- DEAN ASKIN
ROD GIBBINGS, EXECUTIVE FINANCIAL CONSULTANT, GIBBINGS & ASSOCIATES PRIVATE WEALTH MANAGEMENT
"Creating high value with total understanding"
Rod Gibbings became a financial advisor because he didn’t want to ski competitively anymore.
“I actually didn’t know what the job was when I started,” he chuckles. That’s the absolute truth. No idea. I was anti-going back to another season of skiing versus what I was going into.”
Turns out the essentials of skiing — competition, communication, balancing and constant course correction — transferred well to being a financial advisor.
A native of Winnipeg, Rod left his hometown and resettled in Kelowna, at university age. He studied economics at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. After completing his bachelor’s degree and starting on a Masters in economics, he “started to wonder what you really do with” that.
Teaching or working “in an institutional environment” just wasn’t his style. “I need more freedom. So I actually decided that I didn’t want to have my Masters anymore and I embarked on a ski career that took me around the world for nine-and-a-half years,” he recalls.
Perfect timing leads to winning career move
He instructed. He coached. Then he raced. Eventually, however, he longed to get back to Kelowna. Rod “had a contract to go back to Japan,” but instead wanted to find a job in his adopted hometown.
“They (his sponsors) said, ‘That’s fine, but you have to find something relevant to your education…So I came back, quickly made a resume, bought a suit and started walking up and down the main street handing in resumes everywhere.”
It was January 1994. He had a week to find a job related to his field of study. Investors Group was hiring. So Rod on boarded as a rookie consultant who had no idea what he was getting into. A quarter-century later, Rod Gibbings & Associates Private Wealth Management, associated with IG Private Wealth Management, is one of the most well known and respected firms in Kelowna.
High-net-worth clients, long-standing relationships
“When you start off in this industry, you start off in survival mode. As the years go by the clients you have, they become not only friends, but also they become like family. Often that is how our practice is described by our clients,” says Rod. “That it feels like being a part of a family. When you work together as long as we do, you develop not only these relationships, but you also get such joy out of seeing the freedom clients are getting, and it’s marvelous.”
Many of Rod’s high-net-worth (HNW) clients have been with him for “15 or 20 or 25 years.” He’s “a relationship person,” and always has been. Rod notes, typically in the financial services industry, the business relationship between advisors and clients has “been transactional in nature.” Investment types. Rates of return. Cost.
“Those are all important questions, but it’s missing the big picture,” Rod affirms.
“The reason I’m a private wealth manager is because it goes well beyond just getting a rate of return on an investment,” he adds. It’s about “fully helping people establish their goals.” Whether they’re short term or long term.
Hand-picked for client success
“The longer you’re in the role the more success you see and you truly experience. You live the impact you’ve had on these clients…and it’s amazing to see what happens when people have a successful plan in place. The plan we build enhances every other part of their life that I may not have foreseen (in the beginning),” Rod says.
Rod put together a hand-picked team. A team, he says, his HNW clients value for their combined knowledge, strengths and abilities to give clients “the tremendous freedom they wear like a badge.”
Associate Consultant Nicole Roussel has been with Rod since 2001. Executive Assistant Julie Steele, joined the firm in 2015. Nicole and Julie are essential in supporting Rod in the delivery of a cohesive plan to each client. The team is also backed up by Olga Kokilev, Alec Pelletier and Brenda McLeod. Respectively, they are specialists in insurance, securities and mortgages.
Holding designation is the team backbone
Both the back- and front-office teams are constantly evolving because of the nature of what the team does for clients, explains Rod. “Knowledge and strategy is the biggest driver of that,” he says.
“Our team is somewhat unique to how many teams might be structured,” Rod explains. “If you think of many organizations, it’s ‘Here’s your job and here’s what you do.’ For us it’s ‘Here’s your role and here’s the outcome of that role. Let’s use your strengths to match someone else on the team’s strengths so the outcome can happen better and faster for the client.’”
Rod believes the key requirement for being able to properly serve HNW clients is “first and foremost, having a designation behind your name.”
When Rod started with IG Wealth Management, he wasted no time getting what he considers the gold standard in designations: Certified Financial Planner® (CFP® ).
Making CFP® mandatory in his practice
“I chose to do it almost right out of the hopper,” he says. I recognized the more knowledge I had, the more value I could provide to clients.”
Rod took his CFP® designation requirements even further within his firm: Everyone who works for him must already have, or be in the process of obtaining, their CFP® designation. Rod believes it’s the essential designation for serving HNW clientele.
“When you have a CFP® designation, you’re also a fiduciary. So you’re obligated to follow a full financial planning process that covers all six aspects of financial life. With the nature of the CFP® our clients really do get full service,” Rod says.
Surpassing client expectations
Full service is what his clients value most. It’s also what drove him to trademark the team’s financial planning process, called the WiSE AdvantageTM .
“Clients value us because we answer the questions they didn’t know they had,” says Rod. “When we think that way all the time and ask questions around that all the time, I think our clients would tell you that we really get them. We understand them. Right down to their pet’s names.”
Developing this total understanding of his clients’ needs, wants, goals, dreams and aspirations took an enlightening turn in 2016. That was when Rod formed a client advisory board after a mentor in IG’s upper management ranks raised the idea. Rod calls establishing the board “a game-changer.”
“I’ll be honest, it’s scary as hell when you first start it because you don’t really know what you’re going to receive for feedback. We’re all sensitive in some way,” he says.
