Involvement is the key to building a successful business in a remote community

By Matt Bell | October 06 2016 07:00AM

Whitehorse, Yukon

The Yukon may bring to mind remote nature and gold mining and may seem far away from the financial planning industry. But that is where Pierre Lacasse, senior financial planner at Assante Wealth Management comes into play.

Lacasse is based in Whitehorse, home to 70 per cent of the Yukon’s population of 35,000. He is one of about a dozen financial planners in the region. Lacasse started his career in Calgary back in 1981 and over the past three decades has completed the four pillars of trusts, insurance, investments and mortgage, as well as completing his CFP, CDFA and CPCA qualifications. An opportunity to manage an office brought him to the region he has served for most of his career.

“I was doing insurance only in Yellowknife and Ted Thompson approached me to see if I wanted to take over an office in the Yukon in July 1987. I had to effectively train myself as there was no support here. I started to grow my business by running a lot of seminars and broadening my education,” he explains.

Lacasse obtained his mutual fund license, his securities license and even obtained a real estate license, so that he could cover all the bases for his clients. He says working in small communities such as Whitehorse has big perks, but also big pitfalls.

“The advantage of a small area, is that if you do a great job, word spreads pretty fast and if you do a lousy job, it is the same thing.”

With reputation meaning a lot more in a tight knit community than elsewhere, this led Lacasse to joining and participating actively in the community to build his name and meet prospective clients. He even taught financial planning at a local school, which led to him to eventually pick up some of these students and their families as clients. Lacasse underlines the importance of getting involved. 

He has managed to build up a sizable client base and offers services to other financial services offices that do not have his skills he says.

The perks

In Laccase’s eyes, the biggest upside is the ability to advertise his business to people right across the Yukon. Lacasse says he can get a full page ad in the local paper for $350, which gives him a lot more exposure than one can get in most markets. This exposure has even led to him becoming a household name following a highly successful ad campaign on local radio in Yukon.

“I did a jingle where I hired a company from Victoria, B.C. and we created a series of ads for the radio. It has not aired in 10 years and people are still singing the songs and it’s my name, ‘Pierre Lacasse for a future you can depend on,’” he says.

Compared to most cities where advisors are expected to go to their clients, Lacasse says a big perk is the fact that clients come to see him in his office.

“I don’t travel to see my clients because Whitehorse is the hub, so people come here to do their shopping, to fly out and so forth; 95 per cent of my appointments are in the office during the week. I accommodate people who may come in from out of town during other times.”

For Lacasse, this is more convenient for him and his clients since all of his resources are in the office. If he was on the road he might only be able to bring a fraction of what he might need.

Hosting seminars for clients and other members of the community has also paid off for him in building his business.

“The first seminar I organised was with David Chilton, “The Wealthy Barber” in September 1990. I had 400 people turn up in two different sessions. His presentation really kickstarted my business.”

Following on this success, he hosted seminars with other renowned speakers, including Gordon Pape, Ken Wharram, Ellen Roseman and Brian Costello. However, Lacasse finds it has become more difficult to run seminars these days because of the increasing cost of speakers’ fees.

Recently, Lacasse sold three-quarters of his business to three partners, but he kept his $20 million block of segregated funds. His focus is now on insurance for corporations and high net worth clients.

“With my deal finalized, my sole focus is now on corporate tax and estate planning using life insurance vehicles, especially because of the major (tax) changes coming January 2017,” says Lacasse.

Living and working in a place that is isolated from the major Canadian cities does have a few downsides, says Lacasse. For one, it is very hard to attend networking events to meet other colleagues because of the remoteness.

The pitfalls

For isolated advisors like Lacasse, travelling to Toronto for events isn’t doable with the cost of airfares, travel time, accommodation and losing work time. It was this struggle that led himself and another local advisor to form a local chapter of Advocis to fill a void in the region. However, it did not work out. “We had it running for a while and tried to get the stakeholders to come to our area, but it lasted for a short time due to a lack of interest,” says Lacasse.

While advisors like Lacasse may miss out on networking and educational opportunities, Lacasse says he relies heavily on publications such as The Insurance and Investment Journal for industry news and education.

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