Seamless Service

Arca Financial Group’s comprehensive approach to fiscal planning means clients never have to fear advisory disruption

John Lunz
John Lunz
Bill Vollmer
Bill Vollmer

Financial advisors. People seek out their services for the creation of fiscal plans and the implementation of those plans through investments, insurance, and banking. But what happens when an advisor takes a vacation, gets sick, or even retires? John Lunz and Bill Vollmer noticed this problem years ago while working as independent advisors, and they set out to offer a better option. To­gether, they created Arca Financial Group, a stable company designed to enable, protect, and ensure the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next.

Lunz and Vollmer have similar backgrounds. They both grew up on farms and learned the value of hard work from their parents. Lunz got into financial services in 1994, Vollmer in 1985. In 1999, they combined six individual practices to form Arca, and today they’ve bought out three of the original partners and own 94 percent of the company. “We wanted to create a company that would transcend one individual and help clients preserve wealth,” Lunz says.

The word arca originates from Greek and Latin, where it was used to describe a box or safe, particularly for the rich. “The idea was to illustrate what we do,” Vollmer says. “We want people to know that they are dealing with an organization that will be around for them, their kids, and their grandkids.” Because the company employs numerous advisors, Arca’s clients—who partner with the whole organization and not one single employee—have uninterrupted access. “If one person is away, the support staff and other advisors can access all notes and tasks,” Vollmer says. “Our clients can have confidence that they’ll be taken care of, no matter what.”

FACTS & FIGURES

Arca Financial Group

1,000
Households that Arca’s advisors deal with collectively

$250,000
The amount in investable assets that most of Arca’s clients have

$330+ million
Amount the company manages in assets

$500+ million
Amount of life insurance the company has in force for its clients

60%
The increase in Arca’s investment assets over the past three years

20
Total employees (8 advisors and 12 support staff) at Arca’s office in Waterloo, ON

3
Number of advisors the company will add in 2014 to hopefully increase its assets by another 25 percent

The approach forces the company to be more uniform and to consider the customer’s perspective more often. “We run and structure our company with all policies and procedures in place and not like several individual firms cobbled together,” Lunz says. “That helps us understand what our clients go through and what they deal with on a daily basis. It makes us better advisors.”

He and Vollmer have also hired highly specialized workers with expertise in invest­ments, insurance, tax, estate planning, accounting, and other areas. So, while many advisors farm out work to third parties, each of Arca’s professionals can simply walk down the hall to get expert counsel from a colleague.

Arca’s strategy is simple: the firm plans to attract and retain clients by providing the kind of service independents can’t match. “We know everything about our clients,” Lunz says. “We know where they have their money, how they earn it, and when they want to retire. Then we help them get there.” The full-service planners work with each client on investments and insurance.

Over the past three years, Arca’s managed assets have grown by 60 percent as existing clients have given the company more money and made referrals. One other factor has driven growth, too: Lunz and Vollmer switched their registration from the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. The move allowed Arca to offer individual securities and exchange-traded funds in addition to mutual funds, turning it into a full-service brokerage firm.

Since the financial-services industry often fails to train future leaders, Arca is focusing on recruiting and developing its own junior advisors. “We find talented people and teach them how to create a plan,” Lunz says. “As they become proficient, we transition clients to them because we can trust them to build comprehensive plans and service the clients.” Therefore, when Arca’s older advisors leave, the new ones will be there to keep clients educated about how their plans fit together well into the future.
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THE BOTTOM LINE

John Lunz

Job title
Co-owner & senior financial advisor

Industry
Financial services

Years in the business
20

Where did you start your career?
I started as an independent financial planner and trained through Manulife Financial.

Describe yourself in three words
Trustworthy, dedicated, logical.

Advice to those just starting in finance
Find a mentor or someone you can work with. Don’t be afraid to put your time in and learn the industry and products before you start giving advice.

Bill Vollmer

Job title
Co-owner & senior financial advisor

Industry
Financial services

Years in the business
28

Where did you start your career?
At Manulife and by working for myself.

Describe yourself in three words
Accountant with personality.

Advice to those just starting in finance
You want to get your Certified Financial Planner designation. It should be required, and it is very important. You can’t do business without it.