Advisor at Risk Ellen Bessner

Ellen Bessner is a well known, leading litigator with commercial litigation firm Babin Bessner Spry LLP. Her more than 25 years of experience includes defending investment and insurance industry participants, including dealers and individuals at all levels of courts in respect of client complaints, employment issues and in regulatory proceedings (provincial securities commissions, IIROC, MFDA and FSCO). She has developed popular and effective work developing and presenting training and educational programs and has developed processes to help advisors and agents grow their businesses while protecting them from the risk of litigation and regulatory enforcement matters. Ellen is also the author of the best-selling book, "Advisor at Risk: A Roadmap to Protecting Your Business", and a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She has also been quoted regularly in the national media on issues relating to litigation, regulatory and employment matters.

AI cannot replace human advisors

Services such as robo-advisors lack the ability to truly understand clients like financial advisors do

Get on top of potential conflicts of interest

Take the necessary steps to know your clients thoroughly and determine if one family member’s actions could put you in a conflict of interest situation

Be wary of suspicious instructions

Examine every instruction from a client or power of attorney and take the appropriate steps if something doesn’t seem right

Online impersonations put advisors at risk

Resist the temptation to help clients in a way that breaches your legal and regulatory obligations

Demystifying the confusion associated with joint accounts

Advisors have an obligation to inform elderly clients of the many risks with transferring an account to be held jointly to avoid probate fees

Protect your reputation

A reputation takes a lifetime to develop and a split second to lose

Think clearly before responding to compliance inquiries

Take the necessary time, collect the appropriate information, get help if needed and never guess when writing a response to an inquiry of a potential compliance breach

How to prepare for an investigation interview

Preparing for an interview with compliance, a regulator or client’s counsel is key because your licence, reputation and livelihood are all at stake

Be prepared when compliance or regulators come a-knocking

Never go into a meeting cold when being interviewed for any compliance infraction

Clearing up the confusion with outside business activities

Steps for advisors and their dealers to avoid OBA infractions

Don’t get sued: The importance of monitoring client changes

Stay on top of your clients’ circumstances by following up with them regularly to inquire about their personal situations

Don’t get sued: The importance of really knowing your clients

Ensuring you collect the necessary client information and having clear communication with clients will reduce your exposure to lawsuits

Don’t get sued: Choose the right clients

Ask key questions to prospects to screen for good clients

Assistants can be crucial to an advisor’s business

Having an assistant who is smart, knowledgeable and hard working can help keep advisors focused on their clients and on growing their businesses

Don’t make your clients’ problems your own

High-risk investing is not a band-aid solution for clients who have not saved enough for retirement

The “F” word

Providing a “best interest” standard for advisors may not raise the bar

OBSI, for better or for worse

Certain claims are best handled by OBSI; however, if the ombudservice were more balanced, it would result in a process that’s more transparent and fair

The increasing complexities of senior clients with POAs

Advisors and their dealers need to establish protocols to the everyday issues that occur when senior clients have a POA in place

Regulators send clear message to protect senior clients

Here are some of the steps advisors and dealers need to take to ensure they meet the new stringent requirements that are in place

Pass a mystery shopping exercise with flying colours

You need to ensure your first meetings with prospective clients are professional and meet regulators’ requirements, including being transparent about fees

Don’t practise “The Ostrich Phenomenon”

Establishing and following processes is key to staying out of trouble with regulators and your clients

Protect senior clients from their loved ones

Make sure you consider the possibility of fraud when a senior client’s friend or family member approaches you with unusual instructions

Help senior clients identify looming fraudsters

Take leadership in stopping fraud in its tracks and educating your clients about avoiding common sources of fraud

Buying a book of business? Be forewarned!

Advisors looking to buy a book of business have no shortage of options; however, they need to be aware of some key considerations

Advisors need to take their own advice on succession planning

Don’t hesitate in getting your succession plan in motion as the process of selling a book of business can take years from beginning to end

Don’t ignore a great opportunity to grow your business

Serving the financial needs of women entering, or already in, their senior years will become a major source of business as well as a compliance challenge for advisors

Ignore the invisible woman client at your peril

As advisors become more and more aware of the importance of serving women clients, they need to ensure they avoid making some common mistakes

Ignore the dealer’s policy manual at your peril

Although the dealer’s policy manual is long and dull, you need to find the time to read it and remain fresh on the issues

A roadmap for serving senior clients

Here are three tips that you should implement in your practice to reduce the risks related to serving senior clients

Serving senior clients is becoming a more risky endeavour

An experienced litigation lawyer offers four major reasons why complaints from senior clients, and subsequent action from regulators, is becoming more common

The juggling act required with the three changing elements of suitability

Advisors need to keep an eye on the changes taking place among clients, markets and companies so they can make the necessary alterations to clients’ portfolios

Financial plans: Understand and manage your risks

Ensure clients understand their obligations in a financial plan and that these are reviewed at regular client meetings

Navigating risk tolerance

Here are five considerations that can help you navigate the very complex issue of client risk tolerance

Know your client’s income — and prove it

Although this question may appear to be a mundane detail in the KYC, it has great importance. This is why

Don’t let the worst-case scenario happen to you

Making life convenient for your clients is important, but protecting your licence and reputation is even more critical

What does spring cleaning mean to advisors?

Ensure you clean up your files properly to avoid exposure to litigation, or regulatory investigations and enforcement

Know your client — but not too well

To know your client is a good thing; to know your clients intimately, however, is not

More than a client’s signature is needed

A signed KYC form is not enough. Advisors need to spend the time and get to know their clients thoroughly

Time to read up on investor education

Investor Education Month only comes every October, but you and your clients should read the material on regulators’ pages year-round

Jack and Jill want to take different routes

What should advisors do when their couple clients want to deal with their finances together but have different risk tolerances and goals?

Advisors must be gatekeepers against insider trading

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that clients are not breaching laws or regulations that could lead to regulatory proceedings and litigation

Don’t be haunted, get the POA in writing

Taking the word of a client’s family member that he or she has the power of attorney on the client’s account is a practice fraught with peril

Advisors are not picking lottery numbers

When your client has a brilliant investment idea, remember that you are a professional advisor who recommends securities based on research, knowledge and experience

Don’t shoot the messenger

Understanding the products you sell requires a lot more than just reading the marketing material

Advisors are not magicians

How to deal with clients who have not saved enough for retirement

Don’t let this happen to you

Understanding the impact that an infraction has on advisors

Who are advisors to protect seniors from?

Although it’s unfair for advisors to shoulder the burden of watching over senior clients’ financial safety, the regulators are leaning on advisors — understand this requirement

Evidence shows investor-protection system is working

The cases involving advisors who tried to find loopholes to boost their AUA and, thus, remuneration, reveal that the system we have in place is effective

Work with engaged clients to reduce risk

You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. So, make sure you work with clients who are willing to work with you to meet their goals

Striped socks and knowing your clients

Changes in fashion are a reflection of how much people change — and why you should meet with clients annually to see what’s going on in their lives

Grow your business with trust

Communicate with clients to ensure you are transparent and have encouraged them to make choices that are in their best interests

A missed opportunity

By not meeting the spouse or children of a well to do client, you’re losing out on growing your business

Figuring out your clients’ needs and wants

You need to understand the products you sell, explain them to clients appropriately, and ensure you chose a strategy that fit clients’ needs best

Protect — and grow — your business at the same time

Watching out for your clients’ best interests, not yours, is paramount