How to Define and Reframe Your Value as an Advisor

Annamaria Testani, Senior Vice President, National Sales at National Bank Investments leads us in an enlightening conversation about developing a client communication journey that can have a dramatic positive impact on raising the value of your stock as an advisor with each and every client.

As an advisor you're operating in a field along with thousands of your competitor peers. The investment industry is becoming increasingly commoditized in terms of its offerings of solutions. Setting yourself apart from the field has always been a significant challenge you've had to overcome. So, how can you set yourself apart, how do you differentiate your offering, today, to be successfully competitive?

Creating Value as an Advisor Through Active Listening

In the first segment of this three part series, Annamaria defines the art of active listening, and provides clear guidance on how active listening can elevate the quality and stickiness of your relationships with your new and long-time clients, as well as how valuable that is when engaging prospective clients.

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Read the transcript

Part 1: Creating Value as an Advisor Through Active Listening

[00:00:00] Pierre Daillie: Hello, and welcome to Insight is Capital. I’m Pierre Daillie, managing editor at Our very special guest today is one of the most outspoken luminaries in the financial industry. She’s an accomplished public speaker and leadership coach. For over 10 years, she has made it her mission to help both individuals within her company articulate and act on their greatest strengths to build a more inclusive culture, and she has worked tirelessly to help investment advisors to be better and more successful in all they do. Our guest is none other than Annamaria Testani, Senior Vice President at National Bank Investments.


[00:00:59] Pierre Daillie: Annamaria, welcome. It’s so great to have you on the show.

[00:01:02] Annamaria Testani: You know what? Thank you for the invitation. This is a great idea.

[00:01:04] Pierre Daillie: So Annamaria, to kick things off, tell us the story of the arc of your career, how you got into the financial industry, where you started, uh, where you discovered you really thrived, and how you got to where you are today as senior vice president of national sales at National Bank Investments. Um, also maybe what you feel are some of the most valuable ideas that you’re raising awareness of to make the financial industry at large a better place.

[00:01:32] Annamaria Testani: Oh, my gosh. Where-

[00:01:33] Pierre Daillie: I think th-

[00:01:33] Annamaria Testani: … where to start, right? Like, where do you start?

[00:01:34] Pierre Daillie: Sorry. That’s a [laughs] that’s a lot to unpack, but especially the last part, but go ahead.

[00:01:39] Annamaria Testani: You know, I would definitely say this generation’s blessed, because there’s, there’s, there’s access to so much more information. When we started, I don’t know about you, I just started. I went to a counselor, and I said, “I like math.” That’s all I had. Um, so from there, you know, there wasn’t a lot of options in those days. It was banking. It was accounting. It was a couple of things.

Um, but I quickly discovered that there’s, uh, there’s this thing about if you can marry, the thing about finance is you can marry many other topics to it. So I, I’m a big fan of marketing. I’m a big fan of neuroscience. I’m big fan of psychology, sales.

[00:02:10] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:02:10] Annamaria Testani: So you know, I started my career as a cashier, realized that, okay, I love numbers, and I love the economics of it. Graduated into, I luckily went into asset management pretty quickly in my career, and I realized I had a flair for sales.

Now, now, normally people think sales is this dirty five little word, five letter word, but it’s not. Um, sales, at the end of the day, any firm will tell you, if you don’t have sales, you don’t have a firm.

And, and the beauty about sales is it’s the storytelling. So I, I really have a knack to, to being able to take complicated matters, uh, economically, financial product, whatever you could think about it, and reframe it in a way that the audience understands it, what’s good for them.

So through my career, kind of sort of started as a wholesaler then, you know, was in charge of sales teams. Uh, I was invited very young at the executive table. And I think, you know, one of the reasons, uh, you know, I was able to climb quickly is I didn’t fit a mold. So I got away with creativity. I got away with thinking outside the box.

Uh, today, when I fast forward it and have to teach leadership, I tell people, you know, “Don’t be afraid to be different. Just make sure that you can understand and properly, uh, and eloquently explain what that difference is and how valuable it could be to the surrounding table.”

Uh, today, I manage a very large team at National Bank Investments. We deal in the B2B2C world, so we cater to advisors, but we have to understand their reality in the investment community. So we, we are not, um, we’re product agnostic. I don’t care if it’s a mutual fund, a closed-end, uh-

[00:03:41] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:03:41] Annamaria Testani: … a limited partnership b- uh, if it’s a pool, segregated. No matter the, the product, we’re really agnostic. We’re actually agnostic as well as to the market. So for me, it’s not a question of timing the market.

We’re, we are built, like, the, the whole basis of MBI is, and, and we’re proud of this because we built this over the last 10 years, is we’re a provider of inventory. So I built a sales team that lives in the world of marketing and sales, but lives also in the financial community.

But we provide inventory, so our, our business today is not to push a product. Our business is to better understand our audiences and our clients. What is the risk they’re trying to mitigate? What is the, what is the, the goal of their business model?

And then we back engineer into, well, we may have something for you. And, and we lead you into the product. So we’re a little different. Most people still operate on that model of let’s launch it, sell it, make it sexy-

[00:04:32] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:04:33] Annamaria Testani: … put it in a portfolio, in a model. We tend to be more client-centric, so it’s all about how our clients are evolving their business models. What are their needs? What do they want out of their partners? And then we build ourselves to make sure that we can fill that kind of sort of commitment.

[00:04:48] Pierre Daillie: That’s, that, I mean, it’s very interesting, because it sounds like y- you know, just listening to what you’re saying, it sounds as though you’re very much aligned with the advisor, like-

[00:04:59] Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

[00:04:59] Pierre Daillie: … you know, the, the advisor’s job, role, is to, you know, listen to their clients and determine what their clients’ needs are-

[00:05:07] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:05:08] Pierre Daillie: … uh, truly determine what their needs are, and then look at their inventory and, you know, their shelf space, whatever they, whatever they have on their advisory shelf, and determine how that inventory, you know, eventu- I mean, eventually determine how that inventory best fits with, uh, what they’re trying to accomplish for the client.

[00:05:29] Annamaria Testani: For sure. I mean, look, I-

[00:05:30] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:05:30] Annamaria Testani: … I’m a f- I’m a firm, and I’ve said this before, right, I’m a firm-

[00:05:33] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:05:33] Annamaria Testani: … believer in advice. You can commoditize access to information. That doesn’t mean you can also commoditize common sense. It doesn’t mean you can commot- uh, t- you can’t just make, you know, digitalize away everything. There’s, there’s a purpose for, for a lot of interactions in the business models.

So when you’re looking at NBI, we, we say to ourselves, you know, “There’s passive investments, and there’s actives.” The active definitely requires a lot more catering, a lot more support, and it’s not one bill fits all type of thing.

So i- in each one, we’ve adapted our speech to make sure that, are we properly illustrating the perks and the benefits of this versus your model? We don’t assume-

[00:06:10] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:06:10] Annamaria Testani: … that we understand your model. We don’t assume that your model is the same as John Doe and Jane Smith. We don’t. We, every conversation starts from scratch, and we have to kind of sort of rebuild it. That’s the nuance. People tend to think in sales is, I have one script, and I just repeat it all the time.

[00:06:26] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:06:26] Annamaria Testani: And I say to people, “No. We have one conclusion, which is [laughs] hopefully to buy our products. That’s the one conclusion. I have multiple scripts because every, every person I’m interacting with is uniquely and inherently different. They listen differently. They communicate differently. They think differently.” They may end up having the same conclusion, but how I get there, that’s why I pay my sales people. It’s like, okay, your job is to be adaptable, to be agile. And you want the firm to kind of sort of reflect those values.

[00:06:57] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. There’s something very profound, I think, about just, you know, being ab- I mean, uh, it’s profound and simple at the same time, just like investing is simple but not easy. Um, it’s profound and simple at the same time to just, uh, uh, be in the really sort of nice position to just say, “We’re here for you.”

[00:07:14] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:07:15] Pierre Daillie: Right? I mean, uh-

[00:07:16] Annamaria Testani: [inaudible 00:07:18].

[00:07:17] Pierre Daillie: … that’s…

[00:07:19] Annamaria Testani: Well, we’re-

[00:07:19] Pierre Daillie: W- That’s so-

[00:07:20] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:07:20] beyond the trade.

[00:07:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:07:21] Annamaria Testani: I, I, I think-

[00:07:22] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:07:22] Annamaria Testani: … you know, different leaders want different things. Uh, my career has been built on, uh, the long game. I’ve, I’ve, uh, I’ve not been pretty. The 1990s weren’t very nice to the, the world of, you know, uh, I was very different from everyone else.

[00:07:39] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:07:39] Annamaria Testani: So absolutely. Um, so what does that mean? What does playing the long game mean versus the short game? Well, the short game is you’re in it for that trade. You’re in it for making that great number, that great order, that great year, and then you move on, or you sell the company type of thing.

I’ve been lucky enough where I’ve, I’ve worked for leadership where there’s a long game in mind. It’s a building block. And it’s almost like an annuitized business. But if you’re playing the long game, you really have to play longevity. You have to play the relationship side, because products come and go. Markets come and go. Flavors come and go. That’s short. Relationships, though, last over many, many business cycles.

So we tend to say, “You know what? We want you to play a little bit of the short game in the sense that, find out what their immediate needs are, but build the long game, and that also means a greater percentage of their book.” So you’re building that percentage of, of kind of sort of the mindset and the portfolio set of what you can bring to them.

[00:08:36] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. So, uh, speaking of the long game, it’s interesting. You know, I, I think i- it’s nice when, when a culture, uh, like yours trickles down to the people that you serve and that you exist for, uh, to facilitate. Um, while I was thinking about our conversation today, you know, I, I was reminded of the saying, um, you know, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

[00:09:03] Annamaria Testani: Yes.

[00:09:03] Pierre Daillie: And, um, and then I recalled how many times as an advisor I shot myself in the foot. You know, I don’t know how many prospective clients I, I burned through because I was so insistent on y- all that I had to say, and all that I thought, and all that I wanted them to know, rather than, than sitting there and finding out what was ma- what mattered to them and what was important to them and what they were trying to do. Um, you know, I was so, uh, I was so hell bent on, on getting my agenda across that, uh, by the time I got to their agenda, you know, uh, th- this is when I was younger, too, I mean, I [laughs] you know-

[00:09:47] Annamaria Testani: [inaudible 00:09:48].

[00:09:48] Pierre Daillie: … you know, I, I w- you know, it’s one of those things where, you know, if I, if I knew then what I know now, uh, you know, it, it, um-

[00:09:57] Annamaria Testani: But-

[00:09:58] Pierre Daillie: … it, it really, it really is, you know, I was so invested in the outcome. And it’s funny how things are when, you know, when, you know, I, I must have been told or those ideas shared with me many times. But I didn’t give them the value that they deserved and, uh-

[00:10:14] Annamaria Testani: Yeah, but [crosstalk 00:10:15] right? Like, when you think of the-

[00:10:16] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:10:16] Annamaria Testani: … ’80s and the ’90s, let’s just go back to the ’80s and ’90s. Look at, um, what percolated in leadership. It, it was the showman. Right? Like, and I don’t mean showman-

[00:10:24] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:10:25] Annamaria Testani: … just because it was male. You just like, you showed up. You had pizzazz. Uh, you were busy talking. Right? Uh, we were taught that leaders take up a lot of space. Leaders talk a lot. Leaders are there to wow. That’s what we kind of sort of got to believe that, that leadership kind of sort of positioning is. Right? And I, and I do think advisors have a leadership role.

[00:10:46] Pierre Daillie: Absolutely.

