What is your role at TvH Group?
I work closely with clients to help them set short and long-term goals and then create a financial plan for them. It is a very important process, and must reflect the client’s goals and aspirations.
Once their goals are set and the plan is in place, I bring in the other experts within TvH Group to help make the plan a reality. I liken myself to a general contractor who has responsibility for a home’s construction. I am responsible for identifying and working closely through each phase with the best professionals for the job.
How did you get into the financial advisory and investment business?
I have been in the business for 23 years and went out on my own 12 years ago as an insurance specialist and financial advisor. I have never looked back.
At 16, I was the youngest teller in the history of one of the large Canadian banks. I attribute this achievement to my passion for finance and helping people succeed. I have experience in the insurance arena, which enhanced my understanding not only of the value of insurance but of financial planning and the importance of establishing clear life goals.
What do investors seek most in their financial advisor?
They want to first trust their advisor, who must listen well and possess deep knowledge and experience. Many investors seek an educator and objective consultant versus a sales person who is tied to product and personal sales target to earn their livelihood. I am definitely in the former category.
How do you meet and exceed client expectations?
I preach what I practice. My colleagues and I invest along side our clients and share the same investment and risk management philosophies, which leads to consistent service for our clients.
Before I offer any solution, I ask whether I would recommend it for myself. I do not want to be a salesperson and may consult one of my partners if I sense my solution might position me in this way.
I am an advisor, not a trader who is commission-driven. Clients work with me because I am consultative and work in collaboration with them.
My non-proprietary, collaborative approach is rare in the financial services industry
What is your role at TvH Group?
I am a licensed mortgage broker who works with a variety of clients to help them meet their real estate goals. This includes everything from property purchases for personal, investment or income generating purposes to first-time, single-family residence buyers, experienced investment property owners and everyone in between. I offer them a variety of client-focused lending sources and programmes that best reflect their situation.
Why do your clients choose to work with you?
My clients quickly realize that I want to help them make decisions that will benefit them today and in the future. A client may finance a home purchase with me today, but I want to help properly prepare them for the long term. I do this by offering more than mortgage product solutions and with my partners’ additional expertise, provide comprehensive advice that will see them through a lifetime of financial decisions with confidence. This gives them the freedom to do what is really important to them.
They also work with me due to my ability to obtain favourable pricing while managing small print details within agreements they might not think to address.
This helps to simplify the financing process for them. I help clients walk the fine line between impulse buying and missed opportunities. These may occur due to indecision based on a lack of information or experience in this area.
I bring a number of skills to the table – the most important being a willingness to take the time to get to know a client and understand their situation. I apply my experience to their needs and help them develop a comfort level with the process. Making people feel comfortable is vital in any financing decision for the simple reason that comfortable people tend to make better decisions.
This process begins by listening. The level of sophistication in our introductory conversation is based on the client’s ability to articulate his or her needs and understanding of the financing process, be it acquisition or consolidation – related. A real estate transaction moves in steps and clients need to understand
those steps before they can pose questions that are essential to realizing their goals. I provide the information they need to ask those questions. They are then better able to tell me what they are seeking and I am consequently better able to guide them.
What led you to become a mortgage broker?
I have been in real estate for many years. Along the way, I have acquired a number of different types of property including commercial, residential, income, investment and storefront. After earning a degree in finance, I spent part of my early career with a large bank as a trader and later with a global investment management firm where I fulfilled a number of responsibilities. I came to realize that my true passion involved working with people, numbers and real estate. Being a mortgage broker allows me to blend all three and I greatly enjoy what I do.
Which clients benefit most from your expertise?
I like to work with people who involve me in their decisions and want to consider my advice. I find it most productive to work with a client who sees one expert in the room. Some clients tell us how they want things done and others seek our experience and expertise. I am happy to discuss my recommendations at length when a client questions them or has an alternative point of view. We work best with clients who realize that we are more than order takers.
Can you describe your vision for TvH in terms of service delivery?
Yes. Delivering second-to-none service is an essential part of all that we offer our clients. Service quality defines each partner’s DNA and our clients experience this through the high levels of service we provide. This may involve providing financial advice, accounting expertise, legal guidance or offering manage real estate advice combined with precise execution. The adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” really applies here. Our service delivery philosophy is based on the business model created by J.P. Morgan and
other pioneers in the multi-family business office industry. This is where individuals place their trust in a group of skilled, like-minded trusted advisors who work under one roof to manage their clients’ financial, property acquisition and consolidation, legal, tax management and other affairs. By structuring our firm in this way, we are well positioned to offer clients appropriate advice that brings them comfort.
How did TvH Group come about?
