Courtesy of Delisle Advisory Group

The latest competition in the investment counsel space comes with a breadth of expertise, as two former BMO execs launch a new firm that aims to raise the bar on serving high-end clients.

Co-founders (and married couple) Andrew Auerbach and Jean Blacklock have launched Delisle Advisory Group, a Toronto-based investment counselling firm for high- and ultra-high-net-worth clients.

Auerbach was previously with BMO for more than two decades, most recently as head of private wealth before retiring in 2022. With Delisle, he’s now capitalizing on the independence trend in wealth management.

In the U.S., registered investment advisor (RIA) firms are positioned to soon claim a third of market share, and Auerbach expects the trend in Canada to follow suit.

“A number of the factors that contributed to that significant growth of the independent channel in the U.S. are here in Canada,” Auerbach said, referring to the greater focus on providing a fiduciary standard and comprehensive, customized planning. “In the coming years, our view is you’re going to see a significant emergence of independent firms, likely through the investment counselling channel.”

Tech is a key part of making that happen, and Delisle has partnered with Purpose Advisor Solutions for an integrated tech platform. (The new firm is using Conquest Planning’s financial planning software and Fidelity is providing custody services.)

Auerbach said Delisle will have no proprietary products, and, with advisors being owners, conflicts are avoided because interests are aligned.

“Being an owner means sharing a vision of what you can bring to clients [and] how to grow the enterprise value of the firm,” he said.

One focus for the firm is the management of family dynamics — Blacklock’s specialty. A former executive with BMO private banking and wealth management, an estate lawyer and an entrepreneur, Blacklock is also a registered psychotherapist.

“Both as a lawyer and running the wealth services business in a large bank, estate planning was … very focused on the end result,” she said, referring to power of attorney and will documents.

That focus is shortsighted, Blacklock suggested.

Most conflict and litigation arise because “we misunderstand the … complexities of the thoughts and feelings of everyone, not only about mortality but about their planning,” she said. “Really important conversations are just not held.”

Delisle advisors will receive one-on-one training with Blacklock to have those complex client discussions, she said, and the firm will provide families with tools to address conflict as well as references to professional help if needed. Such offerings will make planning at Delisle “more broad-based” than is typical in the industry, Blacklock said.

“Those skills of how to help facilitate this level of discovery with families are as unique and specialized as the skills I would have as a portfolio manager,” Auerbach said. “Bringing them together within the firm is something we’re very excited about.”

Auerbach and Blacklock also noted that the firm will scale its capabilities so that services typically offered to only the ultra-high-net-worth segment can be offered to high-net-worth clients as well.

In response to questions about target assets under management and number of advisory teams, Auerbach, the firm’s sole portfolio manager at launch, said, “The most important criteria for us will be cultural alignment. What we are offering families is unique, and it won’t be for every advisor.”

The firm aspires to opening offices across the country, he said, and with the launch, they’ll be talking to families and advisors countrywide about the firm’s value proposition.