[00:10:48] Annamaria Testani: You know, there’s an evolution to kind of sort of everything. And, and then we started realizing, well, if you’re busy talking, what is it you’re not doing? You’re not listening. So, so as the business commoditizes the repetitive [inaudible 00:11:02] transactional things that we do, right, today, that’s where we are.

[00:11:05] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:11:05] Annamaria Testani: Today, there’s an inflection point. What made you great as an advisor is no longer viewed as high value. Right? Like, that, uh, the showing me the portfolio, helping me understand the portfolio, getting the statements, get… like, all these are getting kind of sort of commoditized. So then the discussion becomes, well, how can we be different? Well, it’s through active lis- active listening. See, most of us start with, here are the five things I will tell John. And I’m going-

[00:11:31] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:11:32] Annamaria Testani: … how do you know those are the five things that are, that really resonate with John? And they’ll say, “Well, John only cares about returns.” Does he? Or is that the only thing-

[00:11:41] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:11:41] Annamaria Testani: … he’s been led to believe that that’s important? Same thing when we have the conversations with Jane. Hey, Jane, are you okay? Yes. Well-

[00:11:49] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:11:49] Annamaria Testani: … maybe you need to reframe your questions, because the manner in which we communicate, we get delivered topics that lead us into false positives. And then we’re shocked when clients kind of leave because there’s a disengagement. I think we’ve lost the art of active listening. We think active listening is this, just sitting down and nodding your head.

[00:12:08] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:12:08] Annamaria Testani: Uh, you know, I do, I do conferences. I do a bunch of coaches and leadership on just active listening alone. So, you know, I, I tell people, “Where are you on the spectrum?” Because you can be lost in details, or you can be too emotional. Where are you at all times? And in order to figure out yourself, then you need to figure out where your client is. How many of us are trained in today’s environment to be active listeners?

[00:12:35] Pierre Daillie: Absolutely. So, so Annamaria, when you say active listening-

[00:12:39] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:12:39] Pierre Daillie: … what, what do you mean?

[00:12:41] Annamaria Testani: So for me, active listening is, is being in the moment. Uh, when you ask a question, don’t then turn into your own internal dialog. I don’t know about you, but I, uh, you know, I have kids, so a lot of times, they’re asking you a question, but they’ve already kind of formulated an answer, and they’re already thinking of the next question to ask me. And I’m like, “No, no, no, no. Listen to what I have to say.”

So first and foremost, I tend to say to people, “Be in the moment. Understand that when you’re sitting down with someone, you, you literally have to erase the, the whiteboard, and you start fresh. What is important for this person? What are their triggers? Like, understand your client.”

Yeah. Everyone wants to make money. No kidding. Even my 15-year-old wants to make money. Like, that’s not a given to your client. That’s just normal society. But, but again, we, we put that as a KPI, understanding your client. And I often say to people, “Dig a little deeper.”

[00:13:31] Pierre Daillie: Yes.

[00:13:31] Annamaria Testani: Oh, well, they don’t want to go there. But that’s the point. That’s the whole point of wanting to give advice. You get that [inaudible 00:13:39] to ask all these difficult questions, because that’s what your value is. Change the script.

[00:13:44] Pierre Daillie: Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:13:45] Annamaria Testani: Change the script. I love when people ask me to, to give them scripts for selling. And I’m like, “I’ll give you bullet points. I’m not going to give you a script, because the moment you’re in script mode, what is it you’re not doing?”

[00:13:57] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. Not listening.

[00:13:58] Annamaria Testani: I’m just basically going, “Where do you fit in this document?” So again, change your script. I know for a fact, all my conversations will lead to a conclusion. It’s the same conclusion. Buy my products. Right? I know-

[00:14:13] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:14:13] Annamaria Testani: … that that’s the conclusion. Now, once I figure out [inaudible 00:14:17] be in the moment, understanding your client. Once I know what triggers you, for you it could be leaving enough for your kids, and for other people, it could be having enough for yourself. For others, it could be for charity. It could be for a variety. Once I understand what you are, then I change my script.

[00:14:31] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:14:33] Annamaria Testani: And then you go beyond the small talk. You know, when someone says to me, “Oh, I’m okay.” I’m like, uh, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “What do you mean, what does that mean?” And I go, “What does okay mean to you, because I know what okay means to me, but you’re using generic language. I have no idea what that fundamentally means to you.”

The moment we start pushing our conversations a little deeper, the moment we start kind of sort of adding f- asking for that clarification, then all of a sudden, there’s a connection. I feel you’re authentic. I feel you’re talking to me. And then I personally think those that have mastered the art of active listening in our business, in our very highly touch point, highly informative environment, win the game. You not only get the client-

[00:15:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:15:21] Annamaria Testani: … you get to keep it for, you get to keep that client for a very long time.

[00:15:26] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. I think, I think when you actually take the time to elicit the, the high criteria, the things that really matter the most to the client and, and you’re not in that same moment trying to inject your agenda, uh, you’re actually, you’ve actually sort of divested yourself of that agenda, and you’re just, you’re just strictly listening for those keywords like freedom and security and independence.

And, and then, and then, you know, the next question is, “What does that mean to you? What, what, what, what’s important about that, that word? What’s important about freedom to you? What’s important about-“

[00:16:05] Annamaria Testani: [crosstalk 00:16:05].

[00:16:06] Pierre Daillie: … and, and, uh-

[00:16:06] Annamaria Testani: [inaudible 00:16:07] and know the sacrifices you want to, you want to also, um, put into the game.

[00:16:13] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:16:13] Annamaria Testani: Because if you don’t push me, I might say, “Well, Pierre doesn’t think I should do these things.” Right? And all of a sudden, you might go, “Annamaria, no. Listen. We’ve really got to have that serious conversation. You’re spending way more than you’re, than you’re saving. We’ve got to fix the balance here.” And I’d be like, “Yeah, but you know, I, I, I like my m- living in the moment.” And you’re like, “Yeah, but you also need to not eat Kraft dinner for the rest of your life [inaudible 00:16:36].”

[00:16:35] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:16:36] Annamaria Testani: But the point is that’s where the psychology is. Right?

[00:16:40] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:16:40] Annamaria Testani: Like, that, see, if people think their value added is in providing a commoditized, uh, portfolio return, that’s where it gets dicey, because people can read that on their own. I’m not saying they understand it, but they can read it on their own. Where people have a hard time is how to get to that conclusion.

[00:17:01] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:17:02] Annamaria Testani: So that’s your value added.

[00:17:03] Pierre Daillie: [inaudible 00:17:04].

[00:17:03] Annamaria Testani: That, like, that is what… I would pay a serious amount of money if people can help me avoid pitfalls when buying a car, uh, buying a trip, uh, buying a hou- if, if, uh, if it’s that valuable guidance that people can give you, that’s worth its, its weight in gold.

[00:17:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. I, I think when, when you know, you’re, you’re so busy with your own thoughts, you know, what happens is that y- well, number one, you’re n- you’re not listening. But I think, I think it’s so important to, to actually m- make the discovery process very strict-

[00:17:45] Annamaria Testani: Yes.

[00:17:46] Pierre Daillie: … so that, so that when you s- when you’re meeting a client for that initial consultation, you’re not thinking, “I’m going to close them.” You know?

That, there’s that old saw, you know, always be closing, ABC, always be closing, which is really like, uh, uh, you know, I think that’s, that’s what really has turned off people. You know, you, you mentioned the five letter word at the beginning to sale, to the idea of what sales is or what salespeople are. The typical, you know, archetype of a salesperson, uh, you know, whatever we think that is, um, you know, versus the, the professional.

And y- you know, when, when you’re, when you’re always, when you’re always, uh, when your objective is always be closing, you can’t possibly be listening, because you’re al- you’re, you’re just always looking for the doors to walk through. You’re always looking for a way to reply, but if you-

[00:18:41] Annamaria Testani: Be proven right.

[00:18:41] Pierre Daillie: … turn-

[00:18:41] Annamaria Testani: To be proven right.

[00:18:41] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:18:42] Annamaria Testani: To win the argument, right?

[00:18:43] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] To get compliance, to win, uh, f- you know, to win a yes, to get a, to get a commitment. And, and you know, one of the best things I ever heard was always be opening. Just change that last-

[00:18:57] Annamaria Testani: Yeah.

[00:18:57] Pierre Daillie: … that last word. Always be opening. In other words, not, not opening accounts. Always be opening the relationship. Always be opening up the discussion, opening up the conversation, opening up for, for cur- you know, be curious, getting that, that, using that, using those initial meetings with, with new, you know, prospective clients, um, to open the relationship, to set the tone, to find out everything that you need to find out from them in order to, to actually effectively get through.

[00:19:27] Annamaria Testani: I mean-

[00:19:27] Pierre Daillie: Um.

[00:19:27] Annamaria Testani: … I think you’re totally right, and I would say one question that it’s universal on any problem you’re, you’re addressing, you need to know how to answer this, is always, why you? Like, I tell people, “If you’re applying for a job, first question I want to ask you is, why me?”

[00:19:40] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:19:41] Annamaria Testani: Uh, if you want to land this client, question I would ask you, “Why you?” Uh, you know, someone wants to propose marriage to you. Why you? Like, I, I use this word why, like, this question, why you, all the time, because it always starts with the why. What is it about you that I would want to do business with you? What is so fundamentally great about you?

N- So a lot of people say to me, “How come you have this confidence that you will have this person as a client?” Well, because I, I am so, I fundamentally believe in my value, and I know what I deliver is so good, so important to you. Not that I’m the best. I never feel like I’m the best, but I, I will definitely deliver something specifically for you. You will feel valued. You will feel listened. You will feel that I tried my darnedest to get to it.

Why you? And it can’t be because I can manage your risk well. It can’t be because I can create a model. Those are things that that’s where the, the media and, and, and technology is disrupting. Okay, but in my opinion, that’s the low value added chain. Doesn’t, it’s like-

[00:20:48] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:20:48] Annamaria Testani: … it doesn’t touch me here. So if someone can say, “You know what? Um, I can help you avoid three of your biggest pitfalls in investments in the next 20 years that would significantly reduce your net worth by half,” is that something that’s important to you? I know we’re talking about-

[00:21:05] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:21:05] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:21:05] here.

[00:21:07] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:21:08] Annamaria Testani: But, but see, the- these are-

[00:21:09] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:21:09] Annamaria Testani: … things people would pay for. Like, you know, things to avoid, the pitfalls to avoid. Just that alone, guiding you through uncertainty, guiding you through chaos. It’s not as if we haven’t had any in the last four years.

[00:21:21] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:21:22] Annamaria Testani: What is that value w- and, and, and keep in mind, a lot of these are biases. We say biases because we always think it’s about, you know, black, white, men and women, but biases can be a lot of forms. Right? It could be you’re going into a conversation. You’re already, I pigeonholed you. I think this is who you are. I think we have prototype bias, whereas every client is the same kind of sort of prototype [inaudible 00:21:43] so you know, how do we-

[00:21:45] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. We-

[00:21:46] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:21:46] that?

[00:21:48] Pierre Daillie: Well, I, I think your point about starting with a blank slate is, is key, is, is to make no assumptions at all. Uh, you know, people sometimes, I, I, you know, everybody has their, their fishing stories and their, their war stories from, from you know, being in this business.

And, uh, I, I have to, you know, just to frame it, it, it’s, it’s, by far, it’s one of the most, I, I think it’s if not the most fascinating, it’s at least one of the most fascinating businesses to be in. And for, you know, for advisors, it’s, it’s definitely one of the most difficult or complicated businesses to be in because of, you know, you have to wear so many hats, um, in, in, in running the business.

[00:22:27] Annamaria Testani: Mm.

