Nicola Wealth’s entrepreneurial spirit inspires its people


View the original Globe and Mail article online | View a PDF of the article. 

Kyle Westhaver took a position in Toronto with one of Canada’s big banks after earning a bachelor of commerce degree but quickly realized that working for a major institution wasn’t what he was looking for long-term. Last summer, he joined Vancouver-based Nicola Wealth Management as a financial advisor in the Toronto office and immediately felt at home in a smaller, more entrepreneurial organization.

“They choose their people very carefully and they really invest in them,” says Westhaver. “When I was hired they brought me to the head office in Vancouver where I had the opportunity to be mentored by the most senior advisors and managers in the company.”

That included company founder and Chief Executive Officer John Nicola, who at one point was looking for someone to help him prepare an article to be published in an investment newsletter. “I was only with the firm two months, but I put my hand up and it ended up being a great opportunity,” says Westhaver. “At a big bank you don’t even see senior management. At Nicola, I had an opportunity to work intimately with the founder.”

We want to give everybody the opportunity to improve and develop their skill sets.

          – Vanessa Flockton
Senior Financial Advisor

Nicola founded the firm that bears his name in 1994 to advise affluent families, entrepreneurs and professionals on managing their investments, taxes, estate planning, insurance and philanthropic giving. Currently, the company employs 32 advisors and has over $5 billion in assets under administration.

Vanessa Flockton, a Senior Financial Advisor, joined Nicola several years ago after starting her career in commercial banking with a large financial institution. “I really like the entrepreneurial spirit at the firm,” says Flockton. “I have an interest in management and leadership and said that was one of my long-term career goals. It’s what I’d like to do and it has evolved into taking on a leadership role within the advisory group.”

As a smaller, company, Nicola has traditionally relied on informal mentoring in which newly-hired advisors work alongside their more senior colleagues for as long as three to five years. “They have an opportunity to work with a lot of different people,” says Flockton. “They learn how to make presentations, for example, by participating in client meetings and can pick a style that works best for them.”

The company is currently in the process of developing a more formal program to train master advisors, which will create opportunities for both new and experienced employees. “The idea is that we want to give everybody the opportunity to improve and develop their skill sets,” says Flockton.

Nicola is very cognizant of the demands placed on employees with young families or challenging commutes and so allows for flexible work hours as well as the option of working from home. Flockton says some staff members start at 6 a.m. and leave early while other arrive at 9:30 a.m. and work late.

John Nicola is a strong believer in “sharing the pie”, as Flockton puts it, and so all employees can earn performance bonuses and participate in profit-sharing. “Both have a significant impact on overall compensation so there’s an incentive on everybody to get us where we want to go,” she says.

The company also allows employees to take one paid day per year to do volunteer work – usually, a group activity organized by the Nicola Wealth  Management Gives Back committee. “Being engaged in the community and charitable giving is definitely part of our culture,” says Flockton.