Canadian Western Bank (CWB) says the recent merger of its legacy private wealth firms will allow it to simplify its business model and better reach mid-market business owners during their growth years.
“We can offer financial planning when the business owner really needs it, and that is how we lock up the future wealth opportunity when the liquidity [event] comes,” said Stephen Murphy, group head of commercial, personal and wealth with Edmonton-based CWB, at an investor day presentation in Toronto on Dec. 7.
Merging the firms under the CWB Wealth banner also helps them stand out in a crowded Canadian financial services field, Murphy said. The bank is focusing on providing commercial banking, personal banking and wealth advisory services to mid-market business owners, which it identifies as those with businesses generating between $5 million and $100 million in annual revenue.
“Traditional wealth advisors — they only want to talk to the already rich,” Murphy said. “Often, our clients are equity-rich, but not yet cash-rich. All their equity is tied up in their business, but we see their potential early, we know where it’s going, and we see that before mono-line or siloed wealth firms.”
In October, CWB announced that T.E. Wealth, Doherty & Bryant Financial Strategists, Leon Frazer & Associates, and CWB Wealth Management (originally founded as Adroit Investment Management) would all be rebranded as CWB Wealth. Calgary-based boutique firm CWB McLean & Partners has been rebranded as CWB Wealth Partners, under the CWB Wealth umbrella.
Matt Evans, president and CEO of CWB Wealth, said in an interview that the merger was the result of two years’ efforts “to draw from the unique strength of each legacy firm and then to introduce something new that’s greater than the sum of the parts.”
The bank decided to merge its wealth advisory platform following CWB’s acquisition of T.E. Wealth and Leon Frazer in March 2020, a transaction that tripled CWB’s assets under management, administration and advisement to $8 billion when it closed in June 2020. As of Oct. 31, that figure had risen to $9.6 billion, down from $10.9 billion a year earlier.
“The T.E. Wealth and Leon Frazer teams came with deep financial planning and investment management expertise, providing us with the capabilities, scale, and geography to reach our embedded business owner wealth opportunity better and faster,” Murphy said at the investor day.
Evans said CWB, which has about 40 advisory teams, has focused on organic growth rather than on attracting new advisors. “We’ve retained all of our key advisor talent, and really saw no material transaction-related attrition, which is a significant achievement for us off the back of [the 2020] acquisition.”
However, CWB remains interested in growing by acquisition should the right opportunity present itself, Evans said: “We’re always looking at the market for opportunities that could really fit from a strategic perspective, from a cultural perspective, and can be financially accretive as well.”
Next year, CWB Wealth will focus on helping its business-owner clients navigate what might be a challenging year both economically and in the markets, Evans said.
“This is the kind of economic environment where advisors really earn their stripes,” he explained. “It’s the kind of environment where, often, relationships between advisors and clients become disrupted elsewhere in the industry, [so] it’s a growth opportunity for advisors who have done a great job for their clients, as I think ours have.”