[00:22:27] Pierre Daillie: But, you know, when, when people talk about, uh, you know, they almost alwa- there’s, there’s, there’s always this urge to sort of label a particular kind of client, particular kind of person.

Um, and, and then, and then of course, you know, if y- if you say, you know, I, I work very closely with entrepreneurs, uh, to help them succeed financially, um, you know, that must inherently also come with certain beliefs about why you got involved in that niche in the first place, like entrepreneur niche.

Um, you know, and, and so, so still, the really thoughtful advisors, of course, have, have, you know, matured, uh, into, into understanding that, that you know, you can’t, you can’t try and fit your square peg into every, every round, you know-

[00:23:20] Annamaria Testani: No. And, and-

[00:23:20] Pierre Daillie: … every round hole.

[00:23:20] Annamaria Testani: … that’s the point of active listening.

[00:23:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:21] Annamaria Testani: Right? Like, what you’re-

[00:23:22] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:22] Annamaria Testani: … alluding to is active listening. So people say to me, “Oh, I only deal with men, or I only deal with women, or I only deal with…” I often say, “Well, because it becomes easier, because you’re assuming that specific profile is, is consistently the same, and you’re going to apply one script.”

But even with women, right, I, a lot of times, I get kind of sort of got, I get roped into certain decisions. People go, “Well, what do you think women would want?” And I’m like, “I can’t answer that, because you’re asking me to speak-“

[00:23:51] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:23:51] Annamaria Testani: “… on behalf of half of the Canadian population from one lens.”

[00:23:56] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:56] Annamaria Testani: There are different things. Right? Uh, I may not be the same as, as, as my neighbor and, and we might listen differently and react. And, and that’s the risk of the labels. I, I try to fight labels all the time. And, and to your point, it’s been re- really easy that we, we’ve conditioned ourselves in the last 20 years. And again, the markets helped us. It’s easy to label ourselves.

By the way, farmers, hunters. We’re labeling activities. At the end of the day [inaudible 00:24:22] things? When you’re meeting a client, oh, that’s, that’s an affluent client. And I’m like, “Well, what does that mean?”

[00:24:29] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:24:30] Annamaria Testani: And, and then you s- a- another one is it’s a growing client. Or I only like doctors. I’m like, “No. It’s because you’ve perfected the script specifically that you’re used to and accustomed to by doctors, and you want to concentrate on that. That’s a fair statement.”

[00:24:45] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:45] Annamaria Testani: I’ve perfected statements that my scripts are really good for a specific segment. But you’re also lessening your ability to kind of learn and evolve your listening skills. I find that the more diverse I have a sales group of individuals, the more diverse my clientele is, the more I get challenged on how to actively listen in the moment, because I’m constantly fighting-

[00:25:06] Pierre Daillie: Th-

[00:25:06] Annamaria Testani: … my brain going, “Oh, it’s this. Oh, Pierre is like this. Oh, just put him, put him in this box.” And I often sit there going, before you put him in, just ask him a couple more questions. Get him to talk a bit more about himself. Get him to talk about his triggers. Get him to talk about what, you know, what, what are his, what, uh, what makes him tick? What makes him happy? What makes him upset? All of a sudden, I’m going to start realizing, oh, I can’t put you in a box, because, because-

[00:25:35] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:25:35] Annamaria Testani: … you’re inherently different.

[00:25:35] Pierre Daillie: But we, we like all those rep- we like being able to, uh, reproduce r- you know, repetitive tasks. Right? We like-

[00:25:42] Annamaria Testani: Yeah.

[00:25:43] Pierre Daillie: … for example, the doctors. Oh, I work with doctors. Why do you work with doctors? Because I understand them. Uh, you know, they’re, um, [crosstalk 00:25:50].

[00:25:49] Annamaria Testani: But do they understand you?

[00:25:52] Pierre Daillie: Uh, yes. Well, there’s… [laughs] Absolutely. You know, I, I, I, uh, you know, speaking of, of the, the, the need to cl- start with a clean slate each time you meet with a new client, uh, you know, it reminds me of, of you know, situations like something, something really simple like, um, you know, somebody who knew my sister, for example.

[00:26:12] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:26:12] Pierre Daillie: … would say, would s- you know, and then, and then got to know me, and then turned around and say, “Oh, you’re nothing like your sister at all.” You know, and, and my response to that is, “W- Well, why on earth did you think that in the first place?” But it’s, it’s one of those biases-

[00:26:27] Annamaria Testani: Absolu- w- like-

[00:26:27] Pierre Daillie: … that people have is-

[00:26:28] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:26:29] share a Mom and Dad, but other than that-

[00:26:30] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. That’s about it. [laughs] [00:26:31] Annamaria Testani: Right? It’s the manner in-

[00:26:34] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:26:34] Annamaria Testani: … in which, you know, again, how we process information i- is so interesting for me, because a lot of times, and I do k- uh, I, you know, there is this exercise I do where I give a bunch of instructions. Everyone in the room has to follow these instructions.

They close their eyes. We’re doing this, we’re holding a piece of paper. They open their eyes, and then I show them my paper, and I’m like, “I don’t get it. We’re 20 in a room. I gave exactly the same seven instructions to the, the 20 of you at the same time, but yet none of our papers look alike.” What? Because I’d wor- I used words of-

[00:27:09] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:27:09] Annamaria Testani: … uh, fold in half. Turn 90 degrees. I said, “Cut a little piece.” What does little mean? What does a lot mean?

[00:27:14] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:27:14] Annamaria Testani: What’s good mean? Like, oh, my portfolio’s doing good. What does that mean? Right? We don’t ask for that clarity. So by default, what happens? You jump into labels. Oh, good means it’s fine. I just didn’t know what else to tell you, so I said it was good. It was okay. I, I felt bad, Pierre. I didn’t want to tell you that I was not feeling okay, so I said it was okay, because it would get you off my back. That’s how bad labels are. They limit-

[00:27:40] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:27:40] Annamaria Testani: … our ability to truly understand not our employees, right, because even these advisors that have these big teams a lot of times are saying, “Oh, I have high turnover.” Okay. Well, well, why are we hiring certain individuals? Are you hiring a prototype? Are you kind of sort of limiting yourself and ability to get different kind of sort of i- interactions in your teams because you’re going with, with, with one approach?

If someone’s different, we’ve got to manage that difference, not make it harmonize to you. That’s hard. But we’re not trained to envelope and appreciate differences. What do we do? The moment someone’s different, we try to say, “Come back into our square.” Same thing with our clients. The more-

[00:28:17] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:28:18] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:28:18] fits that model, the more we like ’em. The more that they don’t fit that model, the more we’re like, that’s a lot of work. Yeah, but that lot of work could mean long term benefits. And those that get it right have a very diverse group of clientele in their book of business and have a sticky client. This client will stick over time, which you and I both know increases the value of your book.

[00:28:41] Pierre Daillie: And key takeaways for active listening.

[00:28:51] Annamaria Testani: Um, after every meeting, count, like, I, I do this exercise, and I tell people to do this. In a 60 minute meeting, Pierre, time yourself. And you could do it, by the way, with a phone. It’s so great, because you just put the timer on, and you just click every time you talk, and you stop talking, you cut off.

[00:29:07] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:29:10] Annamaria Testani: If you, if the facts and data come back that you talk more in that meeting than the other person has, you have an active listening issue. Uh, you know, so active listening-

[00:29:21] Pierre Daillie: Nice.

[00:29:21] Annamaria Testani: … [crosstalk 00:29:22] about what you say. It’s about how, how you hear, um, which will impact how you talk. But if you don’t get the how you hear part right, you don’t fail [inaudible 00:29:36] talk. So active listening is not about you at all. It’s about understanding how the other person listens, to then pass your message. Um, and, and it’s easier said than done. It’s a muscle. You can retrain.

Um, I have, like, I, I have a bunch of, like, little coping mechanisms. I have a five second rule. I’m, I’m not supposed to talk when someone asks me a question. Not on a podcast, but you know, when I’m in a meeting, I’ll be like, “Two, three, four.”

Just the fact that I’m pausing for five seconds, and if you know me, five seconds is like five hours, the reptilian brain calms down. And, and you really sit there going, “So what was it again, the point, and what we’re trying to get to?” Because you’ve slowed yourself down. I ask for clarification, something that I wish when I was younger I, I had the courage to do.

[00:30:29] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:30:29] Annamaria Testani: I don’t assume labels or generic expressions mean the same to me as they mean to you. Active listening is really about, you know, the other person asking for clarification, uh, enriching yourself with that feedback, to then become a much more powerful speaker in return. So in a nutshell, pretty easy.

Reframing and Defining Your Value as an Advisor

In the next segment, part 2 of 3, Annamaria describes how problematic our unconscious biases are, and how they get in the way of being able to have highly productive conversations with your prospective and existing clients. Annamaria provides a clear understanding of how you can consciously identify and set aside your personal biases, as well as understand your clients', so that you may become a more objective and more valued participant in your client conversations. People yearn to feel deeply understood. Annamaria discusses a universal method for eliciting the highest-value feedback you can get whether its from your clients or those dearest to you.

Listen on the move

Read the transcript

Reframing and Defining Your Value as an Advisor

[00:00:00] Pierre Daillie: Our guest is Annamaria Testani Senior Vice President at National Bank Investments.

[00:00:05] Annamaria Testani: Our clients want more from us, expect more from us, deserve more from us, especially after paying for that service. So I think we’re just on a natural journey on that evolution. I think we are a byproduct of, of every, you know, every 10 years we sit back and go, hmm, we could have done that better. I think-

[00:00:25] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:00:25] Annamaria Testani: … where we’re going down the path is just being accelerated because we’ve democratized information, but we haven’t necessarily enabled people how to manage their emotions, read all this information. So that’s where advice kind of sort of still plays a big part. People like to work with people whom they like.

[00:00:45] Speaker 3: This is the Insight is Capital podcast.

[00:00:49] Speaker 4: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individual guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of or of our guests. This broadcast is meant to be for informational purposes only. Nothing discussed in this podcast is intended to be considered as advice.

[00:01:03] Pierre Daillie: Right. I spent about five, five years of my career as a, as a, um, wholesaler and, uh, advisor facing. And when I started this role I had all the confidence, I thought, you know, I was an advisor, I’ll be speaking to my own kind. And, and you know, and, and then about a week and a half in, two weeks, you know, I realized, okay, my, my firm has an agenda, they want me to, you know, to sell, you know, and here’s what you need to look at and here’s how it works and this is why you need to have this in your portfolio. Isn’t it? I thought, you know, if I do that, if I do that, I could do that, it’s gonna be really awkward. You know? Number one, because I’m gonna walk in and I don’t know them they don’t know me and, and you know, so about a week and a half in, because I, I had sort of surmised this, this is gonna be incredibly difficult and uncomfortable and, and I just, I just decided, you know, I am gonna go and meet the advisors and I don’t care what happens at the meeting. I mean, I don’t, I don’t care as long as it’s positive. Right?

[00:02:04] Annamaria Testani: Yeah.

[00:02:05] Pierre Daillie: I don’t care what happens at the meeting, I’m just gonna go and meet them and, you know, I’m gonna see what I can, what we can talk about and, you know, find, find the, the, the touch points that we can discuss and, and, you know, and then I’m not gonna look for an outcome I’m go- I’m just going to make it about, you know, getting to know them.

[00:02:24] Annamaria Testani: Just gonna learn. You in it?

[00:02:25] Pierre Daillie: Exactly, exactly. And then, and then, so, you know, I, I started to have a lot of fun with this and I would go and I would meet advisors and we were talking about everything but what I was supposed to go there and talk about which was, you know, my, the firm’s agenda. And, and, um, at the end of the meeting, so many times, you know, at the end of the meeting was, was, uh, you know, “So what did you come to talk about?” ‘Cause they knew why I was there. They knew my title, they knew what my-

[00:02:53] Annamaria Testani: They know you’re a business man, right? At the end of the day-

[00:02:54] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:02:54] Annamaria Testani: … all you’re doi- you were there to do business.

