Kevin Cott is only half joking when he says social media is responsible for helping him make the latest acquisition to his managing general agency (MGA), Toronto-based Qualified Financial Services (QFS).In April 2013, Cott’s son set him up on LinkedIn and before he knew it, he was meeting up with Henriette Bichai, president of Quebec-based Le Groupe Goldman (LGG). Effective Jan. 1, 2014, QFS bought 100 per cent of LGG, giving QFS a larger profile in the Quebec marketplace.
QFS has been in Quebec since 2004 but operating as Question de Finance. Now, QFS “is taking baby steps forward” with the acquisition of LGG and its 40 advisors. LGG, based in St. Laurent, Quebec, marks QFS’s fourth acquisition in two and a half years.
Cott, who is CEO of QFS, said the deal would have closed in 2013 but at the time QFS was busy acquiring 100% of Concord, Ontario-based PerformINS Canada Inc., which added 400 new advisors to the QFS complement. The deal with LGG brings the number of advisors under the QFS umbrella to about 1,500 contracted advisors and 50 staff. Previously, QFS had purchased Marketing Concepts Group and Mid-Park Financial.
Cott said he is particularly pleased that all of LGG’s advisors are fully bilingual and can therefore access clients in both the French- and English-speaking communities. “It’s a natural fit.”
He said QFS has been able to attract a number of MGAs and advisors with its “one broker at a time philosophy,” which helps build individual advisor growth.
The premise of “knowing your advisors” has become an important issue among regulators who are demanding that MGAs take a larger role in scrutinizing the actions advisors take and ensuring they know their clients before signing them up to any insurance products.
Cott said the Quebec environment has always been different from other provinces from a regulatory standpoint, and is often more stringent than elsewhere in the country. “We are going to need to make sure that all that we do in that environment is equal to or better than what is required. We already operate on a level that is higher than what is required in all the [other] provinces that we are in.”
For example, QFS advisors must send in a verification form with their signature stating that clients have been provided with the required disclosure, privacy statements and other documents. “If we don’t get that, we don’t process the application,” said Cott. “That’s not a requirement of any regulator, but it is a requirement of QFS.”
Cott said the acquisition of LGG is just the beginning of what he hopes will be a larger expansion into the Quebec marketplace. “We have communicated loudly in the last couple of years that our objective is to grow at strategic and geographic levels. We are looking for specific corridors within the country in which to operate.”
QFS has been active in two other major areas in Canada – the Atlantic region and the Kingston-Ottawa corridor and is searching out further opportunities in those regions, said Cott.