6 questions to ask a potential Investment Advisor

Choosing an investment advisor is one of the most critical financial decisions you will ever make. Before entering into any partnership, it's important to ask the following questions and make sure you are comfortable with the answers.

1. Are you accredited or registered?

Ask your prospective investment advisor how they are registered, and the range of services, products and advice they are qualified to provide. The investment firm they are employed by should be a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), which regulates all investment dealers in Canada (including RBC Dominion Securities). IIROC monitors and enforces rules regarding the proficiency, business and financial conduct of these firms and their advisors.

2. What is your experience?

Your investment advisor should be forthcoming about their industry experience, professional qualifications, memberships and education. Also, fewer years as an advisor may not necessarily mean less expertise. Many investment advisors enter the profession after many years of working as experts in a particular field with people who would later become clients, for example as consultants to business owners who later specialize in business owners' investment portfolios.

3. What kinds of products and services can you provide?

Ask if your investment advisor is limited to certain investments (such as proprietary products offered by their firm, GICs or mutual funds) or if you can draw on a greater range of investment products. Make sure you ask about your investment advisor's access to investment research, portfolio strategy teams, and risk management groups. Find out if your advisor focuses on investment solutions only, or has access to a wide network of partners in areas such as financial planning, insurance solutions, retirement, and estate planning services.

4. What type of clients do you serve?

Ask whether your potential investment advisor specializes in any particular client group, such as business owners, medical professionals or retirees. Don't be shy about asking for references either; your investment advisor is in many ways applying for the job.

5. How will you help me reach my goals?

Your advisor should ask you to outline your investment objectives – for example, preserving income, building wealth, retiring comfortably. Your advisor may also draw on value-added services such as financial, tax or estate planning to ensure that your ongoing wealth needs (in addition to investments) are in sync with the rest of your affairs.

Ask about your advisor's investment process, and how they create and manage your portfolio. Is each portfolio custom-crafted, or is the advisor following a set of established models? Confirm that you are comfortable with the process.

6. What kind of service will I receive?

Your advisor should clarify at the outset the level of service you can expect. This includes how often you will meet to review your progress; how your advisor will update you on portfolio performance; and what sort of contact you can expect from your advisor.