Kechnie Financial Centre
Based in Kitchener, Ont., the firm started in 1976 with a single employee,its current eight employees offer three areas of service expertise: benefits and pension advisory for business, investment advice for individuals, and life and health insurance for corporations and individuals.
“We focus on our niche – the business owners. We work to address all aspects of the business owner’s needs, corporately and personally. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive solution on the personal and corporate level: managing the aspects of compensation and payroll, helping with the personal investments, and support and mitigate risk on the insurance side,” explains Jeff Kechnie, current President of Kechnie Financial Centre.
Kechnie Financial Centre embraced the personal business approach and sensitivity to the individual situation of each client. Kechnie used words like “sincerity” and “empathy” when describing his dealings with the clients, words that do not get used enough when it comes to business and finance.
“Our business is a relationship business, and people deal with us because of who we are, and how we approach our business,” explains Kechnie. “I love sitting down with my clients, whether it’s at the board room table or the kitchen table. It keeps me grounded and responsive to their needs.
“We are dealing with people’s hard-earned money, and I need to be very careful and sensitive to each business owner’s executive situation, especially in these volatile times,” says Kechnie. “We have to understand what’s important to each individual business owner, respect that each client is different, and not fitting them in any kind of mold that the insurance industry may have created.”
There is a whole smorgasbord of solutions small business owners may require, and Kechnie Financial Centre offers them all (and if not, the firm find someone who does and can serve the client with honesty and integrity).
In terms of benefits, the firm provides group products and services, life insurance, critical illness plans, disability insurance plans, health and dental plans, travel insurance, stop-loss / re-insurance, pension plans, RRSPs, RESPs, TFSAs, ASO and self-insured benefits, health care spending accounts, flex benefits, health and welfare trusts, executive cost programs, and much more.
The firm provides investment services through Armstrong and Quaile Associates Inc., offering LIRAs, RESPs, mutual funds, portfolio analysis, tax planning, portfolio analysis, TFSAs, RRIFs, segregated funds, RRSPs, LIF, and retirement planning.
From the insurance solutions aspect, the firm provides life insurance, critical illness insurance, personal health insurance, disability insurance, and long term care insurance.
While the services list may be exhausting, Kechnie Financial Centre works in reverse with its clients, listening to the client first, and building their plan from that point, finding the right solution and services, and striving to be a financial advisor rather than a firm that sells products. “With all due respect, I abhor being a sales person, I love being an advisor,” says Kechnie.
In terms of challenges, Kechnie recalls 1997 and 2008 as very difficult times for his firm. While most insurance companies were mutual companies before 1997, many of them went public form 1997 forward, creating a major shift in the industry and a divide between what was best for the client and what’s best for the company.
“Prior to 1997, insurance companies existed for their policy holders and their profits went into dividends. After going public, the business turned away from the policy holders to the bottom line, satisfying its investors rather than its policy holders. Once this transpired, Kechnie had to realign Kechnie Financial Centre in order to remain a service oriented firm that had its clients’ welfare in mind first.”
Fast forward to 2008, Kechnie recalls the tremendous fear and mistrust in the whole system from the side of the clients. “We had to provide assurances to our clients that the market will turn around, and advise our clients to hold steady, even to buy in, because there were possibly the discounts of our lifetime available at that time. We never worked harder to make our clients understand the implications of the downturn, and we are constantly adjusting to the changing environment and landscape,” says Kechnie.
Post-2008, the Canadian regulatory regime in the investment sector has also become quite significant and burdensome, and this direction has been spreading into the insurance and benefits sectors as well, and the compliance work requires significant effort to complete, while disheartening the clients themselves.
“We are at the point, where clients who signed up for a certain service are coming to us asking, “What’s the problem?” This is becoming a serious problem, and we would rather spent the hours spent on the compliance work serving our clients,” says Kechnie.
Due to its established name and honest approach, the firm has never fell upon a need to advertise its services, and measures its success by client referrals and not having even a minimal marketing budget. Even the company website is Spartan by design, because Kechnie seeks clients who are likeminded, seeking a long-term financial help and support, not to buy a product.
While the baby boomers are set to retire, Kechnie sees a unique opportunity for his firm to service baby boomers’ assets, because they seek advisor who will be in business after they retire. Personally, Kechnie’s advantage is in the fact that, while he’s only 45 years of age, he already has 25 years of experience, and therefore is one of the most experienced candidates to be the advisor of choice once his current competition retires.
With the retiring completion, the firm is already negotiating several acquisitions, and expects to have many more opportunities to grow business in this way. That is why Kechnie strives to increase the company’s ability to accommodate more clients, and plans to improve client experience.