NO SE­CRET FOR­MULA FOR TECH­NOL­OGY

Two firms have taken very dif­fer­ent strate­gies re­gard­ing their tech­nol­ogy, but both re­ceived high praise from their ad­vi­sors

Investment Executive - - ADVISORS’ REPORT CARD - BY SO­PHIE ALLEN-BAR­RON

for fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors, hav­ing the right set of tech­nol­ogy tools can in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency, as well as fo­cus on the most critical as­pects of the job.

No sur­prise, then, that ad­vi­sors across the four ma­jor dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels in­cluded in In­vest­ment Ex­ec­u­tive’s an­nual Re­port Card se­ries gave the “tech­nol­ogy tools and ad­vi­sor desk­top” cat­e­gory a high over­all aver­age im­por­tance rat­ing of 9.0. Un­for­tu­nately for ad­vi­sors, most firms are fol­low­ing pre­vi­ous years’ trends of un­der­de­liv­er­ing on ad­vi­sors’ ex­pec­ta­tions in this cat­e­gory. Specif­i­cally, ad­vi­sors gave their firms an over­all aver­age per­for­mance rat­ing of 7.5 in tech­nol­ogy. The re­sult­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese two rat­ings is 1.5 points, rep­re­sent­ing the sec­ond-high­est “sat­is­fac­tion gap” in this year’s sur­vey.

Meet­ing ad­vi­sors’ ex­pec­ta­tions in this cat­e­gory is in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult, as tech­nol­ogy is both ex­pen­sive and chang­ing at break­neck speed. This com­bi­na­tion can flum­mox firms try­ing to pro­vide ad­vi­sors with the tech tools they need while fund­ing and im­ple­ment­ing sys­tems that have been ad­e­quately tested and tweaked.

Still, some firms have man­aged to find tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions that work ex­cep­tion­ally well for their ad­vi­sors. In fact, ad­vi­sors at two firms in par­tic­u­lar — in­de­pen­dent bro­ker­age Ed­ward Jones and man­ag­ing gen­eral agency (MGA) IDC World­source In­surance Net­work Inc. (IDC

“E ven af­ter work hours, I can ac­cess the plat­form very eas­ily and down­load all the ma­te­ri­als I need”

WIN), both based in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont. — were so pleased that they gave their com­pa­nies per­for­mance rat­ings that ex­ceeded the high over­all aver­age im­por­tance rat­ing.

Ed­ward Jones was a clear stand­out, as the firm’s ad­vi­sors rated their tech tools at 9.3. Specif­i­cally, ad­vi­sors were quick to praise the firm’s tech for mak­ing life easy — es­pe­cially in work­ing with clients.

“The [firm] is prob­a­bly very ad­vanced in terms of the client con­tact,” says an Ed­ward Jones ad­vi­sor in At­lantic Canada. “It’s all in one place and very con­ve­nient.”

“Pro­vid­ing tools that help us to ex­plain in­vest­ments to clients helps clients un­der­stand,” adds a col­league in On­tario.

“The real fo­cus is how tech­nol­ogy com­ple­ments a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ad­vi­sor and the client,” says Pa­trick French, prin­ci­pal in Ed­ward Jones’ client depth depart­ment for Canada.

French at­tributes Ed­ward Jones’ tech tools rat­ings to a “high level of in­te­gra­tion” of pro­pri­etary sys­tems that “talk to each other” to max­i­mize ef­fi­ciency.

“This en­ables the ad­vi­sor and the client to fo­cus on what all the re­search shows is most im­por­tant to the client, which is what [he or she] is ac­tu­ally try­ing to ac­com­plish,” says French.

Mean­while, IDC WIN’s tech model is quite dif­fer­ent, but no less suc­cess­ful in the eyes of that firm’s ad­vi­sors, who rated their tech tools at 9.2. IDC WIN caters to a net­work of in­de­pen­dent in­surance ad­vi­sors, so the MGA opted to pro­vide tried and tested op­tions for ad­vi­sors while al­low­ing them the free­dom of choice in what they ul­ti­mately use. In turn, IDC WIN ad­vi­sors were keen on their firm’s breadth of op­tions for tools and plat­forms, which are ac­ces­si­ble through the MGA’s in­tranet.

“It’s very con­ve­nient; even af­ter work hours, I can ac­cess the plat­form very eas­ily and down­load all the ma­te­ri­als I need,” says an IDC WIN ad­vi­sor in On­tario.

“The [tech tools] have been out­stand­ing. They’ve been ex­tremely use­ful in my prac­tice,” adds a col­league in Al­berta.

Em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy is some­thing that’s been part of IDC WIN’s cul­ture from Day 1, says Ron Madzia, pres­i­dent of the MGA. Al­though the firm does have some pro­pri­etary tools, IDC WIN’s man­age­ment rec­og­nizes that at the end of the day, in­di­vid­ual ad­vi­sors will choose what works best for their own prac­tices.

“Our job is to an­a­lyze what we think are [the tech tools] best suited for ad­vi­sors and to en­dorse them,” says Madzia.

When faced with the pos­si­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing new tech­nol­ogy, the firm will first test it with a small group of ad­vi­sors be­fore in­tro­duc­ing that tool across the board.

“You have to have that en­tre­pre­neur­ial or cre­ative bent to your cul­ture to be able to try things to of­fer to your ad­vi­sors to help them be more suc­cess­ful, and help them man­age their prac­tices more ef­fi­ciently,” says Madzia.

Go­ing through sys­temwide up­grades and in­tro­duc­ing new tech tools to ad­vi­sors is no easy task, and many firms fal­ter in im­ple­ment­ing or in train­ing ad­vi­sors how to use new tech­nol­ogy. How­ever, Toron­to­based RBC Do­min­ion Se­cu­ri­ties Inc. (DS) ad­vi­sors praised that firm for hav­ing nav­i­gated a sys­tem up­grade suc­cess­fully, giv­ing the firm a rat­ing of 8.9 in the cat­e­gory, up from 8.1 last year.

“In the past year alone,” says a DS ad­vi­sor in On­tario, “there was sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in tech to im­prove the ad­vi­sor ex­pe­ri­ence, the client ex­pe­ri­ence and the sup­port for all the reg­u­la­tory changes with [the sec­ond phase of the client re­la­tion­ship model] upon us.”

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