Peter Lee says CIBC’s com­bined ser­vices for HNW clients are a “cross-pol­li­na­tion” that ap­peals to this af­flu­ent group

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY FIONA COLLIE

CIBC’s Peter Lee takes an in­te­grated ap­proach to serv­ing af­flu­ent clients.

af­ter al­most three decades of trad­ing, ad­vis­ing and manag­ing, Peter Lee now finds him­self on the front lines of an in­dus­try wrestling with change on many fronts, from stiff new com­pe­ti­tion to quan­tum leaps in tech­nol­ogy.

Lee, a vet­eran of the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor who al­ready was in charge of Cana­dian Im­pe­rial Bank of Com­merce’s (CIBC) wealth-man­age­ment busi­nesses, took on ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­tail bro­ker­age CIBC Wood Gundy, a divi­sion of CIBC World Mar­kets Inc., last year.

This is the first time that the two, tra­di­tion­ally dis­tinct ex­ec­u­tive roles have been com­bined, and the move sends a clear mes­sage that CIBC is sharp­en­ing its fo­cus on serv­ing its most af­flu­ent clients — and that it plans to use all the bank­ing re­sources at its dis­posal to deepen its pres­ence in the high net-worth (HNW ) mar­ket.

“Par­tic­u­larly as you start deal­ing with high net-worth in­di­vid­u­als, they want things to be in­te­grated,” says Lee, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the bank’s wealth-man­age­ment di­vi­sions. “In other words, they want some con­nec­tion be­tween what they’re do­ing on the es­tate side, what they’re do­ing on the trust side, what they’re do­ing with tax plan­ning, what they’re do­ing with re­gards to in­vest­ments.”

Be­gin­ning in April of last year, CIBC be­gan to bring it’s re­tail in­vest­ment arm, CIBCWood Gundy, un­der the um­brella of CIBC Pri­vate Wealth Man­age­ment, which in­cludes CIBC pri­vate bank­ing, CIBC trust ser­vices and CIBC pri­vate in­vest­ment coun­sel. Part of the new ap­proach is an in­creas­ing phys­i­cal in­te­gra­tion among ad­vi­sors who work in each of these four units. Al­though each type of ad­vi­sor — bank­ing, trust or bro­ker­age — re­mains un­der a sep­a­rate divi­sion, clients are able to ex­pe­ri­ence the full menu of wealth-man­age­ment ser­vices as an in­te­grated unit.

As of the end of July, 14 Wood Gundy branches had added new wealth-man­age­ment ad­vi­sory teams con­sist­ing of pri­vate bank­ing and es­tate spe­cial­ists who han­dle ser­vices such as dayto-day bank­ing needs and es­tate man­age­ment. The bank is aim­ing for 15 such lo­ca­tions by the end of its fis­cal year.

“We’re do­ing a cross pol­li­na­tion of putting [wealth ad­vi­sors] in [Wood Gundy branches], in a way where we can get closer to the client,” says Lee. “By be­ing in a co­worker en­vi­ron­ment, it just makes it a lot eas­ier and more com­fort­able and you can de­liver the ser­vices a lot more seam­lessly.”

Of a to­tal of about $185 bil­lion i n as­sets un­der man­age­ment for CIBC’s Pri­vate Wealth Man­age­ment, about $160 bil­lion is ac­counted for by Wood Gundy.

CIBC, like some of the other big banks, is flex­ing its mus­cle in the HNW mar­ket (gen­er­ally de­fined as those with at least $1 mil­lion in in­vestible as­sets) by draw­ing on a tra­di­tional strength: the size and range of the ser­vices pro­vided by the full bank, which in­de­pen­dent in­vest­ment firms gen­er­ally can­not match.

“This is a broad­en­ing of a nec­es­sary tool kit that we need to have,” says Lee. “And, cer­tainly, be­cause we are a full-ser­vice bank, it makes it pretty com­fort­able to pro­duce, so long as we have the ex­per­tise [at CIBC]. That’s why this align­ment is re­ally help­ful.”

To that end, Lee says, he is less con­cerned about in­creas­ing Wood Gundy’s ad­vi­sor force of more than 1,000 (in­clud­ing se­cu­ri­ties-li­censed as­so­ciate ad­vi­sors) as he is about cre­at­ing an in­te­grated ex­pe­ri­ence where clients can have all of their wealth-man­age­ment needs taken care of un­der one roof.

