If 2020 has taught us anything so far, it is the importance of trusting experts, asking for help, adapting our approaches, and focusing on the positive in any situation.
How do those lessons apply to wealth management? To get the answer, we connected with our expert, Dilys D’Cruz, Senior Vice President Wealth at Meridian. Dilys shares her perspectives on the definition of wealth management, the connection between wealth management and financial well-being, and what COVID-19 has illustrated about the importance of resilience within wealth management.
Q: How would you define wealth management?
DD: I’ve never been partial to the term actually. I once googled it out of pure curiosity. And the definition I got back proved why I find the concept of “wealth management” misleading. Historically, wealth management has been considered the domain of high net worth individuals and the affluent. So it is intimidating to a lot of people because they don’t believe they have enough “wealth” to seek advice. At Meridian, we believe that wealth is based on the individual’s definition and reflects their goals. But the affluence misconception is still a big barrier for many potential and even existing investors.
Q: How do Members experience wealth management at Meridian?
DD: For us, wealth management includes everyone. With our structure, whatever you have, you have wealth, and a Financial Planner will support you. We always start with authentic conversations so we can understand where each person is in his or her financial journey. That allows us to meet people where they are and build a plan to achieve their goals. We want to know where people are, but also where they want to be. That’s why we emphasize, “where investing is personal.” We always start with the what and the why of each person’s wealth. What are your beliefs about money? Why do you save? Why do you invest? What are your goals?
Not everyone can create a safe space to have those conversations. At Meridian, we talk a lot about the difference between IQ and emotional intelligence. Our team of Financial Planners are highly accredited and experienced and their focus is on connecting emotionally with people; making them feel comfortable enough to share their stories and be vulnerable. People want to know that their Financial Planners are there for them – to educate them, instill confidence and provide reassurance – regardless of what the markets are doing. The market volatility during the past few months as a result of COVID has proven the importance of that level of consistency. Members were used to hearing from us, so they knew that we would call, update, and provide timely information to calm the panic. We drew on precedents to reassure clients, prove the resilience of their plans and help them reorient their thinking to a more positive outlook.
Q: How does Meridian’s approach to wealth management promote financial well-being?
DD: We know that financial stress impacts a person’s overall well-being. So we work with our Members to alleviate financial stress. We educate them about investing, and through that process, they learn things about themselves. With education comes peace of mind; knowing that the goals they’ve shared are always the guide. The plan and purpose relate back to who Members are and what they shared with us, so there is a real sense of confidence that they are moving in the right direction. We want Members to feel heard, known, and empowered to make their own decisions. With that empowerment, they can choose to work solely with their Financial Planners or they can leverage our online brokerage partnership with Qtrade Investor* as an additional component of managing wealth.
To us, optimism is also really important. Relying on what motivates Members, we can pivot if variables change – whether it’s a life transition, a re-imagined goal or market fluctuations. We spend time building reliable precedents to provide reassurance when those shifts happen.
When Members are continuously educated from the perspective of what matters to them; when they feel confident about where they fit in their plans; and when they have precedents to reassure each decision, they achieve financial well-being. They believe. They feel taken care of. They know they are doing the right things. They trust. They have certainty. They feel like they can live comfortably. They can pursue passions boldly. And they can take of their priorities, whether those are family, legacy or society.
Q: The COVID crisis has certainly altered the trajectory of wealth management for 2020 and beyond. Based on what you’ve seen so far, what are the biggest changes and lasting impacts?
DD: We are seeing more people seeking advice. People want to hear from their Financial Planners. They want a voice of calm and a reliable source of information. With volatility and uncertainty, advice becomes even more important. Many Members are using technology to communicate with Financial Planners. That’s really positive because it allows for more frequent communication and saves people time traveling to offices. With this forced changed in how we all now interact, we’ve gotten over the hurdle that Financial Planner/Members relationships can’t thrive virtually. They absolutely can. Financial Planners can still deliver a very meaningful personal experience to their Members.
Q: In reflecting on what’s happened so far as a result of COVID, how have Meridian Financial Planners been able to help Members pivot and adapt?
DD: Financial Planners are acting as a credible source of information and clarity for individuals and small businesses. When the government programs were announced, many Members were confused about eligibility and how to apply. Now, we are having a lot of conversations about examining every facet of wealth including managing cash flow, saving for the future and developing tax efficient strategies for the present and the future. For many of our Members that have been impacted financially, Financial Planners can tap their centres of influence to access other professionals with specialized skills. Many Financial Planners work closely with accountants, so they can layer in that perspective when answering questions and pivoting plans.
Q: What is the most important message you want to impart to both existing and prospective Meridian Members right now?
DD: The unprecedented happens. Life changes when we don’t expect it. COVID has been proof of that on a grand, global scale. Regardless of the severity of the “unprecedented,” there are going to be impacts, and people need to adjust. That’s why it is vital to build resilient plans. And a strong relationship with a Financial Planner reinforces the resilience. It is hard to feel resilient without ongoing reassurance. Our Wealth Management team, and our dealer partners Credential Asset Management Inc. & Credential Securities** have spent a lot of time educating Members on market and financial impacts, including recovery, of previous financial crises and pandemics. Based on that information and those precedents, they are evaluating Member portfolios and making adjustments to withstand the current situation. Right now we’re obviously all thinking about COVID, but hard times happen in regular life as well. It’s important to have someone that can help you through the difficulties.
Q: What does financial well-being look like as we navigate through COVID and the new normal that will result from it?
DD: I think the thought on most Members’ minds is, “now what?” COVID has made us all reflect on our goals and priorities. If a goal was to pursue passions, what does that look like now? What about living comfortably? What does that really mean? We are having many conversations with Members that are reevaluating what is important to them. Interestingly, within the reevaluation, they still want to feel confident and have financial assurance that they can achieve the reimagined goal. I really believe that people will inject a new sense of self into the wealth management process based on this experience. Financial security will become even more important as a source of confidence and reassurance for the future.
Q: Any final thoughts?
DD: In this slower, stripped down reality, people are reevaluating their lives and key relationships. And I think it is important to consider the Financial Planner relationship within that. Do you have the right person beside you, communicating with you and guiding you through life’s difficulties? For many, the answer is no. But for our Members, the answer is yes. And has always been yes. And will always be yes.
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A version of this article was originally published on June 22, 2020
*Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Investor, a division of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc., Member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.
**Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Credential Securities, a division of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Mutual funds are offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. Credential Securities is a registered mark owned by Aviso Wealth Inc.