BILL SPENCE, Associate Consultant, IG Private Wealth Management, Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada
In 2011, Bill Spence, a teacher for nearly two decades, was considering a career change. Bill had been a client of IG Wealth for 19 years when one of the Advisors at the firm – who would eventually become his partner – suggested he make the move from teacher to Financial Advisor. “Miles (Schiller) lured me away in the spring of 2011,” remembers Bill. “I told him, I’ll take till the end of the school year to make my decision.”
Classes ended for the summer, and with the full support and trust of his wife Lisa, also a teacher, Bill took a leap – ending his teaching career (where he had taught math, phys. Ed and been a high school counselor) to start on a new path as a financial advisor with IG Wealth Management.
Bill began his career in finance by running his own practice, which he had for more than four years. He did well – in fact, in every one of those four years he was a peak performer – recognized as one of the top two Canadian IG Wealth Management Consultants.
In 2016, opportunity knocked again. And again, it was Miles Schiller, this time inviting Bill to join his team as an associate. While Bill was doing well on his own, he knew he could grow his practice at a greater rate as part of a larger team. He also saw an opportunity to learn from Miles, a highly respected and highly successful Advisor. So he accepted, merging his practice with Miles’ and marking the beginning of the Schiller Spence partnership at IG Private Wealth Management.
Known today as Schiller, Spence & Associates, their main office is located in Lloydminster – right on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Most of their clients are in Alberta, but the team is licensed from Saskatchewan through to B.C., so they take care of clients across three provinces. “We’re in a small community of 30,000 people, so we’ve got clients anywhere from Saskatoon all the way out to Vancouver Island,” says Bill. “Oil and gas, business and professionals make up the bulk of our practice.”
Change in career, change in practice, and still more change…
Shortly after Bill joined the team, they decided to leave the MFDA platform and move to IROC, allowing the team to offer more options to their clients. “In typical Schiller fashion, we did it in a quick, efficient manner. We took all three exams over the summer and got our IROC licence. Then we had to re-paper everybody from MFDA to IROC in the fall of 2017,” says Bill. “It hasn’t been a quiet transition to the investment world, but it’s been challenging and very rewarding.”
It's also been quite successful. Schiller, Spence & Associates was recognized by IG Wealth as its top team in Canada in 2020 and again in 2021. The award is based on sales in the calendar year, and is a significant accomplishment – especially in the midst of a pandemic. “We were the first team west of Ontario ever to be recognized as the number one team in Canada in IG,” says Bill. “We had record-breaking years in 2020 and 2021, even as team members were working in their basements and at their kitchen tables during COVID-19.”
In 2021, the team merged with another practice in Edmonton – buying a mature book from a retiring consultant and onboarding nearly 300 clients and $60 million in assets in a short two-and-a-half-month window. “That was another big challenge for us,” says Bill. But again, successful.
Now with offices in Lloydminster and Edmonton, the team has grown from four members to 11, and Bill credits his team members as the secret behind the practice’s ongoing success. “First and foremost, we have great clients. And we surround ourselves with a great team. We work very well together. We allow individuals to work as individuals but within the team, based on their roles and responsibilities. That allows everyone to be successful.”
Building trust and peace of mind
“Our focus has always been on the client – that’s the key part,” he adds. That means providing peace of mind no matter what stage of life clients are in. Schiller, Spence & Associates focuses on full holistic planning and uses software that works with IG’s Living Plan to show clients various “what-if” scenarios, and how they’ll continue to be fine as they work towards their financial goals. “Especially with recent market volatility – and with their plan as they near retirement or are retired, the hard work they put into saving and living within their means – with the Schiller-Spence team, they’re going to be fine.”
Being able to provide that peace of mind is one of the most rewarding aspects of what Bill does. It goes hand in hand with the relationships he builds with clients and the trust he instills in them. “I love working with people,” says Bill. “The relationships you build, the introductions, and the trust clients show for what we do for them, that’s the most important part, building that long-lasting relationship.”
Bill prides himself on providing clients a personalized approach that works best for their individual needs. He does this by getting to know clients' goals and desires, then developing a strategy to turn those dreams into a reality.
For many, that dream is a comfortable retirement – helping clients retire is one of things Bill loves most about his work. But it’s also important to him that he’s there for them in more unfortunate times, like when someone loses a loved one. “You’re there to support them, help them through that troubled time and help them with the transition into the new world they find themselves in,” says Bill. “To realize the amount of impact you’ve had on their lives in a positive way, how much they rely on you and trust you to make those decisions and support them – that gives you the peace of mind that what we do is important and is valuable to them.”
While their client base is people approaching retirement or in retirement, the team is also working with clients’ children and grandchildren, building relationships within the family. “Miles is going on 26 years,” says Bill. “So we’ve got clients who are anywhere from their late 80s, to young adults just starting out and trying to figure out how the financial strategies work. We work with our senior clients whose biggest concern is how to pass their wealth on to the next generation and how to give back to the community.
Planning for a successful succession
Passing the torch is not just a focus for their clients. Succession was part of the overall big picture when Miles invited Bill to join his team. “I left my practice for the opportunity to work under Miles, to learn more from him and his many years in the industry, and build a relationship with clients,” says Bill. “So when the day comes, they’re comfortable working with me.” Both men want to ensure a smooth transition when Miles decided to retire. “I’ve been working with Miles’ clients over the last six years. I have a great relationship with all of our clients. So that day when Miles does fully retire, they’re going to have that peace of mind and comfort level that they’re still in good hands.”
While his partner may have retirement in his sights, Bill sees growth and expansion, with Schiller-Spence branching out in other communities across Alberta in the next 10 years. “I see the transition we did with the Edmonton practice, with that merger being successful. We’re always looking for other practices that either want to join a larger, successful practice, or someone is close to retiring, with clients who fit our ideal clients, with the same mindset and philosophy.”
Until then, Bill and his team will continue doing what they do best – being there for their clients. “We joke that we’re just small-town farm kids who are doing the right thing for our clients. That’s what’s been rewarding for us, and it works. It’s about being honest with them, showing the benefits of what we’re doing and building that relationship.
He’s also there for his community. An avid golfer, Bill combines his passion for the greens with raising money for local charities. He’s instrumental in organizing charity golf events, including the Hartnell-MacArthur Celebrity Golf Classic, which, between 2011 and 2013, raised more than $600,000 for the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation, the Lloydminster Public School Division, and the Lloydminster Catholic School Division.
“As a business, we probably give back about $100,000 a year in support to charities, teams, fundraising activities, and so on. When you’re in a small community and clients are so giving to us, we like to give back.”
It’s been 10 years since he traded his lesson plans for financial plans, and Bill jokes that he only misses teaching in July and August – when he could otherwise be on the golf course. “It’s definitely been a great career move for my family and myself,” says Bill. “I always remember back, Miles asked why I was struggling with the transition. I said, I like what I do and I think I’m good at it. I like working with people and educating them. He laughed and with a smile said, well, that’s exactly what we do!”
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Bill Spence, Associate Consultant
Schiller, Spence & Associates
Private Wealth Management
4204 – 70 Ave
Lloydminster, AB T9V 2X3
t: 780-874-4415 c: 780-871-1854
Investors Group Securities Inc