Darcie Crowe is a frequent flier. One week out of every month, Crowe typically shuttles from Vancouver to Toronto, travelling 3,363 kilometres to meet with clients. She keeps an office in both cities, priding herself in the personal service she provides all of her clients.
Crowe, 34, senior financial advisor and portfolio manager with Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management in Vancouver, focuses on serving women clients who are experiencing transitions in their lives. Crowe can empathize with this group, partly because of the series of transitions that brought her from her native Toronto to her adopted West Coast home.
Crowe landed a job as an associate at Genuity Capital Markets in Toronto after earning her honours business administration degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2004. She held that position, in which she was involved in equities financing for Canadian corporations, for almost six years.
The job seemed a natural fit for someone who had developed an early interest in understanding the financial markets. Crowe, as a 12-year-old, had spent weekends poring over stock quotes in the newspaper alongside her father, who worked as a portfolio manager. She describes the activity as a fun way to learn more about how her dad earned a living.
When Canaccord acquired Genuity in 2010 to form Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., Crowe made her own transition within the firm to become an investment advisor. “I craved that more personal touch,” she says, “in working directly with individuals and families.”
That desire to shift roles was encouraged by two industry players whom Crowe calls both mentors and clients. Dan Daviau, now president and CEO of Canaccord Genuity, and David Kassie, the firm’s chairman, were “huge supporters” of Crowe’s interest in switching from investment banking to wealth management.
They helped Crowe recognize that she had much to offer through her analytical skills and her knack for connecting with people on a personal level. “They helped me understand my own strengths in the business,” she says, “ensuring that I pursued my interests.”
In fact, Daviau and Kassie referred several clients to Crowe, playing an instrumental role in kick-starting the process of building her book.
As Crowe’s mentors understood, the work of an advisor goes beyond financial knowledge. You need to have a compassionate outlook, as well. “It’s about your ability to manage people,” she says, “and adapt to the uniqueness of each individual client.”
Crowe built her practice through the network she had developed within the industry and through personal contacts. Unlike many rookie advisors, she didn’t have to use the standard strategies of cold-calling and networking events to ramp up business – at least, initially.
Instead, she says, her Toronto practice was built on the experience and trust she had cultivated as an associate on the investment banking side. Having that advantage early on allowed her to attract a high net-worth client base from the start.
Then, in 2013, Crowe experienced a transition that would have profound effect on her life and her career: her husband died. “It sort of woke me up to the difficulties and financial struggles that can result from those life transitional periods,” she says.
Crowe, as an advisor, knew that her situation could have been worse: she was in the position of being in control of her finances.
“It made me realize that there are so many individuals working through those life transitions who aren’t in that position,” she says. “You see it all the time. If they haven’t been involved in managing their finances for a long period of time, that can add significantly to the stress.”
Crowe became more sensitive to the difficulties people have to deal with after an upheaval in their life. Clients can turn to Crowe for any number of issues, from managing the wealth transfer to dividing assets during a divorce.
When Crowe later remarried, she agreed to relocate to Vancouver, where her new husband works in his family’s business.
The move from Toronto to Vancouver in 2014 triggered another shift in the overall arc of Crowe’s career, but she remains intent on serving a “sophisticated” clientele.
Crowe has refined her focus further since settling in Vancouver. Much of her marketing efforts are concentrated there, where she works mainly with women who are facing life transitions such as divorce, marriage or the death of a spouse.
Because Crowe didn’t have a network in Vancouver, her approach to building her book there was much different. She teamed up with Ludovic Siouffi, an insurance advisor. Crowe and Siouffi share their business in Vancouver while Crowe maintains exclusive ownership of her Toronto book.
Crowe’s change in focus means she works more closely with family lawyers, who have become a source of referrals. She also relies on Siouffi to help drum up business by making cold calls and organizing seminars that are open to clients and prospects. The Vancouver office also has an associate and a marketing assistant.
Crowe also boosted her credentials. Already a chartered investment manager and fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute, she recently acquired her personal financial planner and certified divorce financial analyst designations so she could serve the needs of her clients better.
Although there were moments when Crowe questioned her decision to move, leaving Toronto has enriched her practice. Crowe’s presence in the two cities has afforded her a new perspective.
“It gives you a very different sense of what investors are doing; what they’re looking at,” she says.
For example, Crowe says, clients in Vancouver seem to be have a literal “home bias”; many are highly leveraged in real estate because that’s what is in vogue within their social circles.
“I’m having to talk people into diversification, whereas we don’t see that in Toronto,” Crowe says.
That level of insight, she says, gives her the opportunity to raise clients’ awareness of other products that aren’t as well known in their city.
Although Crowe calls Vancouver home for most of the year, she can’t imagine ever abandoning her Toronto practice. She’s resolved to maintain a “tight” book of business, which allows her to preserve her link to the city she grew up in.
Keeping a book of just 100 client households – about half in each city – makes remaining thoroughly engaged with clients more easy, despite the distance.
“If you have 500 or 1,000 client households in your book,” Crowe says, “it’s very hard to give that personal attention or service to your clients.”
Crowe says that retaining her Toronto clients didn’t take much persuasion. They are happy with the attention they receive: typically a face-to-face meeting once a year or once a quarter. When Crowe is in Toronto, she meets with five to 10 clients. Michael Bellamy, a full-time associate in Toronto supported by an assistant, is available to field clients’ concerns when Crowe is not in the city.
These days, advisors practicing in two cities is not unusual, says Crowe. The reason is not just that digital technology can help by connecting people, regardless of distance, but also that clients are on the move constantly.
Although Crowe isn’t necessarily looking for more business in Toronto, she’s open to taking on new clients should the opportunity arise.
Next month, Crowe will be welcoming another major life transition: the birth of her first child. Although there will be an inevitable period of adjustment, she has no plans of winding down her practice – especially now that she has hit her stride.
Crowe attributes the success she enjoys to her having found her niche: “You really want to focus on what you’re passionate about.”
© 2016 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.