[00:02:57] Pierre Daillie: So it’s the last thing I need to talk about, “I know why you’re in my office. What did you come here for today?” I said, “That’s it. Just wanted to meet you, chat with you, find out more about you.”.

[00:03:06] Annamaria Testani: Yeah. But, bu-

[00:03:06] Pierre Daillie: And-

[00:03:07] Annamaria Testani: … affinity, right? What you’re, what you’re alluding to is the affinity, the empathy, the compassion.

[00:03:11] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:03:12] Annamaria Testani: People wanna work with other people that, to which they, they feel good about, they feel great about, et cetera. Um, sometimes people would say, “I don’t mean any of that. Just perform really well and get out.” No problem. But then you’re living and dying by the sword of that one sword. So the day that-

[00:03:29] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:03:29] Annamaria Testani: … you’re not performing to the level of what that person was expecting, there’s no recycling of those assets. Those assets are gone. So when I often, like you were saying, the company’s agenda, I think at the end of the day it, it’s a legitimate agenda. We, you know, especially most of us we’re working for a publicly traded company, we have, you know, expectations for stakeholders. We have to produce sales. So I’m really, really-

[00:03:50] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:03:50] Annamaria Testani: … close to producing sales. I, like I tell everybody it’s the manner in which I get the job done.

[00:03:55] Pierre Daillie: Exactly.

[00:03:56] Annamaria Testani: I kinda have to use the stick because I’ve found that when I walked in and, and I, to your point, I, I, I’m an affinity to listening. I, I love asking a lot of questions. I love finding out what makes you tick. Right? And for me it’s always been value-based. You’ll definitely-

[00:04:10] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:04:11] Annamaria Testani: … you said when you’ve walked in, I ask a lot of value added questions that are how many value points can I share with you? You know, so if you’re a family man, I love that ’cause that’s, that’s that resonates with me. Uh, if you build a, you know, sustainable model but it has a definitive… So all these things that every time I find a check point to fini- I don’t have to work as hard to sell something. People like to work with people whom they like. So the more I find affinities with that person, the easier to sell. Then it’s just an opportunity. Then it becomes “Hey Annamaria, I have an equity portfolio manager that’s not performing well. What do you have? Let’s compare.” “Awesome. Thank you for the opportunity. Let me give you that research.” See, this is, you know, this takes time though, so-

[00:04:53] Pierre Daillie: [inaudible 00:04:54]. I just wanted to be invited back. I wanted to be-

[00:04:57] Annamaria Testani: Agreed.

[00:04:57] Pierre Daillie: … able to, to call that advisor up, that same advisor that I’d already had several initial meetings with and say, you know, “Have you got 15 minutes can I come see you today? Can I come see you next week?” Uh, or “I’m in your, I’m in your office, can I, have you got 15 minutes at two o’clock?” You know, and, and, and almost always the answer was yes. And almost always the meeting went for the full hour.

[00:05:20] Annamaria Testani: Agreed.

[00:05:20] Pierre Daillie: So I would always book, I would always book my meetings for 15 minutes with an hour, with an hour leeway. Right? And, and, um, eventually it got to where the advisor would say to me, “So, you know, let’s talk about what you do.”. [laughs].

[00:05:37] Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

[00:05:38] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:05:38] Annamaria Testani: And the-

[00:05:39] Pierre Daillie: And then how-

[00:05:40] Annamaria Testani: … take five meetings. right? I often say-

[00:05:41] Pierre Daillie: It was natural.

[00:05:42] Annamaria Testani: It doesn’t take five or 10 meetings-

[00:05:44] Pierre Daillie: No.

[00:05:44] Annamaria Testani: … to get to that stage. Authenticity, uh, when done well resonates really quickly. And, and to your point, uh, there’s a reciprocity to it, right? People have, I don’t have to talk about reciprocity, it’s inherent. People know that if you’re there and you’re investing the time to be in front of them, there’s a reciprocity element to it. What I think people wanna do is they wanna weed out the, the [inaudible 00:06:08] like the, the, the quick in, quick out, not reliable, something goes wrong, you know, if you have, if you need some help, operationally-

[00:06:15] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:06:15] Annamaria Testani: … those are the people. Like they wanna weed out all the people that are not there to help their business model beyond the trade. You can prove that relatively quick within your first two meets. And to your point that it does become about how can you make this the two-way street.

[00:06:29] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I wish I had, like, what, I mean, I don’t wanna make this all about myself, but, but just to put it in the right context, I wish I had known, I wish I had done what I, what I did as a wholesaler or what I wound up doing as a wholesaler was, uh, you know, I discovered what we just talked about, which, but, but I wish going back the previous 15 years, I wish I had known that then. You know? I wish I had taken that approach with my clients, with my retail clients, I wish I had taken that approach and, with them to, to really, you know, um, exhaust the curiosity process, to exhaust the process of finding out as much as I could about them because in hindsight I realized, you know, that would have made me invaluable to my clients.

[00:07:19] Annamaria Testani: Agreed.

[00:07:19] Pierre Daillie: That would have made me-

[00:07:20] Annamaria Testani: That’s where the beauties of the lack of diversity in our industry, that’s what allowed, like that’s where it gave me an opportunity to shine. Because the industry, to your point 15, 20 years ago, we weren’t training people in this fashion.

[00:07:32] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:07:32] Annamaria Testani: So because by, I don’t fit the model, um, and I don’t have a similar approach, I wasn’t able to be put in that pigeonhole and then curiosity got peaked a lot quicker. And because when I was able to talk I brought value I was knowledgeable, I was able to bring, you know, the market intel that they needed I was able to balance pretty quickly kind of, sort of the soft side of the business and the hard side. But remember, I didn’t fit the mold. Today, what we’re tryna tell people is that mold that everyone wanted the fit to has to kind of sort of be redone because that mold no longer is applicable. Pros and cons over time, evolution. I think, you know, we democratize the information in our industry. Think about it, in the se- in 60’s and 70’s no one had inf- access to nothing. You, you really had to go to, remember the global fashion we used to call the brokers. Um, you wanted any information of whatsoever the market was such that it was so narrow you had to go to this person.

And when that person spoke, you didn’t challenge, you didn’t question, you did what that person said. Then the 80’s and 90’s come into play and we could marketize information in our industry. What a game changer. And all of a sudden people get to ask questions. What you’re alluding to is, is the evolution of our clients growing. Our clients want more from us, expect more from us, deserve more from us, especially if they’re paying for that service. So I think we’re just on a natural journey of that evolution. I think we are a byproduct of, of every, you know, every 10 years we sit back and go, hmm, we could have done that better. I think where we’re going down the path is just being accelerated because we’ve democratized information but we haven’t necessarily enabled people how to manage their emotions with all this information. So that’s where advice kinda sort of still plays a big part.

Like, like I’ll give you, [inaudible 00:09:31] I often train people to say is w- “If I do my job well you’re happy. What does that look like?” People were like, “Well, I have enough money for my retirement.” “Okay. Now that’s the financial aspect of it. But how about all the behaviorisms that you’re expecting from me? What does that look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like?” And people are just like, “Well, I don’t know.” “Okay. So you d- so we have to work on that.” ‘Cause if I do- if I’m not able to understand what your KPI on evaluating my performance in delivering you service I’m bound to fail. How often do we have those engaging conversations in today’s environment?

[00:10:10] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. Good question. [laughs].

[00:10:14] Annamaria Testani: But that-

[00:10:14] Pierre Daillie: Well I, I think-

[00:10:15] Annamaria Testani: Right?

[00:10:16] Pierre Daillie: You know, that that question is actually way more profound than, than, you know, it might be understood to be. I think when you can actually get to the place where you can comfortably ask that question, you know, if the client can actually imagine the response to that question can actually visualize the, visualize it and, and, and relate to it. It’s a pretty good sign that you’ve gotten through in terms of, of all the listening time that you’ve taken all the discovery time that you’ve taken to, you know, really get to the heart of what matters to them.

[00:10:54] Annamaria Testani: And if they don’t have an answer well that’s your opportunity to-

[00:10:59] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:10:59] Annamaria Testani: … shine and guide them through that. As opposed to telling them. “Well, peer-

[00:11:05] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:11:05] Annamaria Testani: … in that case, you need to see me” Alright, I’m just gonna throw a number out there. “three times a year.”. Uh, and you’re dictating your label. You fit in this label. Whereas I tell people go, listen, leadership is about guiding people and, and allowing you to get to your aha moment. And I often say to people, okay, so let’s look at touch points. How many ti- do you want, like, what would feel good for you? What would feel normal? And you literally go down that chain and you are, and I often say to brokers “Do you have this I” sorry, “Do you have that list of what that insulate looks like?” And you know let’s pre COVID. How many of them would ever said to you? “Our clients are okay to visit us virtually?”

[00:11:50] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] Zero. That’s probably near zero. [laughs]. And now, and now we’ve come, you know, we’ve slingshoted to the other end, to the other end of the spectrum.

[00:11:58] Annamaria Testani: Clients are, I am constantly meeting you virtually, provided though that you answer all my questions and that, you know, I feel comfortable with what’s being done. See? So-

[00:12:09] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:12:09] Annamaria Testani: … we think we know our clients so well that it took a pandemic to teach us we don’t know them as well as we do. And, and-

[00:12:20] Pierre Daillie: Well, especially, yeah, I mean, it, it’s true, I, I think, especially if you haven’t, if you, if you didn’t go through a process like that from the start. Um, you know, but it’s never too late. Right? I mean, if you still-

[00:12:35] Annamaria Testani: I-

[00:12:36] Pierre Daillie: … it’s, like, I, you know, I, I think, you know, maybe I have focused on, on prospective clients a lot in this conversation, uh, you know, we’re always looking for new, new c- new, new clients, new business, but, but we can retroactively go back to all of our existing clients and start from scratch and, and, you know, get to those and not, maybe not, you know, publicly say, “Let’s go back to scratch.” but, but to just ask those questions again.

[00:13:07] Annamaria Testani: I, I have an exercise that I do with advisors that have been in the business for a long time. Where, uh, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re definitely going down that thought processing you just said. And I said, okay, “You know what? I wanna see you back in about three, four months.” And I usually, I do this usually in the summer months. And I, I asked them, I said, “Okay, take your top 10% or 20% of your clients that you know you’re gonna see in the next 20, uh, 4 months. I want you to ask them this. If they have to describe to someone, what would be the three things they would say about you?” I said, “And that’s all you need to ask.” That tells me if there’s uniformity in what the clients are saying, then you’ve done a really good job at, at enunciating your value, getting them to understand your value and even more-

[00:13:54] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:13:54] Annamaria Testani: … repeating your values to others. You don’t have a commonality across report, your clients are having more of an internal dialogue with themselves than they are in the room with you. ‘Cause everyone will, [inaudible 00:14:10] Nice.

[00:14:13] Pierre Daillie: That’s fascinating. That’s actually a, that’s a fascinating way to look at it. Um-

[00:14:17] Annamaria Testani: So to your point, you can go back to square one, you can go back to your oldest client-

[00:14:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:14:21] Annamaria Testani: … and say, “Hey, if you had to define me…” and by the way, we can do the same thing to an employee, right? If, if you, people say to me, “How do I know if I’m gonna get promo-” “Well ask around? If they had to define you, ask you, ask the people that know you, if they had to define you what would be the adjectives or, or the comments that people would use. If you can sense a commonality, then, then, then, then you’re great. But if not, then you need to rework your narrative. So every time you interact with people, what is it you want them to walk away with remembering of you?” So how is our business model different? It’s no different. It’s the exact same business model. The thing is we think we know what our clients think of us. And I challenge and I say, no, that’s not active listening, that’s a label, that’s a bias. So how do you back engineer? Make it a summer project. Make it, make it like one of those things every time we’re about to finish you know like the inspector clues I need just one more thing.

