Practice Management

Mind the Gap: A Risk Expert’s Approach to Client Concerns

You could call Shannon Hooper a highly experienced rookie. After supporting and training Advisors for 15 years, she decided it was time to take the plunge and lever her extensive experience as a Wealth Advisor for GEM Financial Group. Shannon’s niche is risk; particularly life insurance and segregated funds, which are once again a hot topic of conversation, given concerns – particularly among Canada’s aging demographic – about protecting their nest eggs.
August 2019

Shannon Hooper

Wealth Advisor, GEM Financial Group

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You could call Shannon Hooper a highly experienced rookie. After supporting and training Advisors for 15 years, she decided it was time to take the plunge and lever her extensive experience as a Wealth Advisor for GEM Financial Group. Shannon’s niche is risk; particularly life insurance and segregated funds, which are once again a hot topic of conversation, given concerns – particularly among Canada’s aging demographic – about protecting their nest eggs.

 

Training ground: exposure to Advisor dos and don’ts

I started out supporting approximately 350 independent Advisors across southwestern Ontario in my role at HUB Financial – assisting with in-depth training, product selection, and a host of business-building initiatives. While insurance was my niche, I also worked in succession training; matching buyers and sellers to ensure transitions were properly handled.

My role honed my ability to educate and simplify the complex, gave me tremendous insight into best practices, and offered exposure to various firms. So, when I decided to take the plunge nearly 15 years later to become an Advisor, GEM Financial Group was a natural fit. They had always struck me as being truly genuine, dedicated to clients’ best interests – and I gravitated toward the family atmosphere; prospective clients who come into our office feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, walk out feeling right at home.

While my experience was the ultimate training ground for a seamless transition to working directly with clients, it also shed light on some “don’ts.” I aspire to be someone who prides herself on building relationships versus having a transactional mindset. I want to be both a sounding board about risk management – and also the friend you ask questions that are unrelated to insurance, like “I’m thinking about buying a house. Can you recommend the right realtor?”

In the discovery process, 100% of prospective clients articulate a desire to change what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, or with whom they’re working.

The emotional impact of investing

Given that I worked with Advisors all the way up to the point where they’d meet with clients, the biggest eye-opener is witnessing, first hand, the emotional impact of planning decisions. When I put viable options in front of people, and help them make the right choices, I not only see relief, but also a sense of pride in being part of the process.

I work in tandem with Martin Caldwell, GEM’s owner, so if we’re not meeting clients together, he’ll bring me in to consult on evident gaps, or to review existing insurance to make sure that risk is being appropriately managed. Similarly, when a client meets with me, I’m able to seamlessly refer them to Martin, a Wealth Advisor.

Our goal is simply to be that one-stop shop where needs are met. To that end, our in-depth needs analysis uncovers portfolio gaps and instances where clients are underinsured. In fact, in the discovery process 100% of prospective clients articulate a desire to change what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, or with whom they’re working. It’s not uncommon to hear they have a large sum at a financial institution, but don’t understand what they’re invested in. There’s always an opportunity to help.

I’m not in this business to sell a policy; I’m honest about what will best – and most affordably – address my clients’ needs.

Unfortunately, many people, particularly Baby Boomers, lived in a world where someone would show up at their house and ask, “How much insurance do you want?” It was a ticket-taker mentality, so understandably, misperceptions linger. Some think life insurance is very expensive; that they’ll have to pay thousands of dollars to get what they need. Others trust that their existing coverage is adequate – even if what they have is a $25,000 whole life policy someone sold them years ago, at a different time in their lives.

When I explain that it’s not tailored to them – and that there are specific solutions for each unique stage of life – they engage in the conversation and are highly receptive to consider solutions that reflect their own personal bigger picture.

I’m not in this business to sell apolicy; I’m honest about what will best – and most affordably – address my clients’ requirements, and we make the important decisions together. This approach resonates 10 out of 10 times, because I’m able to show them gaps through structured, in-depth discovery. Ultimately this business is about building a relationship in which people feel safe and trust us enough to tell us everything we need to know in order to offer truly informed guidance.

A good time to be thinking about seg funds is right off the hop, when clients first begin to invest.

Everything old is new again

If you have a long-term perspective, what goes around, comes around. Segregated funds were a hot topic among Advisors, with many offering this solution for the sleep-at-night guarantees. Markets rose, the focus shifted, but given industry cyclicality and client sentiment… here we are again.

When I ask people about their long-term investment strategy, risk tolerance and vision for wealth, 9 out of 10 – even younger clients – say they’d rest easier if their money was protected. They’d all like it to grow, of course, but they are most concerned about the prospect of losses. That’s where seg funds come in with upside potential and as a safeguard in market downturns – a recurring theme that comes up whether I’m discussing life, critical illness, disability or business insurance… and at any life stage; among working professionals, pre-retirees, or those planning to transfer their wealth.

Client education is vitally important, so I explain that there’s no single all or nothing solution. Should seg funds be a suitable option, from day one, a portion of their portfolio would be locked up nice and tight with added security, knowing that money is always going to be there regardless of the markets. However, you can’t build a clock with a single cog; it’s a portfolio complement.

What’s most interesting is that I meet many people who didn’t know that insurance investment options like seg funds were even available to them. It’s an eye opener to Baby Boomers; as soon as I discuss named beneficiaries, creditor protection, and the available maturity and death benefit guarantees they question why no one has ever told them about this before now.

Buying a book of business is always on the table.

An encyclopedia of knowledge

GEM is well positioned here in Woodstock, Ontario, with a great roster of valued clients and referrals, but because there’s always room for growth, buying a book of business is always on the table. My experience in succession training dictates that it’s all about like-mindedness: finding the right person, with the right attitude, and the right client demographic. Trust is key; there’s a huge reputational risk to not believing in the seller, so our vetting process would focus in on those who are relationship-based, versus transactional in their approach.

As for my own personal growth, I don’t think you can master everything there is to know in a given profession, so even after 15 years in my niche, I continue to learn through exposure to client situations and formally, through education. It’s enjoyable to challenge myself every single day.

So far, my background is serving me well; in fact, I’ve had people say, “you’ve been teaching Advisors how to help us all these years, and now you’re OUR encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Shannon Hooper on BMO Guaranteed Investment Funds (GIFs)

What appeals to me about BMO Seg Funds is both innovation and service. Kirsten Woodhouse, my sales rep, is not only a knowledgeable person to work with on the product level – she was a pivotal support throughout my career transition.

In terms of the Funds themselves, in addition to client benefits like creditor protection, beneficiary naming, and automatic monthly resets, I also like that there’s a 24-month commission chargeback to the Advisor. In the unlikely event a client ever had to pull their money out, it would affect my compensation – not them. Articulating that inherently strengthens trust and the client relationship.

For more ideas on how to add value and build your business, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative.

BMO Life Assurance Company Disclosure:

BMO Life Assurance Company is the sole issuer and guarantor of the BMO GIF individual variable insurance contract. This article provides general information. Please consult the Policy Provisions and Information Folder for details of BMO GIF.

BMO Global Asset Management Disclosures:

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.

The testimonial(s) in this article may not be representative of the experience of other people/advisors. The testimonials are no guarantee of future performance or success. These are solicited testimonials.

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name that comprises BMO Asset Management Inc., BMO Investments Inc., BMO Asset Management Corp., BMO Asset Management Limited and BMO’s specialized investment management firms.

®/™ Registered trade-marks/trade-mark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

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