Banks are do­ing bet­ter at de­liv­er­ing what ad­vi­sors need.

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY FIONA COL­LIE

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”

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