The resources needed to take care of high net-worth clients are not at every advisor’s fingertips.

“High net-worth clients want more — they have already been in the mutual fund world,” says Chris Ambridge, president and chief investment officer of Toronto-based Provisus Wealth Management.

Newcomer Provisus — which earlier this year rose from the ashes of First Asset Advisory Services Inc. — is looking to fill that gap. It is offering tailored separately managed accounts with overlay management for independent advisors who would not otherwise have such a resource available. Provisus helps the independent advisor “go beyond the ordinary” for their top clients, says Ambridge.

Provisus is licensed as an investment counsellor and portfolio manager. It works with 13 outside managers who have designed 53 mandates, which Provisus combines to customize portfolios according to advisors’ and their individual clients’ income needs, tax requirements, risk profile, and so on, as determined by a 10-page questionnaire the client fills out with his or her advisor. The portfolio lineup can also accommodate a client’s ethical standards with tobacco-free investments and socially responsible mandates.

Provisus feels it is off to a good start. Through more than 30 referral agreements, the new firm manages about 250 accounts. Its minimum portfolio size is $150,000 and its largest account is worth $8 million. But the average account is slightly less than $500,000, allocated among two or three mandates. Assets under management are approaching the $100 million mark.

In a separately managed account, all securities are owned outright by the client, a distinct tax advantage. Provisus’ fees are also tax-deductible. Provisus issues quarterly statements and clients can keep an eye on their accounts online. “We don’t trade a lot,” says Ambridge, because that can create taxable income. As well, the managers Provisus uses “don’t have high turnover rates.”

FAAS pioneered separately managed accounts for the Canadian market in 2002. After its acquisition by Frank Russell Canada, it was shuttered last year when the expected synergies failed to develop. When FAAS closed, Provisus rebuilt some of FAAS’s white-label partnerships, including with Laurentian Bank of Canada, and established its Transcend managed accounts program to replace FAAS’ Legacy program.

Provisus’ staff of nine own and operate the young firm. When the founders started, they had two goals: to help the advisors and clients displaced by FAAS closing and to make Provisus a viable business.

“If we weren’t going to be profitable from Day 1, we weren’t going to do it at all,” says Ambridge.

Seven of the nine Provisus staffers are FAAS alumni. Associate portfolio manager Lara Gray came from one of FAAS’s white-label partnerships. The clients won so far have come straight out of FAAS referral programs. “Clients were not affected harshly by the transition,” says Ambridge. Transcend “sucked up” FAAS’s Legacy accounts.

This summer, Provisus has started advertising and has launched its Web site ( Staff is housed on the fourth floor of an 1871 building that once housed the De La Salle Institute, next door to what was, until 1866, Ontario’s first bank in downtown Toronto.

“We like to think of ourselves as off-off-Bay Street,” says Gray of the neighbourhood, which is a short hike east of the business district and in the middle stages of gentrification.

Whereas FAAS employed more than 40 people with representatives for Western and Eastern Canada in Vancouver and Montreal, Provisus is choosing to stay small. It has outsourced tech support and Web design, while keeping systems and portfolio management in-house in order to focus on delivering “superior portfolio management.” Service is also available in French.

“People lose their biggest clients [because the advisor isn’t equipped],” says Ambridge. “We are there to take advisors to the next level.”

“We’re just not taking [the advisors] out for coffee or dinner,” adds Gray. Provisus lets the advisor do the hand-holding, while Provisus takes care of the client’s money. IE