TvH stands for Tortoise versus Hare. It epitomizes are pragmatic and disciplined approach to bringing best-in-class mortgage brokerage, financial advisory, accounting and legal services to our clients. The partners share the same vision combining precision, patience and passion when working with each client – now and down the road.
Our clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of the professional synergies we have built naturally over time and that continue to grow daily.
Depending on your situation and experience, your needs as a mortgage consumer will differ, however one thing remains constant, as either a first-time homebuyer or a repeat buyer you need the guidance of a professional to get you the best product and rate to suit your needs.For a First Time Buyer, mortgage advice and information is not just important, it is critical. Timely and accurate mortgage advice, the right products to select from, can be a boon to the enjoyment of your first purchase as a family home and lifetime investment. There is no reason to rush the purchase of your first home – remember, it is also an investment in your life and lifestyle.
As a Repeat Buyer, you need to know that your options are extensive. With a changing mortgage marketplace, you need to be kept up to date so that you can make a decision that is tailored to your current situation with the flexibility that you require.
Why did you become a lawyer? What was your journey like?
As a young person, I had an inquiring mind. I was always interested in a variety of topics and constantly fascinated by the world around me. Being a lawyer requires me to have a critical and inquiring mind and the fit felt natural. Pursuing a law career always felt right to me and needless to say, it is a decision I am very glad I made.
I studied law at the University of Ottawa and focused my articles in the business department of one of the regions’ top-five law firms. There was one partner in particular who specialized in real estate and municipal law with whom I worked closely. It’s interesting that this is now what I practice. What I learned from her was invaluable, and her practical insights into approaching complex transactions continue to benefit me to this day.
After being called to the bar in 2003, I joined a small boutique law firm that specialized in municipal and urban planning matters. By 2005, I had started my own practice, working closely with one of Toronto’s preeminent real estate lawyers.
All along the way, I have had the opportunity to work with some very knowledgeable and intelligent people including other professionals such as planners, engineers, and architects in order to provide a high level of value to my clients on a daily basis.
What is your role at TvH Group?
Ours is one of a very small number a multi-disciplinary practices (MDP) serving Ontario. My partners and I offer a variety of services including financial and insurance planning, accounting and mortgages. Personally, I lead the Legal Department at TvH Group and provide expertise in real estate matters including buying and selling real estate, property litigation, which includes municipal and planning matters. Additionally, we provide service to numerous clients in the area of business law, which includes the creation and review of contracts. I often work in conjunction with my other partners on matters of estate law, including the drafting of wills and powers of attorney.
Why do clients choose to work with you?
When I ran my own practice, I came to understand the importance of being solely accountable for providing the level and quality of both advice and service that ensured my clients were properly represented. Combined with my own high standards, clients appreciate that my level of dedication to their cause will be second to none. My clients also recognize that to the best of my ability I will consider all available options and guide them to the right decision. This level of commitment is apparent to my clients over a broad spectrum of files, regardless of their complexity or subject matter.
While subject matter proficiency and knowledge helps to bring clients to the table, what I think keeps people coming back is the level of service that we extend at TvH. I believe it is rare in the industry to provide personalized service, especially on the transaction side of real estate. The reality is there is the potential for the overall experience to become commoditized. However, I am fortunate to have my efforts complemented by a similarly dedicated team who is always thinking ahead and regularly goes the extra mile for our clients. Finally, the ability to engage my partners on behalf of my clients on a variety of ancillary issues is also a significant benefit to the practice and ultimately, to our clients.
How are you adding value for your clients, today and in the long term?
We provide added value to our clients in a variety of ways. One of the more important avenues we pursue is in managing a successful teaching office. At any given time we will have a number of articling law students working with TvH Legal. While uncommon in smaller firms, the fresh approaches and different points of view within the context of our various files only serve to better address the needs of our clients and how to assist with their legal matters.
In addition, our multi-disciplinary practice also provides the proverbial ‘one-stop shop’ for our clients. No one person can know all things about everything. However, by working with similarly dedicated professionals, my clients know I have access to a variety of resources typically not available to someone in my position. My ability to provide clients access to services beyond my usual fields of expertise from trusted sources is of significant value to them.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like achieving results for clients. Clients know I am always in their corner and that their wins are my wins, whether it is handing over the keys to a client’s new home or successfully resolving an issue with the Ontario Municipal Board. Simply put, it is very satisfying for me to have played a role in a client successfully realizing one of their dreams.
I also sincerely enjoy the role of trusted advisor. In any legal matter, I want to bring a voice of reason to the issue at hand and help people obtain the best result possible. Knowing that the people I work with rely upon and trust me is an important part of why I do what I do.
How did you become a partner at TvH Group?
