Learning from John Nicola, CEO of Nicola Wealth

Monday, July 20, 2020
by Anna S., SAF

I had the opportunity to lead our meeting with John Nicola, the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Nicola Wealth. With a background like no other, I found his insights, as well as the delivery of those insights to be extremely unique. With conviction, John spoke about some of the fundamental principles he abides by as he continues to grow his business.

When asked about his role as a founder and CEO, John emphasized the importance of managing relationships – a recurring theme amongst all of our interviewees. He highlighted the fact that normally, CEO’s don’t spend a lot of time with clients, however being the CEO of a private, largely client-facing business, his role is partially to be the ‘Chief Salesman’, with a good chunk of his time dedicated to clients. Nicola Wealth separates the role of its licensed advisors and asset managers, to ensure that clients receive optimal services. As I was creating the preparatory document for John and his firm, there was a huge amount of information to sift through – the firm has tons of information out on the web, anywhere from investment strategies, to portfolio allocation, down to the annualized return of its investment pools. At first thought, I would think that companies would prefer to keep its ‘trade secrets’ hidden – however, with respect to the firm’s decision to remain transparent, John emphasized that trust was one of the most important aspects.

I found it interesting when John mentioned that this was the first ‘government mandated recession in history’, by virtue of initiating the lockdown to combat the current pandemic. He noted that while the infrastructure required to get back to normal was still in place, there will be permanent, long lasting implications on our world and the way we do things. John reminded us that COVID-19 really is affecting everything and everyone around us, as he even brought up the Eaton Centre and potential scenarios for numerous parties involved. Although these are uncertain times, he noted that his fundamental investing principles have not changed, and that he continues to look for companies that can recognize trends and pivot fast to adapt to changing circumstances – using examples like Kodak and Amazon to support his ideas.

It was amazing to pick John’s brain, as he’s built one of the most successful wealth management firms in Canada. He values his employees tremendously, particularly evident through his actions in ‘sharing a piece of the pie’. Adding on the firm’s switch to a fee-based structure, John has made big decisions at times when no others have. To gain comfort, he reverse engineers the steps it takes to achieve his vision of what ‘good’ looks like in 3-5 years. As I build upon my experience leading ACE Consulting Group, as well as make big decisions in life, I hope to adopt that method of decision-making. To pave my own path, I’m confident that I’ll have to make difficult decisions, but hope to have enough trust in myself to follow through.

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