ZLC Financial is one of Vancouver’s oldest and most successful family-owned life insurance companies with origins dating back to 1946, when Harold Zlotnik first entered the business.
In 1979, after 33 years in the industry and many achievements and accomplishments earned along the way, Zlotnik had the vision to recognize that his clients would be better served if he became an independent agent. It was this innovative thinking that led to what is now ZLC Financial. Prior to that ZLC was known as Zlotnik, Lamb & Co., after being co-founded by insurance advisors Harold (Hal) Zlotnik and Peter Lamb.
Today, ZLC Financial offers a wide variety of services, including: investment and retirement solutions; employee benefits; estate planning and living benefits; business family succession; structured settlements and financial planning.
It has primarily been within the last five years that the firm expanded beyond the boundaries of a family business. As private equity investors began investing it proved to be one of the main turning points for the firm, which has enjoyed many decades of success in the Vancouver area due largely to the legacy of the family and because of the ongoing support for the community.
John Lutrin joined ZLC Financial as president a little over a year ago, equipped with more than 25 years of executive financial services experience in the areas of wealth management, insurance group benefits and more. The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke to Lutrin about his plans for ZLC Capital moving forward.
“Having been in the industry I was obviously familiar with the firm, which is a very prominent and respected brand,” begins Lutrin. “We have about 45 people on staff and another 27 advisor associates.”
CEO and Chair Gary Zlotnik, (Harold Zlotnik’s son) decided to step down from the president’s role in 2017, which is now held by Lutrin.
“He’s taken a lesser operational role in driving the firm forward but has taken more of a hands-on approach with his own clientele,” explains Lutrin.
Lutrin and Zlotnik share ideas at the board and operational levels, which provides Lutrin an opportunity to leverage Zlotnik’s vast expertise and knowledge of the firm and be able to apply them to decisions that must be made on a daily basis.
As consolidation continues to broaden in scope within the industry there are very few independent boutiques remaining, but ZLC is bucking the trend and continues to be a leader within the financial services industry.
“We are a boutique, lower mainland firm. We have one advisor in Victoria. We have opened a regional office in Surrey, which is the first outside our Vancouver office in the lower Mainland and I do believe it will be successful,” says Lutrin.
Three defined pillars comprise the overall offering at ZLC and there are subsets within each of those. The three main pillars are identified as: the employee benefits division; the wealth – or investment – division; and the insurance/tax and estate planning division. Each of these three is the crux of what the company is all about.
Business owners, sole proprietors and entrepreneurs typically are what would encapsulate the majority client profile base at ZLC, with the company having the proven ability to serve them in multiple verticals.
“Business owners would typically have employees so we would be able to serve them from an employee benefits perspective. Also from a tax perspective we’re able to help them on the corporate side with the structure of shareholders, funding agreements, business succession planning and tax strategies. On the individual side there comes their own family wealth succession, tax structures and risk protection in terms of liability and that forms many different aspects such as life insurance and critical illness disability,” explains Lutrin.
Lutrin is exceptionally proud of the company’s robust tax and estate planning team that is extremely well versed in all the technicalities of taxation and wealth transfer. The staff is very experienced at ZLC Financial, which is comforting to its many clients.
“We’re definitely among the more sophisticated in the market place and with that comes the need for experience but that can also possess a challenge in terms of our own internal succession planning,” he says.
“One of the big opportunities that I see is to take what lies deep and expand that horizontally and cross-reference so that our clients can benefit more holistically across everything that we offer,” he continues. “It’s a bit of a paradigm shift but with such rich, deep expertise in each of the verticals I do believe there is an effective way to serve our clients better by allowing them to tap into that expertise both horizontally as well as vertically. We have the infrastructure for such technical backup and resource.”
The company slogan at ZLC is ‘Advice is only as good as the person you ask.’ Translated, it essentially means that the product is in the expert advice and the underlying products are vehicles that are used to implement the plan.
Why select ZLC?
Lutrin notes it all comes back to the value proposition that ZLC can offer its clients, which he believes the competition cannot compete with at the same level. Fostering a great relationship with a client means the ability to package technical competence, leverage it and make it scalable, and then the entire process becomes much more effective.
“At the end of the day all we have is our name brand and reputation. We don’t carry tangible goods or inventory. We feel comfortable spreading our name on somebody’s business card and likewise reciprocate their name on ours it can be a very powerful match. But if it doesn’t work, we’re very selective about who we work with,” he says.
Lutrin makes it clear the company is not actively recruiting for the sake of filling seats but is always on the lookout for the skilled, passionate advisor with the right type of clientele with professional business ethics and standards. He also believes it will open up great opportunities in being able to say they have the ZLC brand behind them.
One of ZLC Financial’s most central objectives is to consistently participate in philanthropic events and maintain a relationship with the community. One notable company endeavour is the annual ZLC Foundation Charity Golf Tournament, first established in 1986. Since its inception, the tournament has distributed about $1.3 million to a number of worthy charities.
“Giving back to the community is very important to us. I can safely say that a significant portion of our annual budget is dedicated towards charities and community events. Many of our clients themselves are philanthropists and we want to work alongside them as well. We believe in the good work that we can do as being a successful firm to help raise the quality of life for citizens,” says Lutrin.
As a means of helping those less fortunate within the community, the company also has its own public ZLC Foundation. There is a belief as a corporate entity that it’s the right thing to do and the level of engagement is second to none.
Looking to the future
In terms of a succession plan, Lutrin and his colleagues are always cognizant of the need to bring on not young blood necessarily but fresh blood that will be conducive to existing and future clientele.
“I definitely do want to build on our centres of influence and our networks. We’re working well with accountants and lawyers and starting to generate great partnerships with mortgage brokers and general assurers in the high-net worth market,” he says.
“I’d definitely like to see new advisors in our mix as we continue to embrace a more holistic approach. We also have a proprietary financial planning program that is run by two very smart women, both of whom are CPAs who really understand tax and estate planning and it’s particularly useful for business owners,” he continues. “There is no commercial software on the shelf that can hold a candle to this process. We always want to continue to improve upon the client experience.”