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At the start of 2019, I left my comfortable government job of 13 years to begin a new professional journey. I spent the next six months researching the Canadian financial services industry, meeting with industry practitioners, testing out different tools, getting licensed to sell insurance products in Alberta, and establishing a corporation. Those efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of High Level Wealth Management Inc., a company that provides independent, evidence-based financial planning and wealth management services to Edmontonians.
While researching the financial services industry and laying the groundwork for High Level Wealth Management, several issues stood out to me:
- Navigating the array of choices for your personal financial needs can be both frustrating and confusing. There are insurance agencies, mutual fund dealers, banks, trust companies, private wealth firms, portfolio managers, investment dealers, and robo-advisors. These entities fall under at least four different regulatory bodies, each with different registration requirements for their members. As a result, practitioners in the Canadian financial services industry possess a wide range of experience and qualifications. In Alberta, there is no protection for titles such as Financial Advisor or Financial Planner and there is an abundance of finance-related designations each with varying proficiency requirements. All of this creates a landscape where it can be very difficult to determine who to trust.
- Most practitioners are employed by one of the big banks or a large investment management company. This results in part because of the heavy legal/compliance burden placed on firms in the financial services industry, making it difficult for small independent firms to compete. The large firms may offer financial planning services to their clients, but they also market their own proprietary investment products, creating a potential conflict of interest. Are you being recommended a product because it is the best option for you or because it is the most lucrative for the company selling it?
- Traditional investment products like mutual funds typically compensate the individuals selling them with embedded commissions that can be difficult to understand. The lack of transparency creates the potential for a conflict of interest and erodes trust between advisors and clients. These hidden fees can also quickly eat away at your investment returns.
A different approach
I kept these and other issues front and centre while establishing High Level Wealth Management, structuring the company in a way that addresses each of them:
If you’re looking for a financial advisor with custom pinstripe suits and a lavish downtown office building, we probably aren’t the right fit for you. Instead, we offer a comfortable and private setting in a hundred-year-old brick home-office. We are located in the Oliver neighbourhood, just a few blocks from the High Level Bridge.
Our working hours are flexible, with daytime, evening, and weekend meeting times available to accommodate your schedule.
Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about High Level Wealth Management. I encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our services, or to get in touch with us to discuss how we might be able to help you.
Kent Akgungor, CFA
High Level Wealth Management Inc.