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Wellington West-firm ranked nation's best.

John Rothwell can afford to be choosy when he's recruiting new brokers for Wellington West or scoping out new locations for their rapidly-expanding financial services company.

"Location doesn't matter to me as much as the people you put there," says the president of Wellington West Financial Inc., a subsidiary of the full-service brokerage firm based in Winnipeg.

He wants brokers that fit the client-driven culture reflective of the Western Canadian values.

"This is a company built on the backs of good quality people," says Rothwell, who joined the firm in 2004. He has Northern Ontario ties through marriage and has worked in the North servicing and building branches for Midland Walwyn Capital and Fidelity Investments. "It's founded on how we're going to differentiate ourselves."

In the bank-dominated brokerage business, Wellington West has rapidly become a leading independent full-service investment operations in Canada with 500 employees at 35 locations and more than $9.4 billion in assets.

Earlier this year, the company opened its first Northern Ontario office in Thunder Bay and expansion to other cities is an inevitability.

The company has garnered national awards in the last two years as one of Canada's fastest growing, best managed companies and top brokerage firms.

Specifically, Wellington West ranked first nationally in 2006 as Canada's Top 50 Best Employers by Report on Business magazine.

Rothwell says the awards are validation of the ethical values and the service-oriented culture of the company's founder and CEO Charlie Spiring.

"Everybody knows that Charlie is a caring guy and whenever he sees our service compromised .... it's a pretty short fuse."

The private company prides itself on having a good benefits plan, one of the best retirements packages in the financial services business, and in granting brokers plenty of leeway to better service their customers.

Sure, the screening process for brokers is intense, but when Rothwell goes out recruiting, he wants experienced brokers with a "depth of character" to advance their special brand in each new city.

"We aren't in the business of hiring new trainees." Rothwell. And they aren't in the business of making huge cash offers for brokers to transfer to their firm. "And then I look for the people with the kind of enthusiasm that make it fun to go to work every day."

If prospective Wellington West brokers aren't prepared to always act in their client's best interests, they better work elsewhere.

While on a recruiting trip to Toronto, one unsuccessful candidate produced a laundry list of demands, insisting on expensive downtown office space at either BCE Place or Scotia Plaza, furnished with a fireplace and two personal assistants.

The same day, he met and landed a new broker for Barrie whose only request was for him and his team to own the heritage home selected for the new branch.


"Symbolically that's a great example of how we think."

As an employee-owned private firm, Rothwell says having private equity in the company means everyone gives their best effort.

"It's a fundamental conversation to have because it attracts the right people."

Individual brokers and their support staff are granted a great deal of flexibility and latitude to design their work space.

Some larger branches have gym work-out space for employees, others are located in heritage buildings.

That flexibility extends to employment contracts for those who want to work from home, or ask to unbundle their benefits package. Pensions can be topped-up and and the company will subsidize continuing education.

"We have a fair and equitable compensation model that's more of a self-governing model and not legislated."

The company also makes arrangements almost daily for employees with special circumstances.

In one instance, the company extended a loan guarantee to one broker who was facing severe financial hardship from a lawsuit and was becoming unproductive at work.

"We're not in the lending business, but we needed to step up," says Rothwell. "We treat each one of these individuals, the same way you'd want to be treated in the workplace."


Wellington West Financial

President: John Rothwell

Head Office: Manitoba

Established: 1993

Employees: 500


Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2007 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:TOP PLACES TO WORK
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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