Echelon Wealth appoints chief client officer

Advisors can reduce the risks of wealth transfer by meeting with client’s children, says Deborah McGrath

Toronto-based Echelon Wealth Partners has promoted its chief marketing officer, Deborah McGrath, to the role of chief client officer (CCO).

McGrath will be charged with gauging client satisfaction and optimizing client retention, something that is particularly relevant in situations of wealth transfer, when there is a significant risk of client flight.

During wealth transfer (something the industry will soon be dealing with on a large scale as demographics shift), 80% of recipients leave their parent’s or partner’s advisor, McGrath says.

“Why do they leave? They leave because they never knew who the advisor was in the first place,” she says. “Either that was mom and dad’s advisor, or that was my partner’s advisor. I don’t know anything about them. They never actually spoke to me.”

While it’s a risk for any organization, McGrath says, there’s an easy remedy advisors can turn to: simply meet with clients’ children.

“Wouldn’t you love your child to be educated on how to budget? I mean, it isn’t always just a conversation within the home. A financial advisor can help with that,” McGrath says. “I’m sure every parent would actually be much happier if their kids went off to university and didn’t call home for money … Creating those client touchpoints, you can have conversations much earlier, in a much more in-depth and holistic way, that actually provides that value proposition that every company is going for, which is service excellence.”

Part of Echelon’s strategy for service excellence is a newly created client satisfaction platform named Achieve, which includes a survey that asks questions about clients’ needs and solicits feedback on Echelon’s service.

“I think every company is kind of guilty of it, where you assume that your clients are happy,” says McGrath. “But stats show, and it’s particularly indicative of Canadians, that we can be quietly unhappy.”

The creation of the CCO role, she says, will give Echelon access to a “true, measured lens” on its client base, something which isn’t quite as common in the independent brokerage space.

“I think [David Cusson, Echelon CEO] was really open-minded to being a little different in the independent space, of behaving a little bit more like the banks do, and asking our clients ‘how are we doing?’” McGrath says. “If you’re a company that’s looking for the long-game, which Echelon is, the customer service is going to be ‘it,’ because there is no other way in which to satisfy and keep and retain, if you don’t build trust one relationship at a time.”