TRAVIS FORMAN, BA, CFP®, FMA, CIM, FCSI® Senior VP, Harbourfront Wealth Management, Vancouver, BC
"Growing by Educating at Every Opportunity"
The summer of 2019 has seen Travis Forman experiencing the hottest stage of his career and life. And it has nothing to do with the weather or climate change.
He’s a new father; he’s the senior vice-president of an ever-growing wealth management practice; and he oversees an alternative investments private debt real estate pool that’s “grown to just under $300 million in 15 months, which is fantastic.”
“As far as my business achievements are concerned, I think I’m successful,” Travis says when you ask him whether, deep down, he truly feels successful or whether he’s always pushing the boundaries of success.
“I run a wildly successful mutual fund, and a successful wealth management practice. We’re highly referred, we get testimonials and when your clients hug you, I’d say that makes me feel great that I’ve done the right job for that client. So I feel successful that way.
On top of all these successes, Travis was earlier this year recognized by Wealth Professional Canada magazine as one of the country’s Top 50 advisors. He was also a finalist for Advisor of the Year in Alternative Investments in the 2019 Wealth Professional industry awards.
Chalk it up to constant learning
“That was pretty cool,” Travis says. “It felt great to be nominated and recognized.”
He learned something from being nominated, too. “With a nomination, of course, you have to submit a series of answers to questions, in order to be selected. When you answer those questions, compliance gets involved, which I didn’t know. So the wealth planner community goes to compliance and asks, ‘Did Travis actually deliver on what he said he did?’ I was thinking maybe this is just something people buy for recognition, but it’s not. It’s actually great to see there’s due diligence involved.”
Chalk it up to education. And Travis is a big believer in constant education, for both himself and for his clients.
He has devoted a lot of time to earning his Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute®, Certified Financial Planner®, Financial Management Advisor and Certified Investment Manager designations. He believes all these things are “an absolute, fundamental must” for having the knowledge needed to “adapt to the changing conditions quicker,” especially in the wealth management arena.
Standing apart with client education
“I’m a huge believer in education. We leverage education for client appreciation, and client acquisition,” Travis affirms. “Last year I did 12 public educational events for clients and prospects. The faster we learn this information, the better we all are. I think what separates me from the pack is the amount of education we provide to our clients.”
The financial literacy of his clients, and of young people, is a big part of what drives Travis.
“Once you can arm clients to combat the immediate headlines (in the news) and calm them, it makes them less anxious,” he says. “I educate clients on the same things over and over again. Some people say, ‘Travis, I trust you. I’ve been working with you for 15 years and I don’t even want to learn this.’ But I say, ‘Let me give this a try just so I can make sure you understand what you purchased, or whatever the case may be.’”
He devotes a lot of time to client education. And earlier in his career, he devoted time to educating Grade 11 and Grade 12 students about basic financial essentials.
“I’d come in on a career focus day and teach them some of the fundamentals, about compound growth, for example. I really think financial literacy is more important than trigonometry where you’re just learning sine, cosine with calculators doing it for you. Well, how’s that going to help somebody save for a down payment on a mortgage or compound growth for retirement? It’s not.”
Pursuing his passion
Travis is passionate about what he does. Thrives on it, in fact.
“It’s the clients,” he says. “Wealth management isn’t cookie-cutter. Everybody’s wants, needs and desires are always different. So really you’re putting together a different puzzle for each client. It’s unique and exciting.
He needs to be always challenged and engaged. That’s just who he is. And that’s why he had set his eyes on a career in either advertising or finance when he was studying to earn a Bachelor of economics at Simon Fraser University back in 1998. Because in those two sectors, change is constant.
Two weeks after graduating, he took an advertising job in Hong Kong. “I graduated from SFU, wondering where in the world I could get the most amount of money for the least amount of experience, and get experience quickly,” Travis laughs.
But he “quickly learned I didn’t like advertising,” and went back to Vancouver.
Falling into the world of finance
That was when his career in finance “fell in to his lap” and he never looked back.
“I was stamping cheques and giving change as a teller at Royal Bank downtown, and the girl next to me had pursued a financial planning job. She ended up getting it and then was pregnant and couldn’t take the job. So I said, ‘Why don’t you get me an interview, and I’ll see if the job fits for me?,’” Travis recalls.
He would end up spending 17 years at IG Wealth Management as an executive financial consultant. Travis finished his tenure with the firm as a four-time recipient of the coveted President's Club award from 2010 to 2014.
After joining Harbourfront Wealth Management in 2016 as senior vice-president, Travis wears two hats. With one, he’s the principal of his rapidly expanding wealth management practice, Strategic Private Wealth Counsel. With the other, he set up and manages the landmark Rockridge Private Debt and Real Estate Pool for Willoughby Asset Management.
Best of both worlds
The fund is Canada’s first retail, multi-provider alternative investments portfolio solution. It has a high focus on private debt and real estate, much like some institutional pension funds. “We’re trying to move our clients into more of a pension-style asset management, which focuses on private credit or private real estate. So that sets us apart,” says Travis.
Being in wealth management, Travis says, “I kind of get the best of both worlds. Every wealth management client is kind of like an advertising client in that they’re unique. And then I get the never-ending, changing cycle of the stock market at the same time. So it’s satisfying both boxes that I was looking for in a career.”
About wearing those two hats, Travis says, “It has its challenges but it’s also really rewarding because I love both sides of it. We’re the sum of the parts. I have a great team behind me. Everybody has a special role, so it’s almost like we’re all pillars holding up the bridge. You just have to make sure each foundational leg is strong, and we do have the right talent.”