[00:15:13] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. One more. [laughs].

[00:15:13] Annamaria Testani: And it’s so simple-

[00:15:14] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:15:14] Annamaria Testani: … and so easy. It is, uh, not something you wanna digitalize and automate in a way ’cause I think you wanna start with the most important clients. ‘Cause remember, once you locked them down and you go into the next 20% and you work your way down and you’d be surprised, some, some people you might go back and go, “Hmm. You said this about me, I’m not sure I understand what that means. Can you help elaborate? Because this information is important for me here. I’m currently working on a new model to better service my clients. So the more I understand what your expectations are, the better I can guide my team. Look at my refrain, look at my refrain. That’s the beauty of our business. That’s where I think our business model was growing. It’s less about my ego and me and sh- and showmanship and it’s just more about understanding who you’re catering to and what’s important to them. And your job is to deliver on what’s important to them. Pretty easy.

[00:16:15] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. And, and two things come to mind, number one, this is something that, that no competing, you know, robo-advisor, or, or FinTech could possibly reproduce, number one. Uh, so, so it’s, it’s a very, it’s a very competitive strategy in the sense that, that you do, uh, re- reassess, you do cause a reassessment of your value in that dialogue. The other thing that I like about it, the second thing that, that I think is amazing about this is that you can take this same knowledge, the same skill set and I mean I, dunno if you want to call it a skill set, but it is a skill set. I, I think if you, if you can take it and you can apply it to your whole life, you can take it and apply it to all of your relationships, um, and find out about people that have been in your life things you never knew about them. You know, it’s really universal, it’s a really a universal approach, a, a life hack in a way. Like, it’s a way of, of really-

[00:17:16] Annamaria Testani: Hey, I did it on my kids, I asked my, that if they had to define mommy, what does he like about mommy?

[00:17:24] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:17:24] Annamaria Testani: And you gotta understand, you may not get the answers you want, um, so that’s another thing where, you know, you have to learn to take that feedback and, you know, and you start with your kids, you kids are like, “Oh, you don’t, you can cook.” And I’m like, “Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Okay.” Uh, but eventually though as you fi- and you can do this with your friends, you can do with your spouse and it’s usually funny, it opens a conversation where you might think, oh, you’re being narcissistic ’cause you’re talking about yourself. The way I reframe it is I’m really curious to see what’s important in your mind of what I can deliver to you. And, and if I don’t like what’s impor- to tha- or that you like of what I do with you well, that’s my opportunity to say, “Hmm, maybe you’re enabling that and [inaudible 00:18:08] or you have comments, like lack of comments or whatever the case is.” Then I’m getting feedback in the most constructive, possible way without it being judgemental. You could apply this, this theory.

[00:18:22] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:18:22] Annamaria Testani: Remember, neuroscience and, and psychology and all these things were kept out of our industry because we thought it was just a number state. Right? Risk, what’s your risk level and I’ll tell you what your return should be. Or ho- you know, [laughs] [inaudible 00:18:36] we’re so happy with her-

[00:18:36] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:18:37] Annamaria Testani: … I sit there going, “Oh my God, that’s like a 1960’s mob.” Today, you have to take into the psychology of the person in which you’re doing business with. So people that are studying all these things beyond the numbers will succeed faster. And the questions that, like I’m challenging you and, and, and, and all the audiences to, to say, you know, you know, but now let’s start working on what we don’t know and what we kinda sort of thought wasn’t important now is becoming important.

[00:19:06] Pierre Daillie: That’s the funny thing about this business too, isn’t it about the investment [crosstalk 00:19:10] financial-

[00:19:11] Annamaria Testani: Trainer. I would never trade our business for anything else. It’s I feel, I, I find we’re at the infancy stage of our evolution. Uh, it’s becoming interesting. I think we’re more than what we were led to believe. And, and, you know, late times people are afraid of role advisors, it’s like no, role advisors are just doing the part that’s easy, you know, they’re, they’ve commoditized the-

[00:19:32] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:19:33] Annamaria Testani: … little part of our business model, that’s, that’s easy. The other stuff that’s pretty hard, and, and to your question, people often say, well, can I just ask all those questions digitally? Well, it’s like saying I should self-medicate myself based on the questions that, you know, you put on a website. I’m like, Oh, I’m not sure we’re there yet. Um, and even if you ask some of these very difficult questions, how do you ensure that I properly understood it? So let’s not underestimate that back and forth dialogue. And I find, you know, again, can that be digitalized? For sure everything, the way the rate that we’re going, everything will and can be digitalized for a price.

See the thing is, it’s not gonna get cheaper, like we’ve hit pretty much where we, we’re at now, anything we want more has a certain cost to it. Um, but, but I, I definitely think that with all the moving parts that’s, that’s happening in our business model, the uncharted frontier is the psychology of it. It’s, it’s and it’s not psychology of I’m a, I’m, I’m a s- I’m a therapists, like sit on my couch and… We do part of that, but it’s really going into tell me what’s really for you, ’cause I’m not sure you even know what’s important to you versus what you’re telling me. You’re telling me you’re okay, but I, I’d like to challenge that, I don’t think you are okay. And then you started defining that. See, we’ve not learned that at school.

[00:21:01] Pierre Daillie: They can.

[00:21:01] Annamaria Testani: Teach that at school.

[00:21:01] Pierre Daillie: And, and, and do you find like it’s even more difficult today than, than, than in the last 20 or 30 years, do you find like, like the, the, the next generations, the millennials and the Gen X, I mean, not the Gen X, but the millennials and the Gen Z are ha- have really been sort of grown up in this world of devices, of, of iPads and iPhones and, and mobile, you know, everything’s digital and, and, and they’ve become less even to them, you know, among themselves, less sociable. And so, so is that, is that, is that partly what goes to-

[00:21:37] Annamaria Testani: I-

[00:21:37] Pierre Daillie: … asking the question, you know, can I, can I a- why can’t I just ask all these questions digitally?

[00:21:42] Annamaria Testani: I think it’s, it’s, it’s a very sensitive topic. So I would s-

[00:21:46] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:21:46] Annamaria Testani: … tell you that the, uh, access to all forms of informations of all its channels puts a lot of pressure on anyone, not just, you know, specific. So I will give you one example, I find that today we are afraid to talk because this generation, everything, every word has triple meanings and, and so all of a sudden now we’re afraid to have engaging conversation. Like I love to have conversations with my, with my children and a lot of times they both love, “You know mum, you can’t say certain things.” I said, “Yes, I can. It’s in the-

[00:22:16] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:22:17] Annamaria Testani: … text. And then it’s the manner in which I say it and it’s the respect that I bring to that conversation.” Don’t lock me just because I’ve used certain words, lock me at a category. So the biases are, are more prevalent than ever. Uh, the para- you know, I, I call it the productivity paradox, you would think with all the technology coming out, we’d have way more productivity, I can tell you productivity is up when Facebook is down. So, you know, somebody would think [laughs] I find the door more distractions today. Um, there’s more of a psychological and mental gain today that we didn’t have 20 years ago. I can just talk for myself. 20 years ago, I had more of what was the physical element. So I had to manage going to work working 9:00 to 5:00 bringing the kids to the dentist, coming home, cooking, like doing all these things. If I missed a call I remember the good old days, you actually had to go to the office and do the call from there. So-

[00:23:10] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:11] Annamaria Testani: … 20 years ago, we could not the physical element of the drain of our business. Today, I can do my business from anywhere-

[00:23:21] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:21] Annamaria Testani: … I have flexibility. But I also never turn off. So yeah we’ve impro-

[00:23:27] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:27] Annamaria Testani: … technology-

[00:23:28] Pierre Daillie: Absolutely.

[00:23:29] Annamaria Testani: Yeah. So technology has allowed us to be agile and flexible, but I often say the thing with technology, it’s a double-edged sword, it brings you a, a perk, but it comes at a cost. And I think the cost today is, uh, you’re right, they have attention deficit we don’t, hence the lesson. Uh, or if, if the answer is too long, or if it doesn’t fit into, you know, what is it, the 150 bytes or whatever, whatever [inaudible 00:23:54] then [inaudible 00:23:54] year olds it’s, it’s no good. And I think you can’t say certain things you have to-

[00:24:02] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:02] Annamaria Testani: … have it. So I find-

[00:24:03] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:04] Annamaria Testani: … we got a lot of perks of, of digitalization optimization, but man, we’ve suffered. To your point, the psychology of our business model got heavy, got way, way heavier. You know, uh-

[00:24:18] Pierre Daillie: But that, that really, that really magnifies the value of, of, of active listening-

[00:24:23] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:24:25] Pierre Daillie: … to your point. Which is that-

[00:24:27] Annamaria Testani: For sure because-

[00:24:27] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:27] Annamaria Testani: … if I ask you, “Are you okay?” And you give me a thumbs up. Is that an answer? [laughs].

[00:24:36] Pierre Daillie: No. There’s so much ambiguity, I mean, you know it, it, I mean, it really does beg the question.

[00:24:44] Annamaria Testani: So then I have to reform my question and then I have to think about my question, then I have to say. So there’s an element of difficulty for sure that technology, uh, brings to the table, but again, for every bad there’s good. And, and what I say to people like the same thing like portfolio management where we, we, we talked about this before you and I. Yes, portfolio management has been a great advancement, you know, regulatories have allowed us to do a lot of things. You can sign up for this, it allows you to do all your trading in one shot. That is a benefit to the business. The problem is most of us used to only talk to our clients for, for that trade. So now that you will, will having to speak to a client for that trade, there’s a vacuum of that you’re no longer fulfilling in the touch points, you’ve gotta figure out why you wanna call your client-

[00:25:30] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:25:30] Annamaria Testani: … what’s your service level agreement? All right. Like I often say to people-

[00:25:33] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:25:34] Annamaria Testani: … you, you know, when you’re updating someone you have to find a way to also expre- express to them, the work that you’ve done. You know one of the ideas I’ve worked with an advisor was, um, ’cause he was worried a- about his pricing model. I said, “Okay, but if you’ve got to explain what is the work behind your pricing model? So an example, the prep work before every meeting every meeting.” he goes “Oh my God, I spend about an hour prepping.” ’cause you know, he, he dealt with certain effluents clients. I’m like “Whatever it’s fine. The hour after your meeting, you have to also take information dispatcher [inaudible 00:26:06] right. The new analysis.” like I said, “Just start marking down all the number of hours that you did.” And I said, “When you send them, ’cause you, as you all know now, we have transparency in our fee structure, clients get that fee. Well, if they get the fee, you’ve gotta give them also the amount of hours that you work on their account. Because then when they divide the fee by the number of hours, they’re gonna realize that you are way cheaper than an accountant and way cheaper than a lawyer.”

[00:26:33] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:26:33] Annamaria Testani: So why are we-

[00:26:35] Pierre Daillie: That’s a terrific way to put it, but-

[00:26:36] Annamaria Testani: Absolutely. So to your point, it’s not fair to expect people to know all the heavy lifting that we do behind the scenes. We we’re great showmen, right, right, [inaudible 00:26:47] the 80’s and 90’s, they taught us to be great showmen so people think that we were born like this it’s so easy and it takes just five minutes.

