Kent Tilley, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional with an unusual hobby – he is a "professional" stand-up comedian in Edmonton, AB. At first glance you might think the two disciplines (finance and comedy) have nothing to do with each other. That Kent has a CFP®, the financial services industry’s gold standard, provides clients with the confidence that he knows what he’s talking about. As a stand-up comic, he is hardwired to look beyond the status quo, sacred cows, and industry norms. In fact, he started his firm, K4 Financial Services, in 2016 to shake things up.
Kent wants Canadians to understand more about their money, pay lower fees and get transparent advice. His out-of-the-box thinking has led to an approach that, “Gives our clients great advice while significantly reducing their annual fees. K4 clients pay a maximum MER of 1.30% on their investments, which is about 1.0% lower than the fees paid by the average client in Canada. Not only do we charge this, we are always up front about every penny a client will pay us or anyone else,” Kent explains. His closing ratio is quite high. “Most clients feel they already know and trust me because they have watched me for at least an hour BEFORE they contact me.
Picking investments is the easy part of the job, although that’s the part that most people seem to care about. I don’t focus on a particular stock, but rather on how much a particular product or strategy will cost you.”
Kent has recently begun offering customized video financial plans for clients that don’t have the time or the interest in reading a multi-page written plan. See (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo6Z86vqRPU) if you want to learn more. Whether a video plan or a written plan, all address six primary areas: Retirement Planning, Risk Management, Estate Planning, Cash Flow Management, Asset Management, and Tax Planning.
Kent cares more about engagement than the size of your portfolio. Before he starts to customize something, he will ask you to gather and send all of your relevant financial information (bank statements, pension statements, life insurance policies etc.). “This is the best vetting process on the planet because it lets me know the person is engaged, which saves me from not wasting my own time or more importantly, making the wrong assumptions about their financial life. My approach not only gives clients peace of mind it saves everyone time and money. And, it's as low pressure as I could have possibly made it,” he adds.
How did Kent get started in a financial services career?
From the time he was a kid, Kent loved math and science. He thought a career in engineering would build on these strengths and went on to obtain a civil engineering diploma from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His first job was as a Quantity Surveyor.
“My wife and I wanted to start a family, but I was not making enough money to support a family for a year of maternity leave. I observed that friends who were working in sales, were doing much better financially. The only problem was I didn’t like sales.”
One day, Kent provided the comedy at a Christmas event for a major financial services company. That gig changed his life. “A friend’s dad was a senior consultant there. I asked him if a financial services career might work for someone with my people and math skills. He told me that being an advisor would be a great fit; I could make decent money AND feel good about helping people. I decided to try it for a year - in the worst case I would learn how to manage my own family’s money.” His friend’s father was right about the industry being a good fit, and Kent stayed with that company for five years.
“While I was there I did OK but was not lighting the world on fire. I disagreed with the management approach, disliked the internal politics, and didn’t like the corporate restrictions on the services I wanted to offer my clients. More importantly, I had been doing comedy for two years before I joined that company, and wanted to be able to continue to do so, although not as a career. Originally they were OK with this, as long as I kept it relatively clean, and did not mention the company. Five years in, my manager told me I had to stop doing comedy. I couldn’t live with this. I walked away from all my clients and five years of building something. Today, that would never happen because that manager is me!”
Kent knew he could build a book. He launched his own company offering clients exactly what he wanted to be able to offer them on his own terms, especially transparency. He partnered with a robo adviser to manage his client’s money, built a website, and started a YouTube channel. He makes an educational video every week. He tries to focus on education rather than sales. Today, he does [almost] everything online. “I present the financial plan and answer questions over Skype or video chat. I have clients in every corner of Canada. I have never met a large majority of them! And, because I don’t manage the money, I don’t have any conflicts of interest.”
“People don’t have to do everything I recommend. My plan will generally include 15 pieces of financial advice as well as my reasons for the recommendation. If the client doesn’t want to commit, or to save the amount of money I have recommended, that’s ok, but it’s my job to ensure they’re keeping on track.” Is his approach effective? Clients certainly think so. A recent client testimonial described him as the Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers ice hockey centre and team captain, considered by many as one of the best players in the world) of financial planners. Kent knows he could never be as good at anything as Connor is at hockey, but being a die-hard Oilers fan, he definitely loved the comparison.
Some Quick Comments About the Industry
Lack of Financial Literacy: “The public rarely understands the difference between mutual funds, insurance or the financial planning process.”
Advisor Education: “When you work for a bank, you take a course for a few days and then you can give financial advice to anyone that walks through the door. I believe everyone advising clients about money should have their CFP.”
The Cost: “Canada has the highest mutual funds fees in the developed world. No one knows how much money they are paying in fees, or how much the advisor is being compensated.”
Failure to focus on the client: “The average consultant has too many clients and probably has never talked to 1/3 of them, may not have a current address or even know if the client is still alive. How can this be good?”
Insurance is even worse: “There is not very much compliance in the insurance industry. As a result, the most productive advisors are often doing the worst possible things for their clients.”
Timing the Market: “Nobody is smarter than the market.”
There’s no Magic Get Rich Pill: “It takes time, and consistency. Winning Lotto Max or 649 is not an effective Get Rich strategy.”
Focus on HNW Individuals: “Most organizations suggest their advisors only talk to people with money. Everyone needs good financial advice, especially people that don’t have a lot of money.”
Rates of Return: “Many advisors only look at what a fund has earned over the last five years and assume this is the same rate the fund will earn in the next five years. None of us have any idea about what the future holds.”
Up Close & Personal
Kent is married, has a four-year-old son, and three siblings - all of their names start with the letter “K” - hence the name K4 Financial Services.
“My dad died of pancreatic cancer. I decided to honour his memory with K4 Financial Steps to a Cure, a run/race to raise money for pancreatic cancer. I match every dollar raised. Every Christmas I donate $10/household to purchase gifts for low-income teens. I was a Big Brother and currently sponsor a child in Bolivia.” He often does comedy for people raising money for charity at no cost and hosts a comedy show at Comic Strip in Edmonton each year, where the comics, who are also personal friends, entertain his clients.
Kent recently launched, “A Funny Story About Money” (available on Apple and Spotify), a podcast, where he interviews local Edmonton business owners. “Once a week I get to pick their brains. This has made me a better advisor, because I’ve been forced to ask better questions.”
As a last word Kent says, “I love my life. I get to wake up every morning and hang out with my son – he’s now four. I get to help people. I get to teach them about things they need to know. I have become a real entrepreneur, which is good because I get bored with monotonous things even though I have a monotonous voice. I’m always creating, learning, and growing. I didn’t buy a book of business to get started. Everything I have built has been created from scratch. I’m proud of that.”
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Category
Kent Tilley, CFP®
Founder and President