moving wealth with a group of trees shaped as pie chart financial graphs

Toronto-based independent brokerage Richardson GMP Ltd. is doubling down on growth with significant investments in technology and a rebranding effort that showcases the firm’s new focus on “the next generation of wealth.”

That strategic focus relates to both the types of financial advisors the firm is looking to bring on board and the high-end financial services beyond investment management that these advisors, and the ones currently at the firm, increasingly are providing to their clients – namely, family wealth planning and estate planning, including the intergenerational transfer of wealth.

“We want to be the firm that best helps our clients [transfer] wealth and family businesses to the next generation,” says Andrew Marsh, president and CEO of Richardson GMP. “[Our rebranding effort] is designed to capture the next generation of the type of advice that the best advisors should be offering to their clients.”

Specifically, Marsh says, “The more complex wealth becomes, the more sleep our clients are losing over the generational wealth transfer [rather] than any individual stock.” Thus, he says, Richardson GMP wants its advisors to focus on these conversations and the firm’s role is to provide the support advisors need to get there.

Marsh and his team are betting that this new focus will lead to growth for the firm. Marsh’s goal is to see Richardson GMP’s assets under administration (AUA) reach $50 billion, up from $30 billion today, and for the firm to build up its advisor roster to 250, with an average practice size of $250 million, from 170 today.

To accomplish these goals, Richardson GMP is looking to recruit new advisors and help its current advisors grow their books of business. Marsh believes the firm is well positioned to do this, thanks to recent investments in technology and the revamped marketing message.

The Richardson GMP advisors surveyed for Investment Executive‘s 2018 Brokerage Report Card this past January and February pointed to the need for the firm to improve its tech tools and strengthen its brand – although some of these advisors did mention that there were plans in the works in both categories.

The changes Richardson GMP has made in its rebranding go a lot deeper than simply updating the firm’s marketing material. Indeed, Richardson GMP severed ties with 20 of its advisors this past year because the firm’s management assessed these advisors’ businesses and found that they weren’t aligned with the firm’s new direction.

“The whole [re]brand is about [now being the] time for us to walk the talk,” says Marsh. “I really want to have the firm demonstrate the high professional standards and values that our brand represents in every possible way.”

The advisors who left the firm were a mix of individuals, including some original partners from predecessor firms Richardson Partners Financial Ltd. and GMP Private Client LP, as well as former Macquarie Private Wealth Inc. advisors. (Richardson GMP, created in 2009 as a result of the merger of Richardson Partners and GMP, acquired Macquarie in 2013.)

In some cases, the decision to help those advisors transition their businesses to other firms was part of a risk-minimization assessment on Richardson GMP’s part, says Marsh. Some of these advisors were running transactional businesses involving relatively small accounts and higher-risk investments.

“We’re not against transactional business,” says Marsh. “[Our new vision is about focusing on] the nature and the sophistication of the clientele that’s doing that [preferred] business.”

From a recruitment perspective, Marsh says, Richardson GMP’s goal is to recruit five to 10 advisors who fit the firm’s culture per year. Although the company is being choosy, it foresees plenty of opportunity among advisors who are interested in the independent side of the business.

“As we’re beginning to ramp up our recruiting [efforts], we’re seeing a real demand for a very high-quality, non-bank alternative,” Marsh says. “So, we think we’re in very good shape there.”

Part of this plan includes recruiting potential successors for current Richardson GMP advisors who are looking for such partnerships. The recruits will not be rookies; rather, they will be experienced younger advisors, generally in their late 30s and early 40s, with growing businesses.

Richardson GMP also is looking to give its advisors an edge in the firm’s revamped business model – and a boost to their books – with the launch of new tech tools. Most recently, the firm launched a new client portal through which clients can upload important documents, such as a will, to share with their advisor, as well as their lawyer or accountant, in a secure manner.

The firm is able to share other documents, such as account statements and tax reports, via the portal. As well, the portal allows clients to customize how they view their portfolios and investment information.

“Advisors and their clients should be talking about planning and portfolio structure; not about what last month’s [client] report looks like,” Marsh says.

Richardson GMP also plans to cut down on administrative headaches for its advisory teams with the launch of a new client “onboarding” platform this month and electronic signature capabilities in the new year.

The client onboarding tool also will help Richardson GMP expand another technology tool: its in-house robo-advisor. In early 2018, Richardson GMP launched an internal digital wealth-management platform through which the firm’s advisors can refer smaller accounts to the robo-advisor.

Through this new robo-advisor, clients’ investible assets are being placed in low-cost portfolios consisting mainly of ETFs that incorporate both passive and active strategies. The platform has about $13 million in AUA, and Marsh notes that although uptake has been slow, it is building.

“The people we’ve hired to run the [robo-advisor] platform are excellent professionals who are great at working as partners with our [client-facing] advisors, who are beginning to embrace it,” Marsh says. “But [ours] is a longer-term [growth plan].”