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A commitment to independence

By Donna Glasgow | January 10 2017 07:00AM

For Gilles Chevalier, the ability to adapt is the key to prospering in today’s changing business environment.

“A good entrepreneur adapts,” says Chevalier who has been a financial advisor for 36 years. The biggest challenge for an advisor is to be flexible.” He gave the example of new technology. “It’s there. It’s useless to fight against it – it’s there.”

He says a segment of clients could migrate to robo-advice and this might be a good thing for many clients and advisors. For example, if advisors can save time by offering some clients service and support via the Internet, then they might be able to help smaller clients who they might not otherwise serve.

Chevalier, currently vice chair of the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting (CALU) and chair of next AGM scheduled for May 2017, says another area requiring advisors to adjust is the growth of banks selling insurance, especially in Quebec via caisses and bank subsidiaries.

No conflicts of interest

How can financial advisors stay competitive? “By providing independent advice with no conflicts of interest,” says Chevalier. “You can always react to change by turning it to your advantage.”

“Banks are very involved in the high-end market through their Private Banking offices. The way to confront them is to highlight to the client and his advisors that we offer totally independent and sophisticated advice combined with a real interest in after sale service.”

Based in Montreal, Chevalier provides life insurance-based estate and tax planning solutions for High Net Worth (HNW) business owners and categorizes himself as a life insurance ultra specialist. He often works closely with professionals such as accountants and lawyers. Within his own firm, Engel Chevalier Wealth Protection Inc., he has a full-time actuary on staff who develops customized insurance solutions for clients.

HNW clients have an appetite for independent advice, explains Chevalier. “The wealthier they are, the more appetite they have for independent advice.”

Specialization is required to serve this market, he adds. “At this level, you can’t be everything.”

Time to join forces

Chevalier sees an opportunity for advisors specialized in the HNW market in different regions of Canada to work together.

“I see the market as more national now than provincial…I have clients with offices across the country. If there is something that could grow in the coming years, it is alliances between advisors in different markets.”

He says that advisors have relied on managing general agents and insurers to help them serve clients nationally. “But independent advisors have to join forces and not leave it to the MGAs or insurers,” says Chevalier.

An alliance among independent advisors in different markets would provide the best service to clients with national-scale businesses, he says. “I’ve started talking about it with other advisors,” he adds.

He points out that other professionals, such as accountants, have taken this approach. “The goal of an alliance would be to maintain independence. Clients want advisors who are focused on their concerns and have no conflicts of interest.”

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