Andrew Pyle traded in his 68th-floor Toronto office for a career as a small-city, fee-based planner

By Lara Hertel | August 2007

When newly minted ScotiaMcLeod Inc. advisor Andrew Pyle showed his family his office in downtown Peterborough, Ont., his 12-year-old daughter, Vicky, was less than impressed.

“She said to me: ‘Your old office was on the 68th floor in downtown Toronto, and now you’re on the second floor in Peterborough. Does this mean you’re less important now?’” Pyle says with a laugh.

Such is the new life of 44-year-old Pyle, who, in January, traded his high-profile, continent-hopping, 10-hours-a-day job as a Bank of Nova Scotia economist for a career as a fee-based financial advi-sor at the bank’s full-service brokerage.

It’s an unusual move for a senior executive at one of Canada’s big banks, but Pyle is used to taking professional risks. In 1995, the University of Toronto graduate quit his job at a research company to co-found PATH International, an online analytics firm that produced real-time analysis and commentary on global markets for institutional traders and salespeople. The venture lasted only a year and a half, but it was a learning experience that Pyle likens to his “very own MBA program.”

He later joined Amsterdam-based bank ABN-AMRO in a research and sales support position in Toronto before becoming vice president and head of capital markets in Scotiabank’s economics department.

But making the daily commute from his home in Peterborough, a city of 135,000 that is 140 kilometres northeast of Toronto, to Scotiabank’s headquarters in downtown Toronto took its toll. Pyle’s day typically began at 5 a.m. He was in the office by 7 a.m. and not back at home until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. each night. His schedule became so hectic that, at one point, he rented a small apartment in Toronto to be closer to his job.

Last spring, a light bulb went on in Pyle’s mind: “I was considering my options, and I realized they were either to stay on my current career path and move the family to Toronto to be closer to my job — or not.”

In the end, Pyle and his wife, Irene, chose “not.” The couple retracted their offer on a new house in downtown Toronto and settled into a more modest home in Peterborough to accommodate what he calls a “massive downgrade” in Pyle’s salary. He became licensed in May, and he has been busily building his business from scratch ever since.

“We really look at this as a life change, and we’re putting in 100% effort,” he says. “The VP title is gone, but that’s the life that we chose — to be closer to home and live a simpler life.”

Like most advisors, Pyle is aiming to attract higher-end clients, which he defines as those with investible assets between $250,000 and $400,000. So far, he has about 10 clients, less than half of whom fall into the high net-worth bracket. Still, he aims to have between $10 million and $12 million in assets under management by May 2008, the date that will mark his one-year anniversary as an advisor.

Pyle is fully aware that he is entering a business in which virtually every advisor is clamouring for the same type of client. But, as he sees it, he has two target markets available to him: first, there are the residents of Peterborough and the surrounding area, from which he hopes his physical presence — and a robust marketing campaign — will round up clients.

The second market is the one with which he has made indirect contact throughout his years as an economist with frequent guest appearances on ROB-TV (now BNN), CBC and CTV, as well as the many contributions he has made to national newspapers and his published market reports.

“People across Canada have been listening to me on TV and reading reports that I’ve written, or they have talked to me during seminars or after speeches. And those people are potential clients,” he says.

With less than six months as an advisor under his belt, Pyle is still making some rookie observations about the industry. One of the biggest eye-openers has been the lack of high-touch services being offered by some of his peers. He explains the discrepancy in airline terms: “Some advisors today are charging a ‘business class’ fee for ‘economy’ service. There’s definitely a quality gap to be filled.”