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Jeff Carney, CEO of Winnipeg-based IGM Financial Inc. believes sometimes you have to get smaller before you can get bigger.

The firm’s biggest operating company, Investors Group Inc., has let go more than 400 advisors and administrative staff positions.

Thanks to higher standards for advisors, 400 primarily younger consultants were let go in recent months.

“I’ve raised the standard,” Carney says. “We didn’t think they were going to make it under the new skills we’re looking for in the future.”

At the end of the first quarter, the number of veteran consultants — defined as those with four or more years of experience — was 2,262, slightly less than half of the cohort of 4,754. There were 5,321 consultants a year ago.

Carney, who took over as CEO of IGM a year ago, says he doesn’t rule out further job losses in the future, but says no immediate layoffs are imminent.

The firm also laid off 80 administrative staff. “We combined some different [regional] districts together and created an opportunity to reduce costs and put that money back to work in other things that we’re trying to do,” Carney says. “It’s a reallocation of resources.”

Thirty of those affected people were in Winnipeg with the remaining 50 spread out across the country.

“I’m still in my early days. I’m looking at everything. I don’t want to sit here and say we’ll never have [more layoffs],” he says. “Right now, I’m focused on growing our company and accelerating the growth. In some areas we might be hiring, and in some areas we might be reducing, depending on what we’re doing with our business model as we evolve.

“Where we can find efficiencies,” he adds, “we [have to act] because it’s a competitive landscape and we’ve got to reinvest in pricing, products and people who can bring new skills to us.”

Carney addressed the media following IGM’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg Friday morning. A couple of hours earlier, the company announced net earnings available to common shareholders for the three months ended March 31 of $177.1 million (74¢ per share) up from $167.0 million (69¢) in the corresponding period a year earlier.

Part of the increased focus on veteran consultants is a heightened focus on high net-worth clients.

“We’re moving more up-market,” Carney says. “We were probably working too hard for the smaller clients and now we’re working for the right ones. We don’t want to walk away from our smaller clients but they don’t need that level of sophistication at that stage of their lives vs somebody who has accumulated significant wealth and needs to know that their retirement is going to fund the rest of their lives.”

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