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When Naunidh Singh Hunjan was first invited to join his father’s business two decades ago, he was reluctant.
“I was an introvert and very shy back then. I would see my dad talking up a storm to people like a real workhorse – and I told him, ‘I can’t fill your shoes, I can’t be you,’” says Mr. Hunjan, now president of Hunjan Financial Group Inc. in Mississauga.
“He said, ‘What do you want with these dirty old shoes? You have your own shoes,’ and I took that to heart.”
Specifically, Mr. Hunjan’s father wanted him to do it his own way and figure it out for himself, he says, adding he was told his dad was different from his grandfather, but they figured it out, as would he.
Mr. Hunjan’s story is a common one in the wealth management industry, in which parents often encourage their children to follow in their footsteps, even if those children take a slightly different path.
In fact, about one in five (19 per cent) of financial advisors looking to retire in the next decade are planning to transition their book of business to a junior advisor or family member, according to Boston-based research firm Cerulli Associates Inc.
For many younger advisors, their fathers provided valuable mentorship and connections in an industry that is all about personal relationships. For some, support from their fathers has been a necessity for their professional survival.
“It is very difficult to succeed in this industry when you have to get all your own clients, build a book of business and have all the expenses be pretty much on you,” says David Nader, investment fund advisor at Sterling Mutuals Inc. in Windsor, Ont. “Without my dad’s support, I don’t think I would have been able to stay in the industry and succeed to the level I am at today.”
His father, Tony Nader, taught him that things would be difficult at first, but once he started growing his clientele and earned their trust, then his business would start to grow.
“That’s how I ended up building my business,” he says. “I don’t do any marketing or anything like that. All my business growth has been strictly based on referrals.”
Liam McCorquodale, financial advisor at Portfolio Strategies Corp. in Calgary, also says getting into the business, especially independently, is almost impossible without the help of a senior advisor – both in terms of knowledge and finances.
His father, Brian McCorquodale, has been in the industry for 35 years and helped him understand that a lot of the time is spent on personal relationships. “It was much more than an industry of numbers,” he says.
Meanwhile, for Sara La Gamba, certified financial planner and senior advisor at SPM Benefits Inc. in London, Ont., the lessons started well before she joined the family business. Her father, Vince La Gamba, had previously worked in the hospitality and restaurant industries before he became a financial advisor in his 50s.
“What I saw before he was trying to officially sell me on the business was the difference in the quality of family time when he became an advisor,” Ms. La Gamba says.
“When I was a little kid, he wasn’t around very much when he was working at the restaurant. He’d be out early and back late at night.”
But then once he became an advisor, he was able to take her to piano lessons or drop her off at dance class and go see a couple of clients and then return to pick her up, she says.
“I realized it was a career that gave you more flexibility,” she says. “Sometimes, that might lead to an assumption that it is easier. But really you can end up working way more hours, though you have freedom in this business.”
In Mr. Hunjan’s case, that meant the freedom to skip post-secondary education and get right to work.
“My father told me if I was going to follow in his footsteps, then there was no point [in going to university or college] and I could just get my financial designations along the way,” he says. “So, I started right at 18 and got my licence.”
Ms. La Gamba ended up graduating from Western University in 2009, but started working with her father immediately afterward and found she had much to learn from him.
“When I first joined the business, I was so excited because I had learned all these new things and I really wanted to educate clients to the point at which I almost overwhelmed them,” she says.
“Having the benefit of going to meetings with my dad, he would see how I would be presenting and show me how to have confidence.”
Mr. La Gamba explained that the client is putting their trust in her and while she needed them to understand the plan, at the same time, she shouldn’t feel the need to show them absolutely everything, she adds.
Ms. La Gamba found her father struck a fine balance between imparting the wisdom of his vast experience while embracing the changes that come from every new generation.
“If I did things differently, that never meant to him that his way was wrong and mine was right,” she says. “We had different styles, but we very much respected each other’s approaches and complemented each other.”
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