Initially I met with one of our partners, Jon Sowerby, to help my partner and I with our own personal real estate financing. We found Jon to be highly responsive and professional. We liked his sincerity and approach and especially appreciated his advice. We referred him several of our family, friends and clients for mortgage advice. Shortly thereafter Jon put me in touch with Jim Lao, of TvH Financial who manages financial planning and insurance. The synergy that exists between our business perspectives and client-focused service was readily apparent and the rest is history.
At TvH, we draw on a combination of each partner’s professional experience to the benefit of each client. This collaborative approach is efficient as there is no overlap between the distinct areas on which we focus.
Ultimately, it is all about achieving the best results for the client while relying on our shared level of precision, patience and passion.
If you were to leave a prospective client who is currently reading this with one thought what would that be?
In my past, I was heavily involved in martial arts. As a third degree black belt and national sparring champion, I came to understand early in life the need for commitment. The reality is that many of the lessons I learned in my sport have much in common with the study of law. Both require mental and physical energy and call on one’s ability to strategically unleash large amounts of that energy when moving decisively toward a desired outcome. The arena may look a little different but at the end of the day my clients know they are going to get someone who has the ability and tenacity to go the distance when it comes to representing them.
What motivated you to become a Chartered Accountant?
My passion for numbers and finding solutions began with my skill in math and accounting in high school, where I quickly realized the correlation between the two. I was fortunate to have participated in a co-op program during high school, which allowed me to work at an accounting firm. This experience confirmed that numbers were second nature to me. I have always enjoyed looking at business and personal affairs from a tax angle. I also like helping people get more out of their hard work by realizing the benefits of efficient tax management strategies.
Why do your clients choose to work with you, versus one of your competitors?
My clients are well looked after. I think ahead and see things that others with a different skill set might miss. My clients appreciate my personal approach to providing them with peace of mind.
They also see the value of logical thinking to maximize their wealth in the short and the long term. I don’t ‘dumb it down’ but I do speak in plain English. I work hard to earn and maintain their trust and stand with them through the happy and stressful times.
What are some of your best practices that benefit your clients?
Each person is different. I appreciate this and tailor my services to meet their needs. I offer a solutions-based approach since no two individuals fit the same mold.
No one likes to pay tax but if you are not paying tax, you are not making money and you won’t be in business for very long. The principle that I emphasize is that it’s not what you make that counts, it’s what you keep.
Your business really isn’t much of a business if you can’t pay yourself fairly for the time and effort you expend. A business owner’s compensation need not always come in the form of salary. This is why personal and family business issues need special attention, especially where cars and home offices are involved. I get asked frequently about whether it’s better having a car in the company or in the individual’s name. The answer varies with each individual’s circumstances but it’s important to recognize that each option creates different results. By knowing what questions to ask, I can provide advice that makes the most sense.
Another question that comes up often involves paying spouses and children to minimize tax. There are lots of pitfalls in this area. I help clients understand the opportunity and make sure the documentation exists to support the decisions made.
How do some business owners hamper their success?
A business owner’s time is his or her most valuable resource. Working “on” your business instead of “in” your business is critical to success in the long term. There’s a reason why a lot of small businesses don’t survive. Trying to “save” money by doing your own accounting or taxes is just one example of a bad use of an owner’s time. It’s far better to take that time to grow your business and do things that will make you money. A professional accountant will do the work in a fraction of the time the business owner would need to take to do the same thing. The mistakes made by business owners end up costing more than just time and can result in lost opportunities and even worse –paying too much tax. .
Should tax time make business owners fearful?
The tax laws are the same for everyone – no one has an advantage over anyone else.
But they can be intimidating to the ‘small guy’ who does not understand the philosophy and purpose behind them.
It may not always seem the case but the government wants people to prosper – but within the law. In addition to providing advice and saving taxes I act as a liaison for clients with Revenue Canada because I know how to best communicate with them and avoid unnecessary flags being raised.
What do you enjoy most about being a partner and chartered accountant at TvH Group?
I like the fact that I am a professional who is part of a team that can offer a one-stop solution for many people with different needs.
For example, Sonia can construct legal agreements, provide annual minutes for corporations as well as other essential items that need to be done accurately and in a timely fashion.
Saving taxes is only one part of the equation. Accumulating wealth is also important. Jim helps to create the blueprint to build business owners’ nest eggs.
Jon’s expertise as a mortgage broker helps clients structure their borrowings in a way that’s not only friendly to their pocket book but is also in harmony with the goals they’ve carefully set with their lawyer, accountant and financial advisor.
By being under the same roof we are all on the same page and because the partners work so closely together, clients don’t have to tell their story several times.
We bring clients the best in class professionals to meet their needs whether they involve financial advisory, legal or real estate matters.