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The complex structure of the Canadian financial services industry has made it challenging to establish a single definition of wealth management as an industry and practice. And, perhaps because the term itself has not been clearly defined, the role of the wealth manager and the skills required of the role have never been formally established. Advisors catering to the HNW market operate through different channels at various types of firms and under various regulatory regimes. In recent years, there has been tremendous growth in the number of HNW clients and a corresponding growth in opportunity for financial institutions. The purpose of this report is to describe the trend towards greater integration of products and services catering to the HNW market and to demonstrate that with this trend the wealth advisory role is becoming a distinct field of practice.
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The choices facing wealthy families when selecting a wealth advisor can be overwhelming and confusing: How do you choose among the hundreds of private banks; trust companies; asset managers; brokerage firms; single- or multi-family offices; and investment advisory firms that advertise wealth management services? Bombarded with marketing material, it can feel overwhelming (sometimes impossible) for clients to discern the significant differences that exist between firms with very similar marketing messages. Further complicating the decision is the fact that the right choice for one family may be the wrong choice for another. How can a family be certain which kind of wealth advisory solution is right for them?
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In a previous white paper of this series, a framework for wealthy families was introduced to cut through marketing clutter that makes different wealth management firms look and sound alike, and to explain the fundamental differences among three main kinds of advisors: manufacturers and distributors (i.e., those firms which provide or sell financial products and services); and independent, fee-only fiduciaries (i.e., those firms that help families select and purchase a mix of products and ser¬vices but also have a fiduciary obligation to place the clients’ interests ahead of their own). This paper goes a step further to help families differentiate between the various kinds of wealth management firms, and also to understand the practical implications of working with each of the three main types of advisors. The objective is not to recommend one type over another, but rather to help families understand the business model and interests of each type so that their choice of which firm or firms to work with is an informed one.
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