Practice Management

Standing the Test of Time: How to Build on Success

Alexandra Horwood shares her secret sauce to sustained success – from providing value that can never be commoditized to being a confidante for her clients.
December 2019

Alexandra Horwood

Director, Wealth Management, Portfolio Manager, Investment Advisor at Richardson GMP


Alexandra Horwood, Director, Wealth Management, Portfolio Manager, Investment Advisor, Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®), was named the Canadian Advisor of the Year in 2019 by Wealth Professional, and her practice has been the fastest-growing at Richardson GMP for the past two years. In this issue of Insights, she shares the secret sauce behind her sustained success – from providing value that can never be commoditized to being a true confidante for her clients.

How to Secure a Fan for Life – From the Get-Go

There are so many elements involved in making clients your advocates, but the very first is to ensure a repeatable, disciplined process. From the moment my group – Alexandra Horwood & Partners – receives a referral for a potential new client, nothing falls through the cracks. Everything is documented to make for a smooth onboarding, so that by the time clients have signed up, they’re already fans for life. We make a point of clearly communicating our goals from the outset, with no room for confusion, so clients know what to expect from us. They appreciate that routine and consistency, and this is the first impression we make, and work hard to continue throughout the course of our relationship.

It’s also the personal touches that really go above and beyond. In addition to calling all my clients on their birthdays, I also invite them to celebrations of my own, and meet regularly for coffee or lunches where we don’t necessarily focus on investments. I show them that I’m there for them at ALL times, from health scares, to life decisions. For example, a recent conversation with one of my newest business owner clients led to a discussion about how she can build a maternity leave policy for the working mothers at her company – from what it would entail to how the policy would be received. I try to demonstrate that it’s not just about the finances for me; it’s about providing essential guidance, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and making introductions where required to help clients achieve long-term success, both personally and professionally.

Building a 1,000-Piece Puzzle Can’t be Commoditized

The other huge piece that sets my team apart is that we look at the big picture, as a first step, through what we call a Financial Vision Document. Everything from their health, family and charities they support, to their assets and what they want to accomplish. This is where we make our clients feel heard. What are their aspirations? Ambitions? Fears? Here, we uncover their larger goals, and it’s where we keep a record of it ALL – complete with personalized photos for every part of their plan so what we’re working towards is tangible, with investments simply a means to achieving their objectives.

Think of it as somebody walking into your office and throwing a 1,000-piece puzzle on your desk to put together. My team – together with our in-house experts – will take the time to meticulously put every single piece in its place until we have a comprehensive plan that makes sense. Not only that, but we will make sure that we’re tracking our progress – and executing on that plan through quarterly, or semi-annual, reviews. This amount of work, attention, and detail is tremendous value-add, and can’t be commoditized.

An electronic trading platform could never replace the level of intricacy, accountability, and experience that we lever to ensure our clients have peace of mind, and enough money to comfortably retire. The plans that we build are complex, and rely on deep collaboration with our specialists – on cross-border concerns to whether my clients stand to benefit from a lifetime capital gains exemption.

Our discretionary offering is also one of our most valued benefits, since it resonates so well with my client niche of successful mining executives. They travel often, so they’re comfortable offloading the work – and extending the inherent trust – to an experienced team of professionals. It’s the most efficient – and effective – way we can design a holistic strategy that’s personalized to our clients’ needs, while allowing us to grow and scale our business meaningfully. We can dedicate time and effort to planning, education, goal-setting, and one-on-one support.

Forward Thinking: Empathy and Education

Importantly, sustained success means building a business that constantly looks ahead: while prospecting is a large piece of the proverbial pie, it’s also about retaining existing clients. But it’s not just centred on the next generation – there is a big gap in the marketplace where women are concerned. In Canada, the average age of a widow is 56, while the life expectancy is 84 years1: it’s women who will actually be controlling all the wealth for the next 30 years, and who need the support, education and focus. From that perspective, I’ve been able to offer unique value as a woman, and mother, who can empathize with their hopes and fears. The death of a spouse is a scary, traumatic situation where Advisors can provide valuable assistance – financially and emotionally; instilling the confidence clients need so they don’t have to worry about running out of money, or that their children will fail to launch.

As a result, education – and ensuring that my female clients are heard and cared for – is an area where I focus a vast amount of time and energy. When I’m presenting an investment plan or proposal, I don’t use acronyms or technical jargon, and I take the time to explain every concept, pausing, as a courtesy, to ask questions like “is this making sense?” My practice also runs regular seminars on topics ranging from retirement, and children with disabilities, to millennials and money, where we have some of the best-performing investment managers speak about their individual strategies.

The latter topic is another area where I’m particularly attentive: because of my young age, I’m able to relate to millennials easily, so they can confide in me as they would in a friend. I have honest conversations with them, and they know I’m going to listen to their concerns. The feedback I receive from my younger clients is that they’re often told to take risks now because they have ample time. But millennials don’t think like that. Most of us are risk-averse because we’ve seen our parents experience the financial pitfalls of 2008; we’re thoughtful and we want our investment decisions to make a difference. That’s another area where my team provides specialized expertise – we’re able to bring ideas to the table that are not only socially responsible and high impact, but also profitable for investors.

The Hard Work Never Stops

Ultimately, building a successful advisory practice is all a learning experience. Never lose sight of the long-term picture, and don’t let challenges along the way slow you down. For me, the hard work never stops. I have two little children, and after both were born, I worked from home, taking conference calls and meetings as needed. It wasn’t realistic to put referrals on hold for a year; the commitment and momentum is ongoing because it’s not just about asset growth. It’s about my overriding objective of having clients feel confident in my abilities to grow their wealth, knowing full well that I will always protect their best interests. I’m certain it’s these qualities – integrity, honesty, and truly caring about my clients’ success – that keep my business flourishing, and that I know will lead us to my next goal of managing $1 billion in assets by the time I turn 40.

Alexandra Horwood on BMO Asian Growth and Income Fund

To achieve consistent results, my investment requirements are rigorous. One strategy I integrate into my client portfolios for emerging market exposure without high volatility is BMO Asian Growth and Income Fund. There are many options out there, but ultimately, this Fund allows upside participation while maintaining downside protection, and also has that vital ESG lens that resonates with my clients – and with me – since I invest alongside them in every single one of my recommendations.

To learn more, or for other ideas to enrich your practice and add value for clients, contact your BMO Regional Sales Representative.


Also in the December 2019 Issue of Insights:

How to Meaningfully Integrate Philanthropy into Your Practice >

5 Trends Likely to Impact Your Clients’ Portfolios in 2020 >

1 Statistics Canada, May 30, 2019.


Richardson GMP Disclosure:

This material is provided for general information and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities mentioned herein. Past performance may not be repeated. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please seek individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. However, neither the author nor Richardson GMP Limited makes any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, in respect thereof, or takes any responsibility for any errors or omissions which may be contained herein or accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss arising from any use or reliance on this report or its contents.

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