After working in finance for over a decade, Shaun Hauser became disillusioned with banks that seemed too focused on upselling products that their customers didn’t need. So, in 2017, the seasoned financial adviser co-launched Wellington-Altus Private Wealth (WAPW) with the vision of providing the best possible advice to clients while ditching traditional cumbersome processes like in-person meetings just to sign paperwork. “We knew that what was common practice at the time wasn’t working for most clients,” says Hauser. “So we changed it.”
Starting a brand new firm wasn’t easy, but Hauser, along with his co-founders, Charlie Spiring, Todd Degelman and Blaine Coates, bet on WAPW’s in-house data architects and analysts, known as the Wellington-Altus Labs, to help it stand apart. The Labs are focused on creating innovative digital tools, such as an intelligent advisory platform and data lake that lets WAPW’s 400-plus employees share data on demand, and an in-development digital foundation that will use predictive analysis, data-driven workflows and machine learning to help narrow down the best product options for clients.
“What we find is that the best client experience is when our financial planners give clients a conscious choice in what to do,” says Hauser. “It’s our job as wealth managers to continually plug back in and ask what’s going on and how we can help.”
The private firm’s tech advancements have paid off: in 2020, it saw its total assets rise to more than $15 billion (with approximately $5 billion of that from that year alone). While it’s not lost on Hauser that the pandemic has been devastating for many startups across the country, he says the disruption has helped WAPW showcase its offerings and in some cases outmanoeuvre the competition that relied on face-to-face appointments to engage with clients. In fact, the very same tools WAPW put in place years ago — such as its intranet, which enables employees to connect and collaborate in real time from anywhere in the world via their phone or laptop — were later adopted by many of its competitors during the height of the pandemic.
“When you’re an entrepreneur you have to train yourself to see silver linings,” says Hauser. “COVID was a dark cloud, and it turns out the silver lining was stronger than the dark cloud, because our business took off and employees who were disenfranchised at bigger companies because of their lack of action came to work with us.” Now his company has 400 employees across the country, and it’s expected to continue to grow its workforce in the coming year.
“We were able to bring on advisers and clients when no one could get on airplanes or meet in person,” says Hauser. “That created a better reputation for us that precedes us walking through any door.”