution. There was some turnover among account managers and some were more diligent than others; Rankin craved the ability to ensure clients received the service he had promised.
So, Rankin joined the Truro branch of a boutique firm based in Winnipeg that eventually became part of Assante Financial Management Ltd.
"It was the first time I had the full range of all the available solutions," Rankin says. "I didn't have to worry about pleasing management and keeping other people happy. The purity of keeping the client happy resonated."
Rankin, to ensure former and prospective clients could find him, established his own company, Rankin Financial Planning. He also made an arrangement with Sun Life to work out of an office in its Truro location.
Being part of a larger financial services firm has advantages, Rankin says. He has access to Assante's in-house and local expertise, including an insurance advisor, a tax lawyer and an accountant with a financial planning background.
Rankin has a targeted client base: business owners and professionals older than 50 years of age with a minimum of $250,000 in investible assets. Rankin works with several medical professionals and university faculty members, and the branch has well over $100 million in assets under management.
Rankin's office is in a century-old building that was an elementary school from 1915 to 2008. He was part of the team that transformed the building into a mixed residential/commercial property in 2010.
"The building has a deep connection to the community spanning many generations," Rankin says. "We get regular drop-ins from former students and faculty. I had several clients tell me that they went to Grade 1 in my office."
When Rankin is not in the office, he spends time with his wife, Linda, and their two boys, ages 7 and 13.
The key to building a successful financial advisory business is to be as informed about your business and your clients as possible, says Glen Rankin, financial planner with Rankin Financial Planning Ltd. in Truro, N.S.
Here are Rankin's tips for new or aspiring financial advisors:
- Find a mentor and work as a junior advisor. Learning from others is an excellent way to develop skills and build a network. Working with a senior planner who is looking to retire may be a path to a successful career. "Help that person with their succession plan," Rankin says. "Be part of that solution for them."
- Get your credentials. Those letters after your name really do carry weight. And, Rankin adds, "Your competition has them." Even if you haven't landed that first job in financial services, working toward a designation can give you a head start.
- Make yourself difficult to replace. Client service is a cornerstone of business that keeps clients - then clients' family members - coming back. "Do many things for clients," Rankin says, "and do them well."