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Advisor Insights

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What it takes to win accolades from the financial advisor community

Advisor-choice awards are a welcome by-product of listening to clients and responding with new products, Fidelity vice-president Jaime Harper says

By: MARY GOODERHAM

Date: February 12,2015

With superior investment performance, a wide range of popular new products, as well as a remarkable and growing sales force, Fidelity Investments Canada continues to be recognized as a leading fund company.

Fidelity recently passed $100-billion in assets under management and has won prestigious awards and accolades among financial advisors. For example, it was chosen for the 2014 Morningstar Advisors’ Choice Fund Company of the Year Award, a reflection of the long-term positive success it has achieved in helping Canadian investors reach their goals.

“It really comes down to our focus on excellent investment performance, best-in-class wholesaling, top-quality support from the back office and a major focus on quality products,” says Jaime Harper, the company’s executive vice-president and head of national sales.

This is the fourth year that Fidelity, one of the largest independent asset managers in Canada, has won the Morningstar award, which asks advisors to consider a company’s impact on their businesses based on a number of areas, including quality and range of products, performance, client service, education and community investment.

“It’s difficult to win this award if you don’t have exceptional investment performance,” Mr. Harper says, pointing out that Fidelity was also named the “#1 Overall Company” in the 2014 Environics Advisor Perception Study. This is the ninth year in a row that the annual survey of Canadian advisors put the company in that top position.

Mr. Harper says the fact that such rankings are determined by advisors makes them particularly meaningful. “These are the individuals we’re covering and meeting with, day in and day out,” he says, noting that Fidelity has more four- and five-star rated funds than any other company in Canada.

He says the company has especially had success with the new products it has put out over the past couple of years. The U.S. Monthly Income Fund, which started in November, 2012, is now among Fidelity’s largest-selling mutual funds. Others include the NorthStar Balanced Fund, the U.S. Dividend Fund, the U.S. Equity Fund and the Global Balanced Fund. Mr. Harper says that the newer products reflect the fact that “the market is not static” and they particularly resonate with investors, which plays a “huge role” in Fidelity’s growth.

“We will continue to bring out products that are at the intersection between our expertise and where the flows are going in the marketplace,” he says, noting that new products account for some 50 per cent of Fidelity’s sales in the past five years.

The fact that Fidelity Canada is part of one of the largest investment firms in the world gives it “access to expertise in all categories of equities,” he says.

A few years ago, Fidelity was one of the first firms to recognize that the United States would outperform Canada, Mr. Harper says. Portfolio managers foresaw the end of the commodity boom and looked to maximize their non-Canadian exposure through U.S. and global balanced funds. They have also been underweight in energy stocks for some time.

“Doing a better job of listening to our clients has paid off. It’s allowed us to extend our reach and to make better decisions,” he says, adding that Fidelity’s client services and back-office support were particularly noted in the Morningstar award and the Environics survey.

While 2014 was a tough year for the markets, with volatility particularly in the latter part of the year, Fidelity performed well in terms of net flows, he says. Advisors placed almost $5-billion with Fidelity in net new money. “You’d have to go back to the late 1990s to see a year like that.”

Fidelity is expecting “more of the same” in 2015, he says, by listening to its clients and bringing out new products that leverage its expertise and its burgeoning sales force. Awards and other advisor recognition are a “by-product” of that success, Mr. Harper adds. “If we execute flawlessly then hopefully the awards will come, so one leads to another.”

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