Ad­vi­sors seek the right com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy and sup­port spe­cial­ists to cre­ate strong fi­nan­cial plans for their clients

Investment Executive - - CONTENTS - BY SO­PHIE ALLEN-BARRON

While in­surance ad­vi­sors em­brace fi­nan­cial plan­ning, they said their firms are not pro­vid­ing enough sup­port.

in­surance ad­vi­sors con­tinue to em­brace the shift to­ward pro­vid­ing holis­tic fi­nan­cial ad­vice. How­ever, many ad­vi­sors sur­veyed for this year’s In­surance Ad­vi­sors’ Re­port Card said their firms have much work to do to sup­port ad­vi­sors’ ef­forts in fi­nan­cial plan­ning, which is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of serv­ing their clients.

Among the ad­vi­sors sur­veyed, 69.3% cre­ate fi­nan­cial plans for clients — and ad­vi­sors gave the “sup­port for de­vel­op­ing a fi­nan­cial plan for clients” cat­e­gory an over­all av­er­age im­por­tance rat­ing of 8.9. In con­trast, ad­vi­sors gave their firms an over­all av­er­age per­for­mance rat­ing of 7.2 in the cat­e­gory. That’s down sig­nif­i­cantly from 7.9 last year and rep­re­sents the largest year-over-year drop in the sur­vey. As well, the dif­fer­ence be­tween this year’s over­all av­er­age rat­ings rep­re­sents the largest “sat­is­fac­tion gap” in the sur­vey.

The sig­nif­i­cant drop i n the over­all av­er­age per­for­mance rat­ing re­flects the fact that the cat­e­gory’s rat­ing for three firms — London, Ont.-based Free­dom 55 Fi­nan­cial, Win­nipeg-based Great-West Life As­sur­ance Co. (GWL) and Wood­bridge, Ont.based Hub Fi­nan­cial Inc. — de­clined by half a point or more.

Free­dom 55 (which saw its rat­ing in the cat­e­gory drop to 6.3, down from 7.9 last year) and GWL (its rat­ing dropped to 6.2 from 7.1 year-over-year) are sis­ter firms. Ad­vi­sors with both firms cited the lack of sup­port from spe­cial­ists for fi­nan­cial plan­ning as the big­gest cause for con­cern.

In the case of GWL, ad­vi­sors gen­er­ally were on board with the avail­able Nav­iPlan fi­nan­cial plan­ning soft­ware of­fered to them at a re­duced price, but they pointed to a lack of sup­port in terms of per­son­nel and train­ing to use the tool.

“[GWL] gives us Nav­iPlan, but they don’t have any­body that knows how to use it,” says a GWL ad­vi­sor on the Prairies.

In ad­di­tion, sev­eral ad­vi­sors men­tioned their dis­sat­is­fac­tion that their go-to con­tact for fi­nan­cial plan­ning sup­port had been let go as part of a re­cent re­struc­tur­ing at GWL.

“[The firm] fired the per­son that was giv­ing me a lot of help,” says a GWL ad­vi­sor in At­lantic Canada.

Mark Foris, vice pres­i­dent of GWL par­ent firm’s new Wealth and In­surance So­lu­tions En­ter­prise (WISE) network, ac­knowl­edges that some “tough de­ci­sions” were made that may mean that ad­vi­sors may have to deal with a dif­fer­ent per­son than they did a few months ago — but he’s adamant that the sup­port is still there.

“If any­thing, we’ve en­hanced the of­fer­ing,” says Foris, ex­plain­ing that un­der the WISE network, ad­vi­sors will have ac­cess to a sup­port network con­sol­i­dated from sis­ter firm Canada Life As­sur­ance Co.’s whole­sal­ing, prod­uct sales and mar­ket­ing de­part­ments, as well as to tax plan­ning and wealth plan­ning con­sul­tants.

Foris rec­og­nizes the grow­ing im­por­tance of fi­nan­cial plan­ning to ad­vi­sors: “It all ties into the over­all com­pli­ance and reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments of an ad­vi­sor to make sure that, ul­ti­mately, we’re able to show a fi­nan­cial plan­ning thought process to the clients we’re serv­ing.”