Advisory board drives practice forward
Feedback from the advisory board has been very reassuring, beneficial and positive. Especially when it comes to the firm’s value proposition. “Clients tell us that first and foremost, we are thorough in all things we do, and we provide a full wealth-management solution…They feel their needs are all being met; no questions are being left on the table. And that’s when they tell me it actually feels like they’re part of a family. We know so much about them, and it’s all integrated.”
Establishing his client advisory board helped Rod’s team move towards what he calls “visual financial planning.” He started “very easily using two or three graphs and simple comparisons” so people can immediately see what’s going on with their financial picture. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a detail person or not, they get it,” says Rod.
Having the advisory board has also led him to expand his community involvement. Rod is on the board of directors of the Kelowna YMCA, and his firm has “always been heavily involved in charities.” But the client advisory board wanted affirmation of this involvement. It also wanted to know how clients can get involved.
Getting clients immersed in giving back
“Now we have a lot of events through the year,” says Rod. “We support a few charities that we personally volunteer with or sponsor. We are involved as a team and many of our clients are now involved with us. It’s so rewarding to give back and have clients that are willing to help give back too.”
In May, for example, clients joined Rod and his team at a walk for Alzheimer’s and a cycling fund-raising event for the YMCA. In June, they’ll be out for a charity car show at Kelowna’s City Park that happens to be organized by one of Rod’s clients.
“We’ll be sponsoring the event, with all proceeds from the event going to charity. Many of our clients have beautiful classic cars they love to showcase. They join us and we have a wonderful day with some of our clients and the community. It’s a win-win.”
Refining client communication
Feedback from his client advisory board has also helped Rod and his team refine how often they communicate with clients, “right down to meeting lengths.”
“What I’ve learned from the advisory board is that more is not always better. Less can be more as long as the impact is high,” Rod says.
Rod’s practice embraces technology to make client communication more efficient and impactful. Rod doesn’t send out a long email following a client meeting. He uses his smartphone to make a short video summary recap of the conversation.
“We’re using as much web as we can, and as much video as we can. I do a lot of video messaging…In a video I can say in 15 seconds what would take four paragraphs in an email.”
It’s been a “wow” factor with clients, Rod says. “We experimented and then discovered this was an easy way of communicating that was very impactful. All of the relevant information is saved within our CRM as well, so it’s all compliant, it’s all there.”
Location is perception of value, too
“Technology is a friend,” Rod says. “I relish it. I’m always trying to find bigger, better ways to communicate that are more impactful for the client.” And he adds, using technology to look after routine things frees him up to spend more time working on client solutions.
It’s all part of providing true value. With HNW clients, where you practise can be as crucial as what you do and how you do it for your clients. Everything reflects on your brand. So it’s no wonder Gibbings & Associates Private Wealth Management is based in the Landmark Centre, a campus-style, six tower business Class “A” address in Kelowna.
According to the Landmark Centre website, it’s the “coveted business address of the Okanagan” and “the pinnacle” of Kelowna. It’s the hub of the Kelowna tech community. There are also 34 financial firms including Rod’s, located in Landmark Centre offices. The prestigious complex was designed and built by Al Stober Construction, a 50-yearold family owned firm.
A winning combination for new business
Rod has been practising in Kelowna for a quarter century. He’s well known in the community. This has a huge effect on new-business development. “Marketing is about how many people know you, so certainly having a longevity in the business and being seen at so many community events, there’s no question it’s made a change we can feel in our practice,” he says.
Rod won new-business development awards — being in the top 1% of IG consultants — in 2007, 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He’s been a five-time President’s Club attendee. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 he was recognized for his mentorship. He has also received the Financial Planner of the Year award each year since it was introduced in 2015. Almost all new business for Gibbings & Associates is acquired by referral. But Rod still does some prospecting because he enjoys it. “When you’re prospecting and you’re meeting the people who you know you would have a great relationship with, then it’s fun and exciting.”
Looking back, driving forward
Highly respected and valued by his clients. Practising out of offices in the most sought after business address in the Okanagan Valley. Helping clients achieve their goals for 25 years now. It all speaks of unbridled success. But when you ask Rod whether he considers himself successful, he says, “Success is a subjective word.” And puts things in perspective.
“I’ve learned to really stop and have gratitude for the life that I lead, the family I’m blessed to have and the work I am able to do for the clients. I always look forward to who the next person is that we can help because that’s what really drives me,” he says.
He’s a bit of a client service, prospecting and adrenalin junkie. But Rod always puts his family first. Married to Roxanne for 24 years, they have four children — three sons and a daughter. Sons Jaxon and Corbin are still in high school. Lachlan works and is in post-secondary education in Kelowna. Daughter Georgia is studying at the University of Toronto. Rod has “rarely missed” a school event and has coached every sport his children have been involved in.
“I’d say I’ve probably forfeited some business growth over the years, but how do you put a cost on spending time with the kids?,” Rod says. “They’re the legacy.”
If he was starting out as an advisor all over again, Rod wouldn’t do anything differently. “Looking back could I do things better? Of course. Every part of it was a lesson. Some easy, and some hard. But everything I learned is what I learned.
Dean Askin is a B2B and non-profit content writer/consultant with more than three decades of experience in journalism and communications.He’s worked in radio current affairs; written for and edited national trade magazines; and taught journalism.
Dean learned to master the craft of telling powerful stories with words under the guidance of Canada’s master storyteller – the late, great Stuart McLean.
ROD GIBBINGS, CFP®
Executive Financial Consultant
Investors Group Financial Services Inc., I.G. Insurance Services Inc.
BA Econ., RRC, CFP