In response to the first post on the series on finding a financial advisor, Thicken My Wallet posed an interesting question – why would anyone want to search for potential financial advisors off the internet? – and further suggested that getting referrals from friends or colleagues might be a better option. There are a couple of reasons why I got most of the short-listed planners from the CFP website: First, I am interested in finding out how easy (or difficult) it is for an average person to find a competent planner, and the sample set I ended up with would be a good cross-section of what’s available out there. Second, if I did hire a planner, it would be strictly on a fee-only basis. I believe that investment advice isn’t worth paying for but everyone I know deals with investment advisors, brokers, or mutual fund representatives, not fee-only planners, and pretty much get investment advice only.
Now, I was ready to talk to the short-listed candidates over the phone. I had a list of five planners: Ruth* from Scotia McLeod, Kevin* from Investors Group, Alan* from RBC Dominion, Todd* from Berkshire Securities, and June* from an independent planning firm. Of these planners, the only disappointment was Kevin because the first question he asked me was the size of the account and the interview went downhill from there, centering mostly around the great services he offered (i.e. mutual funds from the “best” companies around. Apart from Investors Group funds, Kevin also sold funds from Fidelity, AGF etc.), rather than trying to figure out what I was looking for. He was reluctant to speak about fees but was quick to mention that I don’t pay anything directly and it took much prodding to get him to admit that he gets a sales commission but probably forgot the trailer fees. I mentioned to Kevin that I don’t believe in paying for active investing and would want to continue to hold my current ETFs, only to be interrupted by his question — “ETF? What’s that?” I probably should have thanked him for his time and hung up after the first question but I was fascinated by the train wreck the interview was turning out to be.
The rest of the advisors were straightforward with their answers and as far as I can tell were quite competent but only two (Ruth and June) offered fee-only planning. They were happy to mention exactly what their fees were – typically starting at 1-2% of portfolio for account sizes starting at $200K – and were impressed with their knowledge of the financial planning process. Almost everyone mentioned that they provide clients with an analysis of their insurance coverage and have a team to assist with wills and estate planning and tax planning. Next week, we’ll look at potential questions to ask prospective advisors.
* All names have been changed.
You can read Part 3 of this series here.