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Finance

Chad Harmer: Redefining Wealth Management and Leading With Innovation

iStock 1450629475 - Global Banking | Finance

Chad Harmer: Redefining Wealth Management and Leading With Innovation

2 1 1 - Global Banking | FinanceWhat do you do if you need to plan for retirement or learn how to manage a new inheritance? For many people, the answer is to go to a big bank and ask for wealth management advice. That might work if you have a simple financial situation. But Chad Harmer — a former big-bank wealth manager — suggests you reconsider.

“There was often kind of a hole in the advice picture,” Harmer says of his time with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and other big Canadian banks. “A financial planner may know their client’s retirement goals, investment strategy, and mortgage scenario. But they weren’t able to incorporate or manage how their client’s real estate assets or insurance holdings would play a role in their overall financial plan.”

In an industry where an advisor needs to understand a client’s whole financial situation, that kind of approach poses a problem. It’s hard to know what financial steps to take when the best you have is a fragmented idea of your finances. 

Harmer noticed that clients weren’t always getting detailed advice, but that was far from the only problem. They were also being deprived of one of the most important facets of wealth management — a close relationship with a trusted adviser.

“The client would build trust with one adviser,” he says, “and then have to be passed to another person. They’d already built trust, which takes time.”

That kind of disconnect was one of the things that pushed Harmer toward private practice. Another factor was the big banks’ apparent focus on profits over people.

“What I found, despite managing about hundreds of millions in assets, was the bank would always want more. “I certainly didn’t see a need to take on more. But more importantly, based on where capacity was sitting at that time, I didn’t want to take on more because then it would leave the client with less of my attention.”

This led to the establishment of Harmer Wealth Management. Since its founding in 2015, Harmer Wealth Management encountered unforeseen challenges, including periods of downturn in the economy, venturing into the uncharted territory of a global pandemic, and confronting geopolitical issues. Despite these obstacles, Harmer and his team chose not to view these crises as catastrophic. Instead, they saw them as opportunities to demonstrate their resilience and capability to their clients and the wider community.

Harmer saw that some advisers at the big banks did right by their clients in times of economic turmoil. Others only contributed to their financial insecurity and anxiety. 

“What I saw a lot of in the banks was when there would be bad times, there were the advisors who would be proactive and reach out and say, ‘This is what’s going on, and this is our path through it.’ And then there would be the advisors who would almost avoid the call, avoid the phone, avoid the client coming in,” he says.

Harmer made it a priority to use a different approach. “Even during those times, it was newsletters, it was phone calls, it was Zooms and in-person meetings to get in front of the client and let them know we’re here. We’re not shutting down. Nothing’s changing. And just make them comfortable from that perspective,” he says.

Even as the economy has continued to improve, Harmer is committed to keeping that kind of one-on-one attention. He aims to take a seamless approach to wealth management for every client. 

Looking at the individual parts of a person’s financial situation is part of it, but so is looking at the broader picture and determining the best strategies.

Harmer explains that right now, Canada is seeing the largest-ever transfer of intergenerational wealth. Young people are inheriting money, properties, and investments, but they don’t always know what to do with them. 

Harmer Wealth Management is ready to help them. Harmer doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, he makes a point of understanding a person’s financial goals before making any recommendations. Some wealth management firms might see this kind of approach as inefficient. 

But for Harmer, there’s no other way to go. He’s found that wealth management and financial planning is more than just financially rewarding.

“One of the best things that I get as an advisor and a planner is, at the end of the meeting, they say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you. I came into this. I was so worried. I now feel so comfortable.’ And that’s huge,” he says. “It’s a great part of what we do.”

Global Banking & Finance Review

 

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