To provide the best possible experiences by understanding our clients’ fundamental needs, setting achievable expectations, doing what we say, responding in a timely manner and striving to be better, always.
Our independence is the ultimate opportunity to provide the best possible value proposition for our clients. We report to our clients, where the relationship is contingent upon meeting goals, exceeding expectations, understanding their lives, their families, their businesses and what is important for the responsibilities we are engaged for.
10 Things We Know To Be True
- Focus on the client, all else will follow: We know that by placing our clients’ interests first, with everything we do, we continue to move the bar higher and demand more of ourselves. Our clients are our best advocates and it is their approval and endorsement that affirms our efforts.
- Don’t lose clients’ money and you won’t lose clients: We take this to heart and we do not invest in speculative investments. We strive to never lose money in an investment owned by our clients. Volatility is to be expected and planned for, but an outright loss of capital is a betrayal of trust, something we intend to never allow.
- You can make money without doing evil: We operate in a transparent, independent and objective environment, built to ensure our clients’ experience is most beneficial to them. The revenue we generate is from one fee only, which appears on statements and in an annual report to clients.
- Being good isn’t great enough: Being great is a starting point for us, not an end goal. We set goals for ourselves that require us to stretch our limitations, find creative ways to improve our business and achieve more than we set out to do. In 2000 we moved from commission plus trailer fee investment solutions to trailer fees only. In 2003 we moved to a fee only model, with no revenue from any investment products, ten years ahead of what is only now a trend. Next year we are moving to a discretionary portfolio management platform to achieve efficiencies in our business and to drive down expenses incurred by clients.
- It is best to focus on what we know: We provide integrated advice, products and services within the wealth management sphere. We are dedicated individuals who bring knowledge, wisdom and understanding to financial planning, investment management, insurance consulting, business succession, family office advising and employee benefits plans. Beyond our expertise, we reach out to and collaborate with our clients’ other trusted professionals. Working with other professionals helps prevent one strategy negatively impacting another, to the detriment of the client. It also creates an environment that is conducive to more complex planning and strategies.
- A disciplined process is more successful than predicting the future: When it comes to investing, our model portfolios are constructed with a priority to manage volatility (risk) first. We don’t know what is going to happen in the future, no one does. Our discipline requires that we react to what has happened, rather than what we think will happen. This process of review, renew and rebalance, is a very effective in generating investment returns that meet expectations.
- Taxes, fees and commissions matter: The effects of these three relevant costs cannot be overstated – they can reduce a strategy that looks fantastic on paper to merely average or worse and they frequently negate any alpha once factored in. You cannot eat pre-tax returns and the friction of a portfolio’s internal expenses or high trading costs will have a big impact on real-world results. We eliminated commissions but taxes are here to stay. Fees we control two ways. One is what we charge and two is the cost of any investments in our model portfolios. We seek investments with Alpha net of fees and which we’re happy to pay for. When Alpha can’t be found, we use cheap Beta, because we can. (Beta is the performance of an index and Alpha is any performance greater than an index.)
- Incentives do matter: Understand how an investment advisor or firm gets paid and what drives their compensation and you can often work backwards to determine how their incentives may affect you. In the US, Charles Schwab wants you to think your active trading is going to help you and Vanguard wants you to think you should never place a trade so long as you live. Everybody has an axe to grind, yourself included, and people’s opinions are almost always coloured by what’s best for them personally. Our compensation is based on the value of assets we manage. When assets increase, we earn more and when they decrease we earn less. Our incentive is to see assets we manage earn positive returns every year.
- Investors are wrong at the worst possible time: Over the long haul, only one thing is certain – there is no worse performing “asset class” than the average investor. Nothing underperforms the investor class. On the whole, investors bet big on assets that have already gone up a lot and sell out after they’ve gone down. We maintain our discipline in the face of gloomy, end of the world news events and especially facing down clients, determined to do harm to their own wealth, at exactly the moment of maximum opportunity. For this we are paid well and clients become our best advocates.
- Fear is significantly more powerful than greed. Behavioural science has proven that we feel anguish over losses much more acutely than we feel joy over gains. We are genetically hardwired to act quickly when we feel threatened – and this extends itself to our most precious modern resource, our money. That’s why markets drop much more quickly than they rise. Adjusted for inflation and taxes, stocks outperform bonds over time, because you are assuming more short-term risk, translated as greater volatility today. As a result, you are being rewarded in the future. This relationship between short-term risk and long term gain is simple to demonstrate and incontrovertible. Investors understand this truth intellectually, but they don’t accept it. We do and it factors into our success as investors.