[00:26:54] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:26:55] Annamaria Testani: Done. No, every client on average requires, and I’m gonna just throw a Nutcracker out there. It could be 20, 30, 40, 50 hours, by the way, your time, your assistant’s time, this time, all that. If you don’t have an accountability system where you’re showing them by the week, when I, when you sign on with me this is the work that gets done behind you, to your point, I don’t have enough but so every time there’s changes, there’s something going on in the world, the governments or this or that, I just want you to know I’m gonna come back in on Monday and be thinking, “Okay, I gotta find a way to implement this.” So that time of constantly working it’s exhausting on me, but I chose this, this, so, you know, kudos to me, I can change the business model to your point, changed a bit. You, you can leave the work-

[00:27:39] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:27:40] Annamaria Testani: But I don’t think we a good job to showcase the professionalism of our industry. People have a hard time tidying us as professionals and I’m going, but were you? Like-

[00:27:55] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:27:56] Annamaria Testani: … we just have a different academic environment than let’s say a lawyer or an accountant. But our a- academic regime is just as demanding as theirs. Ours is overtime. But have-

[00:28:08] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. Compounding knowledge. Yeah.

[00:28:12] Annamaria Testani: But have we ever done a really good job to showing to people?

[00:28:18] Pierre Daillie: Is it partially, I, I mean, some of it is that, is that we don’t want to come off as though we’re complaining-

[00:28:24] Annamaria Testani: Agreed.

[00:28:25] Pierre Daillie: … that we’re, that we’re about the amount of work. Right? And, and you have to be matter of factly to say, to when you’re talking about your value-

[00:28:34] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:28:35] Pierre Daillie: … is to say look we spent, you know, like and just for this meeting today, for example, I spent an hour and a half, two hours before the meeting getting ready-

[00:28:43] Annamaria Testani: Yeah. I’ve been the-

[00:28:44] Pierre Daillie: … after, after you leave.

[00:28:45] Annamaria Testani: … I didn’t spend.

[00:28:46] Pierre Daillie: Like, I love that. I mean-

[00:28:47] Annamaria Testani: I’ve invested-

[00:28:48] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. Invested.

[00:28:49] Annamaria Testani: You know, making sure that your portfolio is currently aligned to all the latest market changes that have happened, whatever regulatory changes have happened, wherever governmental changes have, whatever personal changes you had told me to take into account. Just want you to be aware of that, you know, I feel comfortable today with all this work being done, Pierre you’re on the right path. There’s a way to talk without-

[00:29:15] Pierre Daillie: Yes.

[00:29:15] Annamaria Testani: … off as narcissistic. Again, we don’t teach communication skills in school, we expect you to, to have that when you have your first job and many of us fail. It’s only through to we get better. If I knew how to communicate the way I communicate today 20 years ago [laughs] oh my God, the pitfalls I could have avoided. You know? Uh, you know, I often make conversations, are you aware? As opposed to, did you know? When we’re young, we don’t start with did you know? Now it’s like, “Are you aware how much time it took for me to do this?” “No.” “Okay. This is what is required.” You know? And, and this is something that again goes beyond our business model. I’m not sure we’re great communicators in a lot of things. Like same thing when I talk to my, my children sometimes, and it’s a debt, they’ll call me up to go pick ’em up or, or drop off something because they forgot. And I’ll say, “Are, you know, are you aware, I, I was actually in the middle of doing something else? I love you.”.

[00:30:10] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:30:10] Annamaria Testani: “And I’ll come and do it for you, but you need to be aware mommy had to make a decision. And I opted, this is what I decided for, because this is what goes with my values, but it’s gonna come at a price. I now have to work later tonight or I have to pick it up later. I just want you to be aware. I don’t want you to judge me tonight ’cause I’ll be working, but you kinda sort of made me change my whole day around ’cause you wanted me to do something.”.

[00:30:33] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:30:33] Annamaria Testani: Whereas the old me would have been like, “What do you mean I, you, you mean, you’re not supporting me. I’m working late at night. Like I’m doing this for you.” That’s not proper educational conversations. I think we do the same in our industry. I don’t think clients understand the amount of deafness that is required. For every conversation to be fruitful that comes with that interaction.

[00:30:59] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. And it’s, it’s cultivated and it takes years and-

[00:31:02] Annamaria Testani: Agreed.

[00:31:03] Pierre Daillie: … you know? But you’re making me remember the, uh, the saying that, you know, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. And um-

[00:31:13] Annamaria Testani: A 100% right. Salute the great expression. So again is portfolio management the issue? No, that’s not, that’s not the problem. That’s, that’s just a tool that allows you to do your job better, more efficiently, maybe even, uh, you know, at a greater cause. But you need to self regulate yourself and re- rebuild your business model and say, “Okay, well now that I’m no longer calling them for this, I’ve gotta find other reasons to call them.” Thus your value. What’s your value proposition? Why should you call someone every two, three months? I love when people say, “Well, nothing’s happened in the market, so why should I call?” Wow. [laughs] Something may happen to them, they may have a change in their life. I love, you know, I love the government ’cause they always change something once or twice a year at the tax bill. So I’m like, hey, you can call just for that alone and say, “Hey, you know what? I evaluated what they brought out, little change to you, but I just wanted you to know.” “Oh wow, thanks for the call.”

[00:32:08] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:32:08] Annamaria Testani: “you’re looking out for me.” So again, how do you define service? If you go back 20 years ago, it was very transactional. Today, it has to go warn that. But to your point, I have a hard time being mean to technology, because it does allow you to have a lot of perks. What I find is difficult is the discipline I now need to apply that I didn’t have to apply before because I used to do my job in ninth I used to do it [inaudible 00:32:32] days and do it at the office. So it’s a give and take. I don’t think that answer, sorry to your point, uh, uh, Gen, there’s or millennials, they will, they’ll face the same challenges, a little different than we’ve had. Um, every, every, every generation says it’s harder for them every generation says, “Oh my gosh, look at what we have.” It’s, it’s like a rut, we’ve been doing this for thousands of years. I think we just need to be aware that the moment you stop learning, the moment you stop evolving, the moment you stop listening to what else could, could, could make you better, that’s when you’re out of the game.

[00:33:07] Pierre Daillie: Takeaways, what’s your, what is your key takeaway for, or key takeaways for, uh, retraining our lizard brains, uh, away from the unconscious biases.

[00:33:25] Annamaria Testani: Status quo is not an option, always be learning, get the feedback no matter how hurtful it can be and know that there’s a place for your evolution in this market. Yeah. It’s as simple as that. It’s, it’s status quo, I start my day with status quo is not an option. So you often sh- anyone that knows me, knows that I will transform my day. Don’t know how, don’t know why, don’t know where I just know that I will go to bed having transformed something. That’s number one, number two, always be learning. You gotta be open to that. I have a-

[00:34:07] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:34:07] Annamaria Testani: … ’cause I have met a lot of people in life that like to tell me, “Let me tell you why I, why I’m right.” And I don’t think Hmm, it’s not that you’re right, it’s that it’s not right for me. So always be learning, always be adapting, you know? Um, easier said than done, but once you’ve trained yourself for that, I think honestly, you can succeed in our business quite successful with less resources, less effort, uh, you know, less costs to whatever business model you’re running. I think you can really stand apart.

[00:34:43] Pierre Daillie: So one final question. Um, [laughs]-

[00:34:48] Annamaria Testani: I’m dreading it.

[00:34:50] Pierre Daillie: If, if you could be someone you think is famous for a day, who would that be?

[00:34:59] Annamaria Testani: Uh, you know, there, there, there’s quite a few people. Um, you know, I’d love to go back and in time and, and be part of some of these resilient women, uh, that I, you know, when you, when you look at Ms. Jackson for, like the NASA like experiences. These are highly intelligent people that could have in it by themselves won the argument of being right, but they were pigeonholed. Their resiliency of never losing face of their values. Staying, staying honest and integral to who they are, but yet winning the marathon. I don’t necessarily wanna be them, but I would love to have been a student in their classroom. Uh, I don’t think I aspire to be anyone other than the best of who I can really be.

[00:35:53] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:35:54] Annamaria Testani: But what I want in life is, is to be given that classroom opportunity to learn from others. And you know, and, and I love history, I’m a history buff. I’ll go back in time, um, you know, there’s an a, there’s another big lady in Canada, she’s, uh, we call her Dr. Giraffe. This is another lady that I’ve, that is-

[00:36:13] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:36:13] Annamaria Testani: … through adversity. I think her, her name is, uh, Anna Harris I think, uh, I have a memory block. But when I hear her talk, I learn. I learned that, you know, my problems, thanks to hers are no different, but how she overcame them, how she stayed true to herself, how she didn’t become miserable. These are things that I would say to you, you know, an inquisitive mind is, is probably the most powerful thing, uh, that we have, I wish we had more of that in our industry. Um, and that’s what I, I aspire to. I aspire to be a student for the rest of my life. I, I don’t necessarily think I’ll ever be the greatest teacher because I’ll constantly be learning from others and I wanna constantly learn from others.

[00:36:55] Pierre Daillie: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for uh, for sharing that. [music].

How to Adapt Your Value to Conquer Disruptive Change

In the third and final segment, you will discover a line of conversation that serves to subtly make your clients aware of the value of the benefits they receive from their relationship with you.

We discuss how to take what you have learned in the process with your clients, and at every step of the way, use it to adapt your methods, and reframe your practice as your clients' most invaluable advisor. You'll also how learn to adapt and differentiate yourself highly to disruptive changes taking place in the industry and investing, by easily taking charge of difficult or controversial advisory topics.

Listen on the move

Read the transcript

How to Adapt Your Value to Conquer Disruptive Change

[00:00:00] Pierre Daillie: Our guest is Annamaria Testani, Senior Vice-President at National Bank Investments.

[00:00:25] Pierre Daillie: How else are you going to course correct? How else are you going to learn, you know, in- in a way, like if you don’t- if you don’t- you- when you ask, when you go through this process, you might not like what you hear, you might not like the answers that you get-

[00:00:37] Annamaria Testani: Nope.

[00:00:37] Pierre Daillie: … if people are- are, you know, feel free enough to be, uh, you know, to be that honest. But- but when you get that kind of feedback from- from somebody that does matter to you, whether it’s your family or your clients, um, you have the opportunity to- to do something about it. Especially if it’s something-

[00:00:56] Annamaria Testani: Wait, wait, wait… just to be clear-

[00:00:56] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:00:57] Annamaria Testani: … it’s your choice to accept.

[00:00:59] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:00:59] Annamaria Testani: I may not necessarily have to agree with what you’ve just given me back as feedback.

[00:01:04] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:01:05] Annamaria Testani: I can choose to say, “You know what, I do not like what [Pierre 00:01:09] says and…” Okay, but you take also the risk of losing Pierre, right? Because if I don’t fulfill-

[00:01:13] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:01:13] Annamaria Testani: … your services. Or at the same token, you can sit back and say, “Okay, well, I’m not really wrong and neither is he. But there’s something between us when we talk that I think I’m saying A, but he walks away with B.”

[00:01:30] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:01:31] Annamaria Testani: I think we need to stop with the “I’m wrong”, or “I’ve made a mistake”, or “I’m not perfect”. I- I just said to say to people, it’s like, “Okay, interesting. I- I- I didn’t see it that way. All right, maybe I- I- I gotta evolve my vocabulary. So it’s not that I was wrong. And- and because we don’t, you know, it’s- it’s- it’s like mistakes, right?

I think what [inaudible 00:01:53] did, he’s like- the other day was- he says, you know, “We tend to use the word failure like cancer. Not all cancers are bad. You can have a cancer you can survive from, our you can have a cancer that’s really terminal.” But we use the same word to define both situations. We use mistakes and failures in our business model the same way. We’re afraid of making a mistake. But how do you plan on- how do you plan on ever learning?

