Practice Management

A Young Advisor’s 8-Step Growth Hack

Joseph shares the signature Wealth Progression Sequence that – along with his 9am to 9pm work ethic – helped build a referral machine to grow his practice.
November 2019

Joseph Alfie, CIM

Investment Advisor, HollisWealth®, a division of Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. / Myriad Private Wealth


A two-time Wealth Professional “Young Gun,” Joseph Alfie, CIM®, Investment Advisor, Myriad Private Wealth with HollisWealth®, has successfully built a $85 million book of high-net-worth clientele in under 10 years. Having started from scratch, Joseph shares the signature Wealth Progression Sequence that – along with his 9am to 9pm work ethic – helped build a referral machine to grow his practice.

The Road Less Travelled

Though organic growth is becoming more difficult and increasingly rare, I’ve never been interested in buying a book in order to grow my business. Although the math makes sense for many Advisors, I’ve always preferred – and have had tremendous success at – developing my practice the old-fashioned way.

My career started with cold calling from 9am to 9pm to get prospects in the door. I didn’t inherit any clients; nobody gave me an asset, or a list. I started from scratch. Luckily, I had always harbored an entrepreneurial spirit; even as a teenager I would pick the brains of any adult I’d meet who ran a business. So, when it came to building my own, I was on the phone, every day, honing my craft.

This daily discipline sharpened my pitching skills, and helped me encourage folks to have a 15-minute conversation about their financial situation. I learned how to deliver polite rebuttals to their most common concerns, and show them there was no downside to a discussion; that they had nothing to lose.

Tenacity was an effective strategy, helping me to reach my first $40 million in assets. However, to grow further it was necessary to trim the book and focus on a few healthy relationships with high net worth households. By spending more time with fewer families, I was able to know their circumstances inside-out, be present in their lives, and cultivate a deeper connection that resulted in increased referrals to my practice. 

If someone asked me, “How else could you build a book of business?” I would be unable to answer. This is all I know – and working so closely with carefully selected clients has yielded some impressive results: Myriad Private Wealth has had, on average, two to four referrals per month over the last 12 months.

A mismatch in personalities can be a deal breaker even if someone has $20 million of assets.

How to Build a Referral Machine

When it comes to identifying and selecting prospective clients, we always look for the three A’s: Attitude, Advocacy and Assets – in that order. Given how collaborative we are, a mismatch in personalities can be a deal breaker even if someone has $20 million of assets. It’s also important to find people who can potentially trust us enough to become ambassadors, and not just satisfied customers. Lastly, in terms of asset size, we generally seek households with over $1 million in investable funds.

Once we think the fit is right, we implement an eight-step “Wealth Progression Sequence” we developed in order to demonstrate immediate value-add.

Step One – Discovery: In addition to asking traditional questions such as, “What are your monthly expenses?” and “How much income do you require for retirement?” we probe areas that are typically not covered by a standard questionnaire, especially when dealing with business owners.

In my experience, Advisors should have these discussions before any talk of investment solutions, given that clients sometimes have concerns they have not thought to express.  

Discovery: Sample Questions
  • Do you have a holding company?
  • Where do you keep retained earnings? (operating vs. holding company)
  • Is there a family trust? How is it structured?
  • When do you want to exit the business? What is your exit strategy?
  • Have you done an estate freeze?
  • Have you looked into the benefits of an individual pension plan?

Step Two – Assessment: In addition to the interview, we also review the investment situation and build a retirement plan to be executed in stages. By setting goals and benchmarks together, we’re effectively drawing up a timeline that will inform all future meetings. 

Step Three – Wealth Magnifier: We look for unique ways to customize the wealth plan, on everything from tax strategies to corporate restructuring, according to what makes sense for each individual client. 

Step Four – Wealth Preservator: Keeping a fortune is sometimes harder than accumulation, which is why we help build on the nest egg, preserve what’s already there, and steer clear of unnecessary risks.  

Step Five – Corporate Maximizer: In addition to our corporate planning acumen and tax efficient investment strategies, we introduce clients to the right professionals who can help refine and re-structure their financial architecture.  

Step Six – Estate Maximizer: From updating the will to verifying that insurance policies can cover the inheritance tax, a team of external professionals ensure the legacy is intact, and prepared for the unforeseen.

Step Seven – Review: Depending on the complexity or variability of each client, we schedule review meetings somewhere between two to four times per year.

Step Eight – Family and Friends: Having delivered true value-add through our process, we extend our services to the clients’ network and ensure circles of influence are extended the same level of care.

PRO TIP: Go the Extra Mile

Throughout the process, I typically read articles of particular interest to high-net-worth (HNW) individuals, rather than mainstream sources that provide general financial news for the majority of investors. For example, there are websites dedicated to recent cases involving the CRA which give us insight into new precedents, potential changes to the tax code, and ideas for successful tax strategies and structures.

Similarly, The Financial Post has a section on HNWs and entrepreneurs to profile how they structure their businesses, continue growing, save on taxes, etc. It’s fine to know that TFSAs have a $6,000 limit in 2019, but in order to truly engender trust, we tend to go much deeper and find information that’s more tailored for a HNW audience.

Put Your Focus Where It’s Most Valuable

Pruning my book and focusing on high-quality relationships has led to phenomenal growth in the size of the business: our office has received on average two to four quality referrals per month over the last 12 months, at which point it becomes a question of how well our styles mesh with the prospect – and how we effectively manage our time.  

The only way I can commit the necessary hours is by outsourcing focus in other areas. For example, the biggest time-consumer in our business is research and investment management. So, by using a finite amount of vetted investment vehicles and leveraging off the best analysts, I can devote more attention to serving my clients.

An example would be the following: a cautious investor in the past only had a few options, such as buying a GIC, owning fixed income directly or through funds, or buying a high interest savings account. In those cases, you end up paying taxes at the highest marginal tax bracket on interest. In order to resolve that, we incorporate conservative, actively managed corporate class ETF portfolios, which we view as an alternative to fixed income products. They’re tax-efficient, stable and not too expensive. More important, it gives us another option for gaining low-risk exposure in portfolios where the mandate is focused on capital preservation.

This type of fund, which is diversified, relatively inexpensive and tax-efficient, gives us a sober 80:20 tilt towards defensive-oriented investments. It also gives us leeway to respond to clients in a very, VERY timely manner.

Growth That Makes Sense For YOU

Ultimately, this is a relationship business, and growing organically – through a private wealth offering uniquely tailored to a HNW clientele ensures the “fit” is always as snug as possible.

For me, though, having started a business with cold calls, and evolved it into dealing with a select group of families is not even work – it’s fun.

To learn more about BMO ETF Portfolios, or to access innovative business-building ideas, useful practice management tips and an award-winning lineup of funds, contact your BMO Regional Sales Representative or ETF Specialist.


Also in the November 2019 issue of Insights:

Legal services are provided through an independent company unrelated to Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. Only those services offered through Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. are covered by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Please contact our office if you require further clarification.

This information has been prepared by Joseph Alfie, CIM®, who is an Investment Advisor at Myriad Private Wealth with HollisWealth®. Opinions expressed in this article are those of the Portfolio Manager only and do not necessarily reflect those of HollisWealth. HollisWealth® is a division of Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada


BMO Global Asset Management Disclosures:

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This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.

Commissions, trailing commissions (if applicable), management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments.  Please read the fund facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing.  Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

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