Michail Tsirikos
Michail Tsirikos received the highest score, nationwide, on the CFP exam administered by FP Canada this past May. Photo by Christopher Lawson.

This article appears in the November issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Communication, client engagement and financial literacy are key features of the client-centred approach adopted by Michail Tsirikos, a senior financial advisor with Educators Financial Group Inc. in Ajax, Ont.

“I find if I can’t explain the concept to the client and they don’t really understand it, they’re probably going to walk away from the meeting wondering, ‘What did we talk about?’” Tsirikos said.

Tsirikos, 36, is a newly minted certified financial planner (CFP). He received the highest score, nationwide, on the exam administered by FP Canada this past May.

Tsirikos has been working with Educators since 2012. He joined the firm after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in commerce and economics, and a brief stint as a customer services representative with a branch of Bank of Montreal in Toronto.

“I found an opportunity at Educators to pivot and focus on more of a niche,” he said. The firm, which is a subsidiary of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, focuses on serving members of the education community and their families.

When Tsirikos joined Educators, he observed that the work the senior financial planners in the firm were doing had a positive impact on their clients’ lives. “It’s something that I quickly became very good at, and felt I could really contribute to,” he said.

Tsirikos began his tenure with Educators as a client services representative before being promoted to account manager in 2015. The latter position involved junior financial advisory-related responsibilities with a small set of clients that he was assigned to manage, in addition to fielding inbound calls and requests from clients across the organization.

In 2019, Tsirikos was promoted to senior financial advisor, a position that entails additional duties, including detailed one-on-one financial planning sessions with clients that cover retirement planning, estate planning, budgeting, education savings plans and taxes. He also has made presentations at various workshops.

Tsirikos’ clients span various roles within the education community. Typical clients include teachers, principals, superintendents, educational assistants and administrative staff members — as well as their family members, he said.

Tsirikos likes the egalitarian nature of serving a specialized community. “We don’t really focus in on, for example, X amount of dollars per client being the minimum threshold to work with us,” Tsirikos said. “Because we’re union-owned, the idea is to provide all members with advice and steer them in the right direction.”

Educators’ business is built largely on word-of-mouth referrals among members of the profession. “Teachers talk among their friends. There is lunchroom talk, et cetera, and that’s how we meet a lot of members,” he said. “A financial advisor’s reputation is very important. So, if they’re doing the right thing and offering members the right, educator-specific advice, the word gets around.”

Members of the education community who are in financial distress, or need assistance with issues such as retirement planning, may contact union officials for direction, Tsirikos said. The union officials may then refer those members to Educators.

The firm also uses online advertising through channels such as Instagram and Facebook to promote its services.

Tsirikos’s investment approach depends on the individual client’s stage of life and their financial situation. Discussions with the client informs decisions about whether to be more aggressive or more conservative in a portfolio, for example. He re-emphasized the importance of financial literacy and how an understanding of financial matters allows a client to be fully engaged in those conversations and decisions.

Tsirikos believes in the importance of keeping things relatively simple regarding clients’ finances. “I’m thinking of some of the classic keys to success,” he said. “For example, diversifying, keeping fees relatively low, having a contingency plan for those ‘what if’ scenarios, being conscious of taxation — both in the present and in the future — and sticking to the long-term plan that we agree on, with some little course corrections along the way.”

Tsirikos is supported by a team that includes a client service representative who assists with details such as booking appointments and calling clients. There also are financial advisors in Educators’ main office in Toronto who are available to handle general inquiries. “For example, if I’m on the road and I can’t talk to a client about a withdrawal, the financial advisor can step in to help,” he said.

Educators also provides support with tasks such as marketing and operations.

Tsirikos was born and raised in Toronto. He and his wife, Amy, an elementary school teacher, have a three-year-old daughter, Micheline.

In his spare time, Tsirikos enjoys tackling modest-sized do-it-yourself home improvement projects, and is a big sports fan, particularly of soccer, football and hockey. He used to coach youth soccer, and currently plays some recreational hockey.

Travel, particularly to Europe, is another passion. “I’ve been to France, Italy and Greece. I find there’s a lot of interesting art, history, architecture, culture and food. It’s something very different than North America.”

Here at home, Tsirikos is an avid supporter of Feed Ontario, a charity that supports food banks across the province. “We all chip in through company events and food drives. These days, that’s needed more and more.”