[00:02:15] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:02:18] Annamaria Testani: You know, “I don’t- I don’t like to be told-

[00:02:19] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:02:19] Annamaria Testani: … when I’m not doing something well.” Well, [laughs] but how are you gonna know [laughs] is to be given the opportunity to it better. So again, we shouldn’t necessarily- we should just be able to reframe it in our mind to say, you know what? I wanna learn. I wanna grow, I wanna get better. I think I do this well, but how do I know if I do it well?”

Like, that’s the other thing, I love people saying, “The owner or my clients love me.” Perfect. How do you know?

[00:02:42] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:02:42] Annamaria Testani: What’s the PPI? And they’re like, “Oh, they don’t leave.” You mean they don’t leave now? But if they were around, would that money still stay in with you? “Oh, the kids love me.” How do you know? Have you had-

[00:02:56] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:02:57] Annamaria Testani: … conversations? So like, so again, you know, active listening is about staying focused, getting to the bottom of these generic statements, these just like- like these comments, avoiding labels, being aware of your own biases when you’re listening to people. Are you inadvertently putting people into boxes?

And then, you know, how do you properly and eloquently define your value beyond a risk and return? And this is why I don’t understand where people are complaining about pricing, it’s because they don’t understand the amount of- of leg work and work that is required before every meeting.

[00:03:34] Pierre Daillie: No. They can’t. And if- and- and y- you know, there’s also- there’s also this attitude that- that it’s a glamorous business. And-

[00:03:43] Annamaria Testani: It’s a lot more.

[00:03:43] Pierre Daillie: … you know, I mean, I think- I think there’s a lot of- there’s a lot of folks out there who think that- that, you know, being an advisor is a cushy job. And- or a cushy profession. And- and it’s anything but that. It’s- it’s, you know, I- [laughs] my recollection was that, you know, it- it was- it was the most challenging environment, or challenging business, to be in. It was- not only was it stressful because of the nature of it-

[00:04:08] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:04:09] Pierre Daillie: … and- and the risk of it, but it was also emotionally taxing. Uh, that was another thing that you, you know, you- people who leave the industry, they realize how relieved they are to be sort of unloaded from carrying all the client relationships. It’s very taxing to- to know and relate to 150, 200 families, um-

[00:04:35] Annamaria Testani: You are-

[00:04:35] Pierre Daillie: … in your practice.

[00:04:36] Annamaria Testani: … have the responsibility of the financial welfare of your clients. There’s no off button for that.

[00:04:44] Pierre Daillie: When you’re in it, you get- you’re used- you get accustomed to, as you grow as a- as a business-

[00:04:49] Annamaria Testani: Uh-huh [affirmative].

[00:04:49] Pierre Daillie: … you get accustomed- you get used to the temperature, just like the boiling frog.

[00:04:53] Annamaria Testani: Yep.

[00:04:54] Pierre Daillie: And- and you- you, you know, you don’t realize it, I- I certainly didn’t realize it until I- I had sold my- my book of business and- and moved on, I was still thinking about my clients. I was still thinking about their lives and their- and their investments. That’s another part of the business that’s extremely challenging a- a- at the same time, as it’s- as it’s this- this burden, it’s also very gratifying.

[00:05:19] Annamaria Testani: I kind of love our business, though. I gotta tell you, I’m in love.

[00:05:22] Pierre Daillie: I have to agree. It’s- [laughs] there’s nothing like it. There’s really, truly nothing like it. It’s- it’s, um, you know, I- I had the, uh, you know, you- you- it’s a- it’s a business where it doesn’t matter how much time you spend around it, um, you realize that you- you know, the more mature you get in the business, you realize how little you know.

[00:05:44] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:05:45] Pierre Daillie: I think the same goes to what we’re talking about today, which is that- which is that if you’re wondering- if you- if you’re really wondering or thinking that- that- that a robo-advisor is your competition, then you really do need to reassess your value. You really do need to find out what it is, because if you think that’s your threat, you’re really underestimating, or- or you’re unaware of what makes you truly valuable. And-

[00:06:12] Annamaria Testani: For sure.

[00:06:13] Pierre Daillie: … and just by, you know, you know, reconstructing your approach, you can actually make that- make that distinction impossible, where- where your clients, I mean, will look at you and say, uh, “I don’t know why I was ever thinking that- that doing it cheaper was more important than doing it with [John 00:06:31], or with [Jane 00:06:32].” Uh-

[00:06:32] Annamaria Testani: Many companies have failed because they- they inadvertently put the wrong reason why clients wanted to do business with them at the forefront. You know, Blockbuster’s.

[00:06:45] Pierre Daillie: Yep.

[00:06:45] Annamaria Testani: You know, Kodak.

[00:06:46] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] Yeah.

[00:06:47] Annamaria Testani: And our business model is a little different, you know- you know, I don’t think we have a firm grasp to your point of- of what is really important to the client, so for those that have only defined their business model as a cost versus return approach, then you may be at risk from robo-advisor. But if that’s-

[00:07:07] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:07:07] Annamaria Testani: … look what the model you want to build, and you wanna annuitize and get that value for it, then to your point, just make sure in the eyes of your client that’s not what they’re comparing you to. Um, so- so- so again, it- I think the en-, uh, I think the economy has taught us a lot of- a lot of valuable lessons. If you can define your difference well, you can definitely guard a market share.

Um, you know, robo-advisors have their place in our- in our business, they do have their place. I don’t think it’s necessarily the advice channel, although that, you know, they’re creeping there, but remember, as they creep into advice, the fundamental economics of pricing goes up. So it- it’s- it’s, again, you know, obviously [inaudible 00:07:56], what is it you are afraid of, specifically?

Get that true understanding, maybe your business model, maybe in your firm, you haven’t digitalized, you didn’t throw a lot of tools in place. Well, that’s a different story, that’s not about advice, that’s about table stakes. Today, we wanna do more and more things digital. Unfortunately-

[00:08:15] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:08:16] Annamaria Testani: … we have to invest in these things. Um, but fundamentally, the question is why you? That never has to do with technology, never has to do with pricing, never has to do with returns. Why you is- is a- is- is- is the core of the game, why people wanna do business with you, if- if y- if you are not co- if you’re not sure of what that answer is collectively in your book, y- you need to get to the bottom of that.

[00:08:43] Pierre Daillie: Yeah. And to your point about- about robo, um, robo-advisors and Fintech, um, uh, the- the upside, the real upside of those is that they have brought an entire new cohort of investors into the market-

[00:09:00] Annamaria Testani: Fact.

[00:09:00] Pierre Daillie: … which might not have otherwise have come into the market.

[00:09:03] Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

[00:09:04] Pierre Daillie: Um, and then- and then maybe the evolution of that is that over time that same cohort starts to realize, “Wait a minute, there’s so much more to this than just trading-

[00:09:15] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:09:15] Pierre Daillie: … and, you know, who can I talk to? Is there somebody out there that I can talk to that can take me to the next level? That can- that can introduce me to, you know, more concepts of- of how to grow and protect, and- and ways you can save taxes.” You know? And- and that- that I think is the upside of- of the, uh-

[00:09:35] Annamaria Testani: Which makes sense-

[00:09:35] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:09:35] Annamaria Testani: … as we get older, we have more-

[00:09:37] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:09:38] Annamaria Testani: … requirements, and I often say to people, you know, when we look at this very kind of sort of heavy advice model, does it need to apply to my 15 year old? Probably not. So- so there is a fundamental reasoning for everyone has their place in the- in- in this economy. Uh, I do feel that, you know, some of our advisors, those that haven’t evolved, uh, and were just kind of sort of hosting, well, no, that- that does have to get disrupted, right? Because we’re only as good as our neighbor that does the job the same as we do. So we have to kind of- the bar has to go up for everyone in- in- that delivers advice.

But not everyone needs the complexity of advice that what you and I are talking about. So there’s room for more, uh, you know, even advice has- it’s a tiered system. But when you-

[00:10:24] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:10:24] Annamaria Testani: … know, so I do believe, absolutely… By the way, when robo-advisors bring in, it forces some of our firms to span the digital in order to keep up. So there’s good for both sides, uh, you know, especially for us as a bank, we have different channels. There’s a reason why we have multiple channels to service clients. Not everyone has that same requirement. So we create business models to cater to different parts of the economy in Canada. Is one better than the other? Absolutely not. I think just everyone caters to that profile that we try not to say one advisor is for everybody. No, everyone is different, and we try to make the business models work.

Uh, what I try to see is just make sure they don’t look so close, because if they look so close, they become one. Then you don’t need advice, and- and-

[00:11:10] Pierre Daillie: Yeah, yeah.

[00:11:11] Annamaria Testani: … you know, look at Costco. You pay a membership fee to go to Costco.

[00:11:18] Pierre Daillie: Yep.

[00:11:19] Annamaria Testani: What- membership fees, gone, but- but yet, Costco made it into a business model. Because their value is great. They will, you know, they’ll- like, they’ll tell you, “We guarantee you quality versus price versus service. So whatever we are putting on our shelf, it went through a rigorous process, it’s the h- it’s very good quality. Reputable. You can return any time, and how, you get your money back, we don’t chal-…” Well, you sit there going, “Hmm, that $100 that I spend is saving me thousands of dollars of chasing down…” So that’s how they define their value.

Last time I checked, millions of people are- go to Costco, and it’s growing.

[00:12:00] Pierre Daillie: Oh, yeah.

[00:12:01] Annamaria Testani: S- so, I think there’s an opportunity to your point, those that do it well will win the race. And you know, we’re hoping to be able to service, uh, all these growing needs in the market, uh, and find our place in them. Advice is gonna stick around, I think that Canadians- Canadians in general want advice, need advice for the complexity of where they’re life is at. And, you know, I’d love to see where we are five years from that.

[00:12:30] Pierre Daillie: It’s gonna be e- e- even more valuable than- than we realize. Than we may realize. And it’s gonna be even more distinct and- and more valuable. The market, like, the market- the- the market is so complex, and- and you- you know, the regime that we’re in is very complicated in terms of interests rates being at all time lows and stock markets being at all time highs. Um, people need more help than ever and they need to be able to- they need to be able to discuss it with somebody who understands it.

Let- let’s change gears for a minute, because I- I wanted to also get your perspective on ESG, as well. I know you- you touched on it, uh, what’s your take on ESG?

[00:13:14] Annamaria Testani: Uh, I think ESG is- is a very vague topic, so I would say to you it’s not a fad, it’s not, uh, morphing, it- it actually [inaudible 00:13:27], you know, it’s environmental, it’s social, it’s governance, you actually know what those words mean. And- and what you’re seeing, though, and what I really find amazing is regulary- like regulators, many and multiple regulators are embedding these sustainable rules that have been established in the world into other practices, whatever the industry may be.

That’s when we start saying, “Okay, you know what? We are changing the game.” And wh- and what we’re doing is, uh, you know, we think sustainable investing is an example, I mean, people think it’s like ethical investing. I’m like, “Well, no, they’re- they’re- they’re a little bit different, right? Sustainable is it can sustain through time, ethics is about, ‘I don’t wanna do a business that goes against my value system that…'” Guns, as an example, or drugs, whatever the cases is, you bring in ethics to it.

Um, what you’re seeing now is the audience and client is starting to say, “We don’t want profits at all cost.” Why? Because it’s ruining the environment, we’re having all these changes, and we’re seeing inequities in- in society, uh, we’ve seen the governance not being firm place. Well, you know what? We’re- we’re- we’re- we’re- we’re powerful, we get to change that. So that’s-

[00:14:41] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:14:41] Annamaria Testani: … what’s nice about it, right? Like, now you’re starting to see that it- it went from something that was just a fad to it’s embedded in the business model, now we have to spend millions to make sure that people understand what is it they- they want. What does it look like? What are the give and takes that you wanna get? You know? Um, you know, w- what is the transparency that you’re looking for in the governance, in ESG, in- in the products in which we’re buying?