Growing with pride
It’s a team, says Travis, that clients — many of them long-term ones — have come to trust because they know “we genuinely care about their well- being, not our bottom line.” And because “at the end of the day, we do what we say we’re going to do.”
Travis talks proudly about the growth of Harbourfront Wealth Management. “I see my clients all the time,” he says. “We do dinner events and so forth, and they bring their friends and family and loved ones. We’re a 100% referral business, and we do very well. We’re growing quickly because they (clients) care about people, and they want to meet us. Our retention ratio is incredibly high.”
To Travis, it’s all about doing things right, with clients’ best interests in mind. “I like to use the word ‘transparency’ a lot,” he says.
“It gives you a sense of pride. We’re doing the right things, and they trust us, and let us know we’re doing the right things for them. We had an event stand out recently where we were saying, ‘We’re trying to grow our business here.’ And when they bring their family members, that’s the best compliment…So it gives you a sense of pride when they refer their family members and you know you’re doing the right thing for their family.”
Doing the right things for clients
For Travis, doing the right thing means making sure every client has a financial plan.
“We need to figure out the roadmap before we choose the cars that take us down the road,” he says. “So we tackle financial planning first. It gives them that realistic expectation of what they want to accomplish…we don’t want the client’s emotion and anxiety governed by what’s happening on Bloomberg BNN on a day…you want to say, ‘Are we still on track for what you want to accomplish?’ And it gives them a sense of peace, eliminating the anxiety in the market.”
Many of Travis's clients have worked with him for a decade. The relationships are so trusted that “we’re an extension of their financial life.”
Says Travis, “They largely don’t make decisions without consulting us first. One of the key things through the financial planning process in wealth management is the opportunity cost of a decision. When you have the model, you can evaluate, and say, ‘Here’s option A, B or C and it’ll show you the cumulative impact of that decision over time. So when they’re faced with one, two, or three options, it’s likely we’re going to be getting a call to add some clarity.
Giving clients value different ways
Travis makes sure to meet with clients two to four times a year to make sure their portfolios and goals are on track. Some clients he sees as often as six times a year “through appreciation events and work meetings.”
He just recently had 30 clients turn out to an infant CPR course he sponsored, in part because he’s a new father.
“Clients who’ve had kids, or their children, showed up so everybody could learn how to treat a burn or cut or a choking child. There was zero shop talk. It was just a value add that I paid for, for my clients. I thought, ‘This is valuable information. I want to learn it, so why not learn it with my clients?’”
Travis also sponsors hockey leagues that some clients participate in, and charity golf tournaments. “As a business owner I’ve created a budget that I put into the community annually,” he says.
He’s passionate about client service, client education and getting clients into alternative investments. But it’s education that’s the root of everything, Travis says.
The root of everything
“Everything just evolves from providing education. And the more people you can touch, the more people you can help. And then obviously the more people you help, the quicker you grow your business.”
This has been his approach ever since his early days as an IG Wealth Management consultant.
“Twenty years ago, people wanted us to cold call,” Travis remembers. “And we quickly learned you can dial the phone and connect with maybe one person out of 30, and maybe out of five connections get one meeting. Or you can call corporations that employ 50 people or more, and offer a lunch-and-learn seminar. And therefore, for every connection, you’re getting in front of 30 people instead of one.”
Travis’s penchant for client education has even added a new dimension to his financial career. As a television host.
“Breakfast Television (Vancouver) seemed like a pretty good medium to get out to the public. And one of my best friends is the national sales manager for Rogers Media, which owns BT, so that’s how that came into play,” Travis says.
When TV production and compliance needs collide
For “six or seven months” during his time with IG Wealth Management, Travis hosted a financial segment on the Vancouver morning show. The great success story that came out of his time as a BT segment host was landing an education gig helping the Certified Public Accountants Association.
“The CPA Association hired me to do seminars for all their chapters around the Lower Mainland, to provide continuing education credits for the accountants of the Lower Mainland,” Travis recalls.
He’s getting involved again with BT and educating the public about financial planning and alternative investments. Starting in September, “We’ll produce a one-minute vignette,” Travis explains.
Balancing it all
He’s looking forward to the new television stint. Even though he’s already juggling being a new parent, meeting with clients, attending client appreciation events, and overseeing both a team and an alternative investments fund. He’s making sure to find balance with “strict calendar management.”
“Finding balance is critical, absolutely critical,” Travis says. “So for example, now instead of working three nights a week to meet with a husband and wife combination when they’re off work, I’m only doing that once now. But in lieu of that I’ll pick up a Saturday every month or every other month. And then holidays are critical to stay connected with family. Work-life balance is always a struggle when you’re growing, but when you have the right team, it makes it a little more manageable.”
Still, he wants — indeed, feels compelled to — do more from a business perspective, to help more people. “I believe we’re an above-average wealth management practice. And if we’re doing above average work, and we’ve created a system, as long as it’s scaleable without sacrificing client service experience and our work that we’re delivering on asset allocation, wealth management and financial planning…I think I have to try to help more people,” says Travis.
Why? One simple reason.
“I firmly believe we’re changing people’s lives,” Travis says. “If they meet with my team, I’m going to improve their life. I’m confident on that.
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.
Travis Forman BA, CFP, FMA, CIM, FCSI
Strategic Private Wealth Counsel
Senior Vice President, Harbourfront Wealth Management
Portfolio Manager, Rockridge Private Debt & Real Estate Pool
Morgan Creek Corporate Centre
310 – 15252 32nd Ave
Surrey, BC V3Z 0R7