Q&A: Non target/foreign international in wealth management at a Canadian big five bank.

Hello, apes!

The WSO Team believes this is a good idea - so, here we go. I have been a longtime ape on WSO and have cumulatively spent weeks, if not entire months, scouring through the nooks & corners of the platform. Now – I believe it is my turn to pay a little back to the community.

I am a first-year Associate in wealth management at a Canadian big five bank. I was not raised on the continent, am a visible minority with a clearly decipherable accent, and did not go to a target school. (I believe it is somewhat noteworthy because the people on my team come from very contrasting backgrounds and I was most definitely not a diversity hire.) I am on track to finish my Associate program over the next two years, finish my licensing process and CFP, and then get to build my own book with a not-so-horrible base. Canadian demographics are skewed towards pre-retirees and retirees – so I believe there will always be demand for advisory and good relationship management. However, I am excited at the prospect of HENRYs and niche-focused client acquisition.

Heads-Up: Before I found the best fit between my skills, long-term goals, and a befitting career, I half-assed my way around:

  1. Applying and getting into a decent MSF program in the United States.
  2. Getting interviews at boutique equity research firms in my home country.
  3. Almost go to b-school to specialize in energy finance (thinking I will bank off of the renewables trend.)
  4. Appeared for CFA L1 once and flunked Ethics. Yikes.

Would be more than happy to answer questions about the Canadian wealth management space - especially the Associate roles at big five banks in the financial planning teams,  networking/conducting informational interviews (I name-dropped half-a-dozen people during my interview process – all of whom were either in the team or running it), dealing with anticipatory anxiety (from someone who has no other expertise on it other than personal-experience), books/podcast recommendations, and client acquisition strategies (I am obsessed with this last piece.)

As always – feel free to ignore everything written here and dance to your own tune.

Long live [WallStreetOasis.com] and AndyLouis


Comments (6)

  • Summer Associate in IB - CB
Aug 31, 2022 - 10:40am

Thanks for doing the Q&A! How many applications did you send? What was your networking strategy? How many interviews did you get? 

Most Helpful
Sep 4, 2022 - 2:08pm
Skeptic Ape, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1. Number of applications 

I thought I have a strong CV and made about 30 applications for Investment Advisor/Financial Advisor roles. Did not get one call back. In retrospect, although this was not long ago, the reason is apparent - an unlicensed rep with no experience in banking trying to go for a front-office WM role. 

So - I started treating it like an IB application. Found one recruiter at one of the major banks, got one of the senior managers to recommend me, and then had coffee chats with 15+ people from the department. Then, I got called for a career day event and was among the only two applicants called for the interview. Two rounds of interviews and a ton of name-dropping later - they agreed to take a shot with me.

2. Networking Strategy:

The first step was to earn some credibility. I found a clinical professor who used to teach at the non-target school I was attending. Had a coffee chat with him several times and eventually got a strong recommendation from him. He was the priority on my networking list because he was also the Senior Regional Manager at my bank - these are people who hire Financial Planners. 

Then - it all trickled down. He connected me with one of the hiring managers, who connected me with one of the recruiters. Once I learned a few things about the department - I searched for people in the role and messaged every single one of 'em. After you have at least one credible champion from your target firm - it is all about hitting the volume. I had hour-long conversations with about 4-5 people. And I used all these inputs in my interview.

The good thing is - between the career day event and the interview - I had a week. I used to reach out to every single person in the department who was a part of the career day event. 

3. Number of Interviews:

Once I understood the game - it took me less than 48 hours to score another interview at another competing bank. I found the recruiter online, connected with her, and got invited to the career day event. But - in the middle of the process, I was forthright with her and told her that I am taking up another role. Don't waste people's time. I am confident that a few years down the line if I have to jump ship, I can use this bridge.

Let me know if you have more questions!  

  • 5
Sep 2, 2022 - 11:57am
Small Cape Valeyou, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congrats on the gig!

Curious on some comp related questions on the big 5 Canadian banks...What's the base salary they start you out at? What's your grid/payout ration start at? i.e., you manage 50M at 1% fee velocity so you're generating 500K in revenue. How much of that do you keep and how long does your base salary last?

Sep 4, 2022 - 2:17pm
Skeptic Ape, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Okay. So the grid payout comes down to one key thing - are you in retail, in wealth management, or in private investment advisory/counsel? Key difference between the three are investment minimums and access to high-risk and managed products, along with operational support. Surprisingly - I have noticed that the Financial Planners catering to the mass affluent group get about 1.25% to 1.5% in payout - which is rich when compared to the counterparts in the USA who are these days between 0.5 to 1 at best.

The base is not that amazing - about 60k for Financial Planners who are just starting out and have a CFP.  However - it is not uncommon for young Financial Planners to get an entire book of clients readily available. You see - the bank owns the clientele and unless you have invested time in developing relationships with each household,  the bank will keep it even if you jump ship or retire. But the base salary is guaranteed and you get the leads referred from the branch. Unlike some other contemporaries - let's say Edward Jones or even IG Wealth, you don't have to be aggressive about acquiring clients. You still have pipeline goals and revenue metrics - but you can take it slow, at your own pace.

If you are ambitious and in the top 5 percentile of Financial Planners at my bank, I think you can easily hit 300k-400k pretax (including base, product commissions, referring leads to other LOBs, and revenue share.) Also - you are not paying the salary for the Associates like me or for the branch referrals or even for the office space.

  • 5
Sep 4, 2022 - 3:57pm
Small Cape Valeyou, what's your opinion? Comment below:

CAD fees vs. US advisory fees is another story. CAD will have its fee compression moment in due time. 

I'm curious what your payout ratios be for various segments? I.e., say you charge 1% on a $1,000,000 account. (i understand that retail can't handle accounts over $1M which have to go to FP or "up the line". But what would your payout be on bringing on a $1M account, on top of your base. My guess is very low (25% maybe?) i.e., that $10,000 in recurring revenue you generated gets you an additional $2,500 per year? 

What's your payout at retail? 

What's your payout at Wealth Management?

What's your payout at Investment Counsel?

Sep 4, 2022 - 4:51pm
Skeptic Ape, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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