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Fennella Bruce Dawn Withers | Photography By Dawn - Toronto
Fennella Bruce

My Life as a Client: Goldilocks and the Three Financial Advisors

It can take some trial and error to find an advisor who’s just right.

To learn what everyday clients really think about their advisors and what all advisors can learn from them, we talked to Fennella Bruce, who heads FKB Media Solutions, a Toronto-based media consulting firm.

My brother, an accountant, referred me to my first advisor about 20 years ago. I had just started working, but I’d saved some money because I lived at home. I figured I should do something responsible with it. I just didn’t know what to do.

The advisor was with an asset management firm. I told him how much money I had, and he invested in mutual funds. But I hardly ever heard from him, and there was no planning. I’d get statements in the mail, and that was basically the relationship. My money did grow. But at one point, my father, who also used the same advisor, was losing money. He called to talk about it, and the advisor didn’t even realize it was happening. After about 10 years, we both decided to look for someone else.

My brother suggested a woman at a different firm, who would take a more all-inclusive approach, looking at my whole budget, life insurance and so on. The experience started out well. She said she would make things easy for me. So, she came to my house, because I had two little kids. I thought, “This is nice.” We would go over my portfolio and talk about saving for my children’s educations.

But I found she didn’t offer enough advice. She presented different options and asked me what I wanted to do. I was looking for guidance. I’m not the financial expert. She just wasn’t very hands-on.

Maybe two years in, she started asking me to come to her office. Then I got a voice message that she was retiring, and she was handing me over to a colleague. How can you just hand over my financial holdings without discussing it with me first? I didn’t know this person, and all of a sudden he’s taking care of my money. I didn’t like the process.

I didn't respond to his phone calls at first. “I’ll talk to you when I’m ready,” I thought. Eventually, he got me one evening. I told him why I was disgruntled. He talked to me for a good two hours, about himself, what he’d like accomplish for me, asking questions about my family situation, what I wanted to do financially in the future. And, he seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying.

We set up a meeting. And since that time, I’ve been extremely happy with his work. We meet regularly, and he’s very attentive. At one point, I was laid off and had major financial concerns. My employer offered to send me to a program that could help me get back into the workforce. I wasn’t going to use it, but he told me I should. I took his advice. They helped me focus on what I really wanted to do, and now I’m running my own business because I listened to what he said.

We meet three times a year, and he also calls me about once a month. We discuss my budget, what I think I’ll be making in five years, where I will want to live. I don’t understand a lot about the market, but he will actually draw graphs and explain them to me. Just the other day, the market was tanking and he called me to tell me what was happening. That’s what I’ve been looking for in an advisor from the start. This is your area of expertise. Explain it to me so it makes sense. 

With my first advisors, I felt like I was just one of the herd. This person is different. I’ve recommended him to a lot of people, too.

Read More My Life as a Client stories 

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