My Journey With Wealthsimple [A Story of Customer Service]
Startups will have issues. This is an inevitable truth. Wealthsimple was not immune to issues when they started.
I believe the difference between a startup that makes it, and one that doesn’t, can be summed up in two words:
I’m the type of person that will only contact customer service after I’ve read all the FAQs and have done a lot of troubleshooting myself. So when I reach out for help, there is usually something wrong.
I could spend time talking about all of the little issues that I’ve had with Wealthsimple since I signed up in July 2015. What I’d like to do instead is talk about how every time I had an issue, it was addressed and ultimately resolved.
Specifically I’d like to single out Tyler Meema, Wealthsimple customer service superstar.
GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HARD WORK
An early challenge faced by Wealthsimple employees was that they had to deal with a third-party investment broker called Virtual Brokers (VB).
VB was a necessary thing for Wealthsimple as they couldn’t just start a brokerage themselves.
Turns out VB wasn’t always good at following directions.
Specifically in my case, I transferred my Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) from Investors Group. VB somehow ignored all of the instructions on the forms I filled out. They just decided to do whatever they wanted. Luckily for everyone involved, the transaction was able to be reversed without incident.
The challenge that Tyler had, when things like this happened, was trying to provide solid customer service. But often he had trouble doing so without having full control over the internal processes of the company as they related to VB.
All he could do was apologize for the blatant error on the part of VB and keep me in the loop about the steps he was taking to have it fixed.
When it comes to your investments, errors might seem like the end of the world.
I’m sure a lot of Wealthsimple clients react in that way when something goes wrong.
The difference for me is that I have a lot of confidence in Tyler. I know that if something goes wrong, he will do whatever it takes to fix it.
So ultimately, I’m not worried about administrative or systemic delays when it comes to my investments, because Tyler and his team will take care of it. What this does is enable me to focus on why I started with Wealthsimple in the first place.
WHY I STARTED WITH WEALTHSIMPLE
It was very tempting:
First $5,000 FREE!
I give this company $5,000 of my money, they will invest it in a mix of low-cost ETFs based on my risk profile, rebalance it for me and not charge me anything?
Sounds like a no-risk scenario to me.
But as I was going through the process of building up my TFSA balance, I realized how great this concept really is, beyond the first $5,000.
THE MASTERMINDS BEHIND WEALTHSIMPLE
In October 2015, I attended The MoneyShow Toronto and I sat in on a panel discussion with 3 people affiliated with Wealthsimple: Mike Katchen (CEO), Joe Canavan (Advisor), Som Seif (Advisor).
It was inspiring, first to hear about how they all got started. Then they shared their insights on choosing the right team for a startup.
Other than talking about spreadsheets (which got my attention right away), Mike’s focus was on how important his team was to the success of Wealthsimple.
Profits are obviously important for any company, but no one should be driven by profits first.
Mike is passionate about the idea of helping people simplify the part of their life that is assigned to investing their money.
I could see that he was really all about making this work, and that his advisors were also there to help. They weren’t there to simply make money from his great idea (though I’m sure that’s part of it!).
In December 2015, Wealthsimple bought Shareowner, an already established online broker. Then they went about integrating it into their business (goodbye VB nightmare!).
I have to say that I don’t know where Wealthsimple ends and Shareowner begins.
I’m very happy about that because I couldn’t care less.
The Wealthsimple philosophy can now be applied to the whole business and that’s good news for me.
SIMPLICITY IS KEY
The Invest Wisely philosophy is about setting something up once and then forgetting it (for 6 months, at least).
So it’s important that you choose an investment plan that involves little or no maintenance.
Wealthsimple is great for that.
Everything is switched over to Shareowner. The new interface is setup, and they have total transparency with fees and account activity.
I spend virtually no time logged into my Wealthsimple account.
Sometimes I get curious as to where it’s at and I check in, but not because I’m worried. They have a commitment to:
- Keep my investments balanced, based on my risk profile
- Invest only in low-cost ETFs (WTF is an ETF?)
- No transaction fees other than the 0.5% management fee
- Leave me alone
Also, I love the projections that are included in the new interface. If I’m deciding to increase my weekly contribution, I don’t even have to plug it into my financial planning software (but I do anyway). They can tell me on the spot how much it might grow in 30 years.
NO ONE HAS A CRYSTAL BALL
I say “might” because it’s very important to remember that Wealthsimple is just guessing like the rest of the world.
No one has a crystal ball and they can only make projections based on the past, which may or may not work out.
There is risk in every investment that promises to exceed the inflation rate.
Since there is risk everywhere and they are all guessing, it makes so much more sense to invest in something that has low fees, follows the market changes, and takes up very little of your time.
I don’t have all of my money with Wealthsimple, as I believe in a diversified portfolio of diversified portfolios.
But I definitely trust that the money I do have with them is in good hands.