Is it possible to be a transformational advisor?

By Paul K. Bates

It seems like a very long time ago now. Early in my executive leadership career, I had the privilege of being given permission to launch a brand new investment product—one that would be a first in our industry. After months of ‘back-testing’ the concept, working on regulatory approvals, running focus groups, getting buy-in from senior management, the task turned to working with our creative agency to find the right way to introduce the product to the market.

When it was all done, and the product went ‘live,’ I received a framed copy of the first ad from the agency’s creative director. The inscription read, “Paul, Always Believe in the Big Idea!” In a way, this celebratory gift inspired me to spend the rest of my career out on the leading edge of innovation—some with great results, others mediocre.

Look up the word transformational in the dictionary, and you will see many interpretations, including the notion that transformation, “suggests a change in basic nature that seems almost miraculous” (Webster’s).

This leads me to ask the question, can the relatively straightforward process of providing advice to a client actually lead not only to a decent investment outcome, but actually elevate a client’s perspective on life and their role in the economy? Can our role as a financial advisor bring a broader, if not completely new, horizon of vision into our client’s purpose? This can be as simple as making it a routine to include philanthropic objectives with clients—even those just starting out in life, to becoming deeply engaged in all the elements of a client’s affairs.

In my experience, the first step in this process involves a radical focus on listening. The person who became my lawyer for my entire career in the industry practiced this—he always spent more time talking about my business than the law.

To be a transformational advisor begins, I offer, with a deep and individualized concern. It may take more time, but here’s the payback—there is a reciprocity to becoming such an advisor; we are transformed in the process. In my life today, I spend quite a lot of time with the elderly and the infirm—sometimes with those at the end of life. In this role, the most critical skill is to keep quiet and listen. From these moments, I continue to be transformed myself.


Paul Bates is a Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA), Fellow of the Society of Management Accountants (FCMA) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC), and his career has spanned: senior academic administration; business and divinity school lecturing; investor advocacy; capital markets regulation; investment dealer executive leadership with P&L accountability; expert witness and international consulting in the financial services sector. He is a former member of the council of Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Paul holds a Master's degree in Theological Studies from McMaster Divinity College, where he is pursuing a Doctorate. Paul is available for speaking engagements through Blu Pagoda.

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Paul Bates

A Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA), Fellow of the Society of Management Accountants (FCMA) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC), Paul’s career has spanned: senior academic administration; business and divinity school lecturing; investor advocacy; capital markets regulation; investment dealer executive leadership with P&L accountability; expert witness and international consulting in the financial services sector. Paul holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from McMaster Divinity College, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology. Paul is available for speaking engagements through Blu Pagoda LLC.