Banks are doing better at delivering what advisors need.
financial advisors who work within a retail branch of a Big Six bank are feeling pretty secure, both i n terms of the recent growth in their books of business and the level of support they receive from their bank, according to the results of this year’s Report Card on Banks.
In fact, these results generally were quite positive: 26 of the ratings that advisors gave their banks in the main ratings table improved by at least half a point or more year-over-year. In contrast, 20 of the ratings advisors gave their banks declined by that margin. (See table on page 10.)
Many advisors surveyed for this year’s Report Card praised their bank for its solid reputation, strong communication efforts and the level of support the bank provides to its advisors to run their individual businesses — especially for clients who have more complex financial needs.
“We have an easy job because there’s so much confidence in our products and our support,” says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal. “Management is very open to feedback and looking for everybody to succeed.”
Advisors’ businesses do appear to be succeeding, given the increase in their assets under management (AUM) this year on average. Specifically, advisors reported an average AUM of $90.6 million this year, up from $85.2 million in 2017. (See story on page 11.)
One thing advisors continue to feel secure about as they grow their businesses is the strength of their banks’ reputation with clients and prospective clients — even when faced with some negative media coverage. (See story on page 14.)
Several of the big banks had their fair share of that in 2017, following high-profile media reports regarding unfair sales practices at most of the banks, which in turn led to a review by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
Although some advisors admitted that their bank’s reputation took a hit in light of that investigation, many more advisors believe that, overall, the reputations of Canada’s oldest financial services institutions remain intact because of their client-centric approach and community outreach initiatives. (See story on page 14.)
“I believe that our brand is strong,” says an advisor in Alberta with Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada. “Even t hough we screw up sometimes, the brand is [why clients] come to us.”
One way in which banks are backing up those strong reputations is through their well-known advertising campaigns. In fact, advisors gave their “firm’s consumer advertising” efforts an overall average performance rating of 8.5 this year, up from 8.1 last year; three banks’ ratings increased by half a point or more year-overyear i n this category. Indeed, many advisors were impressed with the pervasiveness of their banks’ brand-building efforts through marketing campaigns such as television commercials or sponsorship of sporting events.
“When you see the commercials, [they] hit home. They relate to the average Canadian home [and] the average family,” says an advisor in Ontario with Torontobased Bank of Nova Scotia. “[The bank] also does a lot of stuff with hockey, which I appreciate.”
Advisors also lauded their bank’s efforts in providing information advisors need, and for being open to advisors’ feedback and taking it seriously. In fact, advisors gave the banks higher overall average performance ratings year-overyear in both communication categories in the Report Card: “firm’s effectiveness in keeping advisors informed” and “firm’s receptiveness to advisor feedback.” (See story on page 13.)
The advisors most pleased with their bank’s communication said that they’re kept up to date regarding changes within the organization and that management actively seeks advisors’ feedback and acts upon those recommendations.
“It’s much better now. They have annual surveys [to see] how employees are feeling — what’s working and what’s not working,” says an advisor in Ontario with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada. “Up p e r management has addressed that and spoken directly to advisors. They’re listening.”
Advisors also felt well connected to other divisions within their respective banks, which comes in handy when trying to serve the needs of high net-worth individuals. Indeed, although advisors at bank branches focus on mass affluent clients, many advisors feel confident that the banks’ wealth specialists and strong referral networks can help them with wealthier clients. (See story on page 12.)
“There are certain [internal] partners we can count on for more complex situations,” says an advisor with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Ontario.
Still, there are many situations in which advisors need the skills necessary to help clients, which is why having strong ongoing training programs is key.
However, banks have some work to do in this area — as is evident i n the mixed ratings advisors gave their banks in the “ongoing traini n g ” c a t e g o r y. Some advisors praised their banks for providing strong support, such as in obtaining professional designations, while other advisors wished their training programs were more targeted. (See story on page 10.)
“Sometimes, there’s some stuff that either I don’t find as relevant for the job or is just unnecessary,” says a Scotiabank advisor in Ontario.
Advisors’ feelings are not at all mixed when it came to the level of support they receive from the banks’ back offices. This is one area in which advisors see plenty of room for improvement.
In fact, the “back office and administrative support” category garnered the lowest overall average performance rating this year, at 7.1, and the difference between it and the overall average importance rating of 9.4 resulted in the widest satisfaction gap in the survey. (See story on page 12.)
The most common complaints from advisors pertaining to their back offices is that the staff tend to be chronically inexperienced.
“If I need to get something done, I have a group of people who I get help from, but they don’t know how to do anything,” says an advisor in Alberta with Toronto-based TD Wealth Financial Planning, a division of Toronto-Dominion Bank. “They have nothing but rookies working there.”
“There’s much confidence in our products and our support”