With the launch of Winnipeg-based Wellington-Altus Private Wealth on Monday, a once defunct name in Canada's independent investment dealer landscape returns to the Street.
"It's like Wellington [West Holdings Inc.] 2.0," says Todd Degelman, vice chairman and national sales manager of the new firm.
Wellington-Altus has launched with $2.5 billion in assets under management (AUM) and 46 employees, 14 of whom are investment advisors licensed by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). The new firm will operate as a full-service investment dealer in five cities across Canada: Vancouver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Halifax.
The firm's chairman, Charlie Spiring, who founded Wellington West in 1993, and Degelman have brought about $1 billion of the AUM to the firm; the remainder is the result of the acquisition of Toronto-based Altus Securities Inc.
"Charlie's known [Altus's founders] for years," says Shaun Hauser, Wellington-Altus' president and chief operating officer. "[He] told them the story of where we're going, they thought it was a perfect layout for where they wanted to go, and so we had a meeting of the minds."
Founded in 1996, Altus is an independent full-service investment management firm focused on the high net-worth market. Paul Jan Jelec, a founder of Altus, will remain as a director with the new firm.
The new, combined firm will offer advisors a "full tool belt," says Degelman. "We want to be able to have every product and service available to any IIROC advisor."
That includes running platforms for discretionary portfolio management, separately managed accounts, and unified management accounts as well as support for advisors who run a fee-based practice.
For the time being, the fledgling dealer has an in-house financial planner to assist advisors in offering more rounded advice to clients, although Hauser says there are plans to add to the firm's roster of experts.
"In our business model we see successful being defined by holistic advice delivery," he says.
Although offering holistic advice is a growing trend in the investment industry, the number of independent small dealers is shrinking as firms look to consolidate or close up shop in light of rising costs related to changes in the regulatory landscape.
However, executives at Wellington-Altus believe that advisors and clients will be looking for different options from the big banks and the large independents.
"We think that disruption will fall in our favour," says Degelman. "We feel like there's an opportunity to be different than the rest."
Furthermore, both Degelman and Hauser believe that advisors themselves are looking for a change in light of the grid compression and restructuring that has happened at many of the established players.
"Advisors aren't just numbers," says Hauser. "They're people, they're partners, they have voices that we listen to."
As such, advisors who join Wellington-Altus can expect to be equity partners in the new firm.
But while Hauser and Degelman believe there's space in the marker for a firm like Wellington-Altus to work, they're not in fact against the bank-owned firms. Indeed, Wellington West was sold to Montreal-based National Bank Financial Ltd. in 2011.
"We're not anti-bank," says Hauser. "We think the banks are good people. We're just recognizing that they have size, and from size there are realities."
The new firm will, in fact, keep some ties with National Bank. Specifically, Wellington-Altus will run its back office through the bank's clearing house, National Bank Correspondent Network.
In terms of where Wellington-Altus is going, Degelman expects to see the firm hit its first $5 billion in AUM within three years and $10 billion in AUM within five to seven years.
In future, the firm will also likely make use of emerging technologies in the industry, such as robo-advisors. However, it has yet to be decided whether that will come in the form of an in-house project or a partnership with an existing player.
Photo copyright: yanlev/123RF