Ad­vi­sors with GWL’s sis­ter firm, Free­dom 55, un­der­stand Foris’ po­si­tion full well: 97.8% of those sur­veyed said they cre­ate fi­nan­cial plans for their clients — the high­est in the in­surance chan­nel by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin. How­ever, Free­dom 55 ad­vi­sors lamented that the fi­nan­cial plan­ning sup­port they re­ceive is pro­vided by tele­phone.

“Ev­ery sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent,” says a Free­dom 55 ad­vi­sor i n On­tario. “We don’t have some­body re­view­ing our plans with us in per­son so we can learn from them.We can only call head of­fice.”

Some ad­vi­sors with that ded­i­cated sales agency be­lieve their firm’s fo­cus on fi­nan­cial plan­ning isn’t where it needs to be. “[The fi­nan­cial plan­ning sup­port] is a work i n progress,” says a Free­dom 55 ad­vi­sor in Bri­tish Columbia. “The firm was too prod­uct-fo­cused in the past, so it’s try­ing to be more fi­nan­cial plan­ning-fo­cused now — but it’s not there yet.”

Mean­while, ad­vi­sors with Hub, who gave the manag­ing gen­eral agency’s (MGA) sup­port for fi­nan­cial plan­ning a per­for­mance rat­ing of 7.5, down from 8.1 last year, cited grow­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion that their firm of­fers only dis­counts on soft­ware rather than pro­vid­ing a re­li­able soft­ware plat­form.

Ad­vi­sors with Mis­sis­sauga, Ont.-based RBC Life In­surance Co. gave their ded­i­cated sales agency the same per­for­mance rat­ing of 7.5 for fi­nan­cial plan­ning sup­port. Both agents and the firm are fo­cus­ing more on the prac­tice.

This year, 56.8% of RBC Life ad­vi­sors sur­veyed said they cre­ate fi­nan­cial plans for their clients, up sig­nif­i­cantly from just 38.3% last year. Some ad­vi­sors wel­comed the fact the firm now of­fers ac­cess to Nav­iPlan.

“[Sup­port] is get­ting bet­ter,” says an RBC Life ad­vi­sor in On­tario. “[The firm] is just be­gin­ning to roll out the tools I’ve been fight­ing for for the past two years. There’s never been a fo­cus on build­ing wealth on the in­surance side here, but I’ve been pick­ing at that bone for the past few years.”

Al­though RBC Life nei­ther en­cour­ages nor dis­cour­ages ad­vi­sors to take on the role of fi­nan­cial plan­ner for their clients, says Mike Hamil­ton, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, sales and dis­tri­bu­tion, ad­vi­sors who take the ini­tia­tive to earn the cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner (CFP) des­ig­na­tion are very wel­come to spe­cial­ize and build their busi­nesses in such a way that they of­fer com­pre­hen­sive fi­nan­cial plans to their clients. As well, the firm en­cour­ages ad­vi­sors who don’t hold a CFP to take ad­van­tage of RBC Life’s re­la­tion­ship with RBC Do­min­ion Se­cu­ri­ties Inc. and con­sult with the lat­ter firm’s tax and es­tate plan­ning ex­perts.

“We’re ex­perts on the in­surance side, and to do that full fi­nan­cial plan is very dif­fi­cult,” says Hamil­ton. “It’s bet­ter to bring in those who are skilled and trained at that and to have a part­ner­ship model, as op­posed to be­ing a one-stop shop.”

In con­trast, ad­vi­sors with Water­loo, Ont.-based Sun Life Fi­nan­cial (Canada) Inc. gave their firm a sur­vey-high rat­ing of 8.6 in the cat­e­gory. Many ad­vi­sors said they are en­cour­aged to fo­cus on fi­nan­cial plan­ning — and they re­ceive all the nec­es­sary sup­port to do so.

“We have spe­cific soft­ware for ev­ery­thing from fi­nan­cial to tax plan­ning. And I have sup­port and peo­ple I can go to for as­sis­tance,” says a Sun Life ad­vi­sor in On­tario.

Adds a col­league in the same prov­ince: “The [firm is] re­ally keen on [fi­nan­cial plan­ning and] makes things eas­ier for me [to] crunch the num­bers for my clients.”

“The firm is just be­gin­ning to roll out the tools I’ve been fight­ing for”

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