I love the fact that, you know, the fact that we’re imposing transparency, uh, we’ll call all these firms, all these firms that, you know, wanna do business or getting, I’d say, government money to do their stuff, well you- you need to show your transparency on what your ESG footprint is, what your sort of governance is, are you transparent, social economics of your own business model. Like, what’s the president earning, we- we’ll have to pull and see earnings versus the multiples of an average salary.

We were never having these conversations five years ago. It was on a wish list of how we- should we behave. And- and now we’re adding other kind of sort of ESG elements to it, right? Like, our conversations have grown. Like, it’s-

[00:15:47] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:15:47] Annamaria Testani: … no longer just about return at all cost. Now there’s a lot of questions on sustainability, and you know, and you and I know this, like, there’s like 17 elements of sustainability. I don’t think myself too much on where we were, I kind of look back and go, “I just don’t wanna go back to that.” And- and what I tell people though is, “What will be required of you in the next five years? You have a firm handle on what your clients, in their mind, they may have not purp- properly said it, but are you aware of what is it important to them, that you’re gonna nail a home run every time for the next five years. You know what that is. Because if you know what that is, good on you, you’ve got your strategy for the next five years.”

How, again, we’re- like we’re back to that, have that difficult conversation. Now it’s becoming mainstream because it’s being embedded into the regulation. And I find end clients are- are- are asking of it, I’m not necessarily sure they understand, but I think the- the advisor and the firms that work really hard on the educational component of this could probably have a leg up. But we’re at the infancy stage. I think we are barely starting the journey on what I think is a good 20 years of education. More to come, definitely more to come on this.

[00:17:02] Pierre Daillie: Yeah, it’s- it’s, uh, I mean, it’s a very contentious area-

[00:17:06] Annamaria Testani: Uh-huh [affirmative].

[00:17:06] Pierre Daillie: … at- at, um, at best. I- I- I was- I- I was in the camp of skeptical about it, maybe a year ago.

[00:17:14] Annamaria Testani: Okay.

[00:17:14] Pierre Daillie: And- and so, in the course of the year, I- I’ve- I have to admit, I’ve become, uh, I’ve- I’ve become more knowledgeable about it, and therefore I- I think in the course of becoming more knowledgeable, I’ve- I’ve understood it better, and- and some of it definitely makes a great deal of sense. Um, and- but I think it’s- it’s misconstrued. I just think that- I think that there’s- there’s- there’s too much labeling going on, and- and- and- it-

[00:17:43] Annamaria Testani: There’s greenwashing, right?

[00:17:44] Pierre Daillie: … it- they’re… Yeah. Um-

[00:17:46] Annamaria Testani: Well, we lived it with the fat free this, and the, you know, sugarless this, it- it’s normal. Right? When- when-

[00:17:53] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:17:53] Annamaria Testani: … when something is sensitive and it- and it elicits such a high level of emotion, we can’t put, like, even just saying ESG is putting a label to it, what does it really mean? What does it support? What does it not?

Um, I think to your point, uh, it’s a slippery slope between using it at a marketing tool, versus u- utilizing it for the good that it can help our society as a whole. Where-

[00:18:18] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:18:19] Annamaria Testani: … where- where do you balance it out?

[00:18:21] Pierre Daillie: It’s like- it’s like your exercise earlier that you- that you mentioned.

[00:18:24] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:18:25] Pierre Daillie: Where you ask everybody the same questions and provide the same instructions, but the outcomes for everybody is different. And- and, uh, that- it- that’s- it- because it’s so vast, uh, because ESG is such a vast topic-

[00:18:38] Annamaria Testani: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:18:39] Pierre Daillie: … um, there isn’t a standard view of it.

[00:18:42] Annamaria Testani: We’ve asked-

[00:18:43] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:18:43] Annamaria Testani: … people- we’ve asked them, “What would you like us to launch? What would you like the product to look at?” And- and I thought it would’ve been pretty easy to get maybe two or three ideas that were collectively shared across 10 groups.

[00:18:56] Pierre Daillie: [laughs] [00:18:57] Annamaria Testani: Um, but it- definitely, and what you’ve just alluded to your st-… And these are advisors, I’m not even talking end client. I could not get a uniformity-

[00:19:03] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:19:05] Annamaria Testani: … the- in the advice world. Which, you know, it means one thing for you, it means something else for something else, and then I just stepped back and I said, “Okay, what do we mitigate? What is the risk that people wanna mitigate? What is the value they want to- to get more of it?” And- and as I started st- investing the time and having these deep conversations, which by the way is time consuming, it’s expensive, it slows the process down, then I was getting a little bit more cohesion, but again, not there. Not there.

I think right now people are- are content with the label and what the label represents. I think to your point as we move forward, and as regulators embrace labels that people are using and- and- and having justified using those labels, we’re gonna start seeing people have a better understanding, maybe even more respect for- for what it could bring to them.

[00:20:01] Pierre Daillie: You think that, um, I mean, given, uh, it’s interesting because the statistics, the studies, show that- that more than two thirds of retail investors, um, have an interest in- in having ESG in their portfolio, or expressing ESG in their portfolio for the sake of the impact that they’re- that they’re investments can have in the world.

Um, first of all, are advisors, if- if- if- if you consider that 16, 17 percent, or maybe 20% of advisors are actively addressing it, and given- and so that means 80% of- of advisors are not actively addressing ESG, is there- is there, uh, I mean, should advisors be paying attention more closely to this in terms of- of being, uh, being proactive, or being- ta- taking a leadership role on ESG with their clients?

[00:20:59] Annamaria Testani: Chicken- it’s- so I would, let’s say, chicken and the egg, but at the end of the day, it’s back to do you know if it’s important in your- in your client’s mind, and if it is-

[00:21:08] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:21:08] Annamaria Testani: … important in your client’s mind, in what fashion are they going to judge you on this topic? So for some people, they might say, “You know what? I- I would love to have, you know, uh, I- I- I wanna feel that I’m contributing to the diversity of the industry. So, you know, I’d like to be able to know that- that some of the companies that you’re buying in to have a high social index.” [inaudible 00:21:32], I’m just using it as an example.

You’re asking me shouldn’t advisors, uh, get in- invested into this topic. Like, the question is do you know if your clients are already invested into this or not? And if they are invested in to this, what is it about it that appeals to them? See-

[00:21:50] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:21:50] Annamaria Testani: … once we get that answer done, because what’s interesting, and- and another element other than the regulators buying, uh, getting really, uh, into this as well, is statistically also, returns are starting to show that products that have an ESG slant to them, you don’t have to forsake return just because you want ESG. Because a lot of these market segments that were- that were, you know, are- are starting to get more and more attention to, are doing better.

So all of a sudden now, you can get the same amount of return as this product A versus product B, but this one has an ESG el-, uh, tag to them. They justify the ESG of- of, uh, you know, marketing, uh, name to it. Which one would you want? Well, if- you know what? If it’s gonna give me the same return-

[00:22:36] Pierre Daillie: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:22:36] Annamaria Testani: … same price tag, I’ll- I’ll go ESG. So, again, but you don’t know that unless you’ve had that conversation with your client. [inaudible 00:22:44]-

[00:22:43] Pierre Daillie: So, at that-

[00:22:45] Annamaria Testani: … it’s a couple of beeps more, does that bother you? “You know what? No, I gotta do my part to- to- to make it a better world. A couple of beeps, I’m okay with that.” You’d be surprised how all of a sudden it’s okay. But, again, by denying ourselves these deep conversations with our clients, and again, you can’t come and- and- you can’t just ask, “Are you okay?” Like, you can’t go, “Do you want ESG?” You- you can’t-

[00:23:12] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:12] Annamaria Testani: … you don’t get out of jail by asking like these really kind of sort of non-definitive questions, you have to come prepared. “Here, I’d like to sit down with you. Got a couple of topics-

[00:23:23] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:23] Annamaria Testani: … I wanted to- I just wanna pique your interest.” “Yeah, but I don’t- I don’t wanna do it now.” “No, I understand that, but you probably will in the future, so I just wanna know where your mind is at, so I can tag you properly in my system when to circle back with you.” “Oh, okay.”

[00:23:38] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:23:38] Annamaria Testani: “Go ahead. What would you like to know?”

So, the answer is you do have to get invested, and- but you have to go back to your client. Don’t assume you know what they want. Come prepared with your five or ten questions that you’d like them to kind of sort of give you a better understanding of what’s going on in their heads.

[00:23:59] Pierre Daillie: Yeah, but don’t be cute about it.

[00:24:01] Annamaria Testani: No, be prepared.

[00:24:01] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:01] Annamaria Testani: Like, the word is be prepared. Like if someone asks you, “Okay, so what are the 17 rules for sustainability inve-…” Like, you have to know that. What is the difference between ESG and what does it stand for, and what are the outcomes that we’re looking for? You have to come prepared because if you’re gonna open the can of worms of educating someone, you have to be able to deliver that. And I think that’s the part that’s hard, because to your point, if they grill you in the call and you said, “There’s so many things we have to learn now beyond just, you know, the fund, the stock-

[00:24:31] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:32] Annamaria Testani: … whatever.” Yeah, there is, it’s out- it’s not an easy business.

[00:24:35] Pierre Daillie: Wonderful, thank you so much. It’s just been, uh, it’s been such a pleasure to talk to you and to chat with you. Annamarie, where can people find you? Can they find you on- on Twitter and on-

[00:24:47] Annamaria Testani: So, LinkedIn, for sure.

[00:24:49] Pierre Daillie: LinkedIn, yeah.

[00:24:49] Annamaria Testani: I post quite a bit on… I- I do a lot of thought- thought leadership every so often on LinkedIn, and that is, right n- for now, it’s my- it’s my form of communication on scoping out other alternatives.

[00:24:59] Pierre Daillie: Yeah.

[00:24:59] Annamaria Testani: You can find me at National Bank Investments as well.

[00:25:02] Pierre Daillie: Right.

[00:25:02] Annamaria Testani: Um, we have other forms as, uh, that we communicate socially via them. And, uh, more to come. I’m- I’m learning to- to reach out to a greater audience, uh, and I look forward to having more of these chats with you.

[00:25:14] Pierre Daillie: Likewise. I- I hope we can continue the conversation.

[00:25:17] Annamaria Testani: For sure.

[00:25:18] Pierre Daillie: Thank you so much.

[00:25:19] Annamaria Testani: [inaudible 00:25:19].


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About Annamaria Testani

Annamaria Testani

Annamaria Testani
Senior Vice-President, National Sales at National Bank Investments

Annamaria Testani  Annamaria Testani

Investment professional with nearly 20 years of experience, Annamaria Testani is Senior Vice-President of National Bank Investments Inc., and her responsibilities include growth in sales and marketing strategies within all distribution channels for investment products across the Bank.

She holds an MBA from Concordia University and is a CFA charterholder. In 2019, Annamaria was named on Concordia’s Top 50 under 50 Shaping Business list. Additionally, in 2021, she was the finalist for the Leadership award for l’Association des Femmes en Finance du Québec (AFFQ). And lastly, she is a member on the Board of the Conseil des fonds d’investissement du Québec (CFIC), of the Fondation de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and Collège de Montréal.

Annamaria is an accomplished public speaker and leadership coach. For over 10 years, Annamaria has made it a mission to help individuals recognize, articulate and act on their greatest strengths and has helped National Bank build a more inclusive culture.

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