Per­haps as a nod to the im­por­tance of the pri­vate wealth group, CIBC has lo­cated the heart of the ven­ture in the his­toric, soar­ing bank­ing hall in its orig­i­nal main build­ing at King and Yonge streets in Toronto. Lee, who has deep roots in the bro­ker­age busi­ness, has his of­fice there, sur­rounded by es­tate and pri­vate-bank­ing ad­vi­sors.

Lee has also kept up many of the work habits he de­vel­oped as an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor, in­clud­ing stints with Mer­rill Lynch Canada Inc., where he got his start i n 1988 af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree in com­merce from McGill Univer­sity. He quickly moved on to Dean Wit­ter Reynolds Canada Inc., Mid­land Wal­wyn Cap­i­tal Inc., then TD Ever­green In­vest­ment Ser­vices Inc.

Clearly still en­am­oured of the client-fac­ing role, Lee con­tin­ues to meet ev­ery quar­ter with 25 top clients.

“It keeps me very, very at­tuned to [clients], which I think helps you lead the place in a way that aligns with those needs and go­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” says Lee. “So, I find it to be re­ally in­valu­able.”

Be­sides gar­ner­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the ser­vices HNW clients ex­pect, these meet­ings are also an op­por­tu­nity for Lee to roll up his sleeves. For ex­am­ple, in cases where a client iden­ti­fies a spe­cific is­sue or prob­lem at one of these meet­ings, Lee will take steps to in­tro­duce that client to the spe­cial­ists that can best help them.

Lee es­tab­lished his cre­den­tials in man­age­ment as a se­nior vice pres­i­dent and as­sis­tant branch man­ager with Mid­land Wal­wyn. From there, he con­tin­ued i n man­age­ment roles when he joined TD Ever­green in 1996 as se­nior vice pres­i­dent and branch man­ager.

Even­tu­ally, Lee moved on to re­gional and na­tional sales man­ager roles be­fore tak­ing the lead of TD Water­house In­vest­ment Ad­vice in 2000 as pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Lee re­calls that the busi­ness at that time was very dif­fer­ent from to­day: he re­calls an en­vi­ron­ment that was more nar­rowly fo­cused on ac­cu­mu­lat­ing large num­bers of ad­vi­sors and in­di­vid­ual ac­counts. “[That was a] very lin­ear view, as op­posed to a broader holis­tic view,” he says.

Lee j oined CIBC i n 2007 as manag­ing di­rec­tor, na­tional prod­uct and sales, with Wood Gundy, then be­came manag­ing di­rec­tor and head of CIBC Pri­vate Wealth-Man­age­ment Canada, in 2013.

He added the l ead­er­ship of Wood Gundy to his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in July 2016, fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Monique Gravel, the long­time head of Wood Gundy. From the out­set of tak­ing on that new role, Lee be­gan work­ing on the in­te­gra­tion of the re­tail bro­ker­age divi­sion into CIBC’s pri­vate wealth-man­age­ment busi­nesses.

Part of that in­te­gra­tion in­cludes a re­align­ment of man­age­ment at CIBC’s wealth divi­sion. Re­gional man­agers now cover all lines of the pri­vate wealth-man­age­ment busi­ness, in­clud­ing Wood Gundy.

As well, a na­tional team has been cre­ated at the head of­fice level that will sup­port the new wealth-man­age­ment um­brella brand. “[The in­te­gra­tion] puts [man­age­ment] way more in tune with the client and breaks down all those bar­ri­ers,” says Lee. “The way I look at it, it’s su­per-com­ple­men­tary, in terms of mak­ing it eas­ier to get things done.”

With the new in­te­gra­tion now well un­der­way, it ap­pears that Lee is com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to work on both sides of the desk, en­sur­ing that what he learns from his clients is heard — loud and clear — at the high­est lev­els of CIBC.

CIBC is us­ing the full bank to pro­vide HNW ser­vices


Peter Lee added CIBC Wood Gundy to his list of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as manag­ing di­rec­tor of the bank’s wealth-man­age­ment di­vi­sions last year. Since then, he has over­seen a move to in­te­grate wealth ad­vi­sors into some Wood Gundy branches. De­spite Lee’s ex­panded role, he con­tin­ues to meet with top clients to stay in touch with their con­cerns.

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