Ad­vi­sors’ sat­is­fac­tion de­pended on the type of agency they work through.

The rat­ings for the five MGAs in the sur­vey were very strong, whereas those for the ded­i­cated sales agen­cies and the sole PPGA were less favourable

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY FIONA COL­LIE

in­sur­ance ad­vi­sors who are sur­veyed for In­vest­ment Ex­ec­u­tive’s In­sur­ance Ad­vi­sors’ Re­port Card al­ways have widerang­ing opin­ions re­gard­ing the in­sur­ance agen­cies through which they run their busi­nesses, re­gard­less of busi­ness model — and this year was no dif­fer­ent.

How­ever, there’s a grow­ing di­vide be­tween ad­vi­sors who work at ei­ther a ded­i­cated sales agency or Win­nipeg-based Great-West Life As­sur­ance Co. (GWL), the lone per­sonal pro­duc­ing gen­eral agency in the sur­vey, and ad­vi­sors who work through a man­ag­ing gen­eral agency (MGA).

Specif­i­cally, ad­vi­sors who work through one of the five MGAs in the sur­vey rated their MGA very highly this year; in fact, many of the rat­ings for the MGAs rose sig­nif­i­cantly (by half a point or more) year-over-year. In con­trast, the ma­jor­ity of ad­vi­sors at the ded­i­cated sales agen­cies or at GWL were less en­thu­si­as­tic about their firms.

Many of the in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sors who run their busi­nesses through an MGA noted that the MGA’s man­age­ment makes an ef­fort to keep ad­vi­sors in­formed about what’s hap­pen­ing at the MGA and what it has to of­fer ad­vi­sors. In ad­di­tion, ad­vi­sors praised their MGA for the sup­port they re­ceive — par­tic­u­larly from well-trained staff.

“They’re al­ways there when we need them,” says an ad­vi­sor in On­tario with Mis­sis­sauga, Ont.-based IDC World­source In­sur­ance Net­work Inc. “We can get through to peo­ple from the top down. They sup­ply us with what we need.”

In con­trast, ad­vi­sors with most ded­i­cated sales agen­cies and GWL of­ten noted that com­mu­ni­ca­tion with man­age­ment was lack­ing. In ad­di­tion, many of these ad­vi­sors pointed out they’re of­ten left stranded by sup­port staff.

This di­vide is per­haps most ev­i­dent among the three in­sur­ance agen­cies that ex­pe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant changes in their per­for­mance rat­ings yearover-year, ei­ther for bet­ter or for worse: Wood­bridge, Ont.based MGA Hub Fi­nan­cial Inc., Water­loo, Ont.-based ded­i­cated sales agency Sun Life Fi­nan­cial (Canada) Inc. and GWL.

Specif­i­cally, Hub’s rat­ings im­proved by half a point or more in 11 cat­e­gories this year while Sun Life’s and GWL’s rat­ings de­clined by that same mar­gin in 20 cat­e­gories and 21 cat­e­gories, re­spec­tively. In ad­di­tion, Hub’s “IE rat­ing” — the av­er­age of all the per­for­mance rat­ings given to a firm, ex­clud­ing the “over­all rat­ing by ad­vi­sors” (which, in turn, is the rat­ing ad­vi­sors gave their firm as a whole) — rose by more than half a point. In con­trast, both Sun Life’s and GWL’s IE rat­ings and over­all rat­ings by ad­vi­sors dropped by that mar­gin yearover-year. (See story on page 9.)

In Hub’s case, many of the MGA’s ad­vi­sors pointed to im­proved ef­forts in com­mu­ni­cat­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing with ad­vi­sors as the main rea­son for their in­creased sat­is­fac­tion this year.

“They have great sup­port [for ad­vi­sors], prod­ucts and peo­ple,” says a Hub ad­vi­sor on the Prairies. “[Ad­vi­sors] have ac­cess to ev­ery­thing.”

Con­versely, ad­vi­sors with GWL’s Wealth and In­sur­ance So­lu­tions En­ter­prise (WISE) net­work pointed out they of­ten feel left in the dark about the changes re­lated to the tran­si­tion to the WISE net­work from the for­mer Gold Key net­work as the rea­son for their dis­sat­is­fac­tion this year.

“I hon­estly don’t know what the [com­pany’s strate­gic] fo­cus is,” says an ad­vi­sor in On­tario with GWL’s WISE net­work. “[GWL has] gone through so much change over the past two years. It’s not the same com­pany it used to be.”

A mat­ter in which there was a clear di­vide be­tween the ded­i­cated sales agen­cies and GWL on the one hand and the MGAs on the other re­lated to the three back-of­fice cat­e­gories.

No­tably, all of the ded­i­cated sales agen­cies and GWL saw their rat­ings de­crease by half a point or more in at least one of the “back of­fice and ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port” cat­e­gories: “new busi­ness (ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess­ing)”; “in­force pol­icy owner ser­vices”; and “com­mis­sions sup­port.”

In con­trast, all MGAs re­ceived very favourable rat­ings in these cat­e­gories — and four of the five MGAs saw their rat­ings im­prove by half a point or more in at least one of the three cat­e­gories. (See story on page 11.)

In-force pol­icy owner ser­vices were a par­tic­u­lar thorn in the side of ad­vi­sors at the ded­i­cated sales agen­cies. The com­mon theme: back of­fices of­ten are un­der­staffed with em­ploy­ees who are in­ex­pe­ri­enced, which leads to slow re­sponse times.

“I can get a hold of [staff ] rather quickly, [but] there are c e rtain poli­cies they’re not aware of, so that could [take] two weeks [to sort out],” says an ad­vi­sor in On­tario with Mis­sis­sauga, Ont.-based RBC Life In­sur­ance Co.

MGAs also ap­pear to have the edge — al­beit a small one — in cat­e­gories such as “firm’s/MGA’s mar­ket­ing sup­port for ad­vi­sor’s prac­tice” and “on­go­ing train­ing.”

For ex­am­ple, although the re­sults for the mar­ket­ing sup­port cat­e­gory show that ad­vi­sors at all the agen­cies were hap­pier with their firm’s ef­forts year-over-year, four of the five MGAs were top per­form­ers in the cat­e­gory this year. In gen­eral, the ad­vi­sors hap­pi­est with their firm’s mar­ket­ing ef­forts praised their agency for pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port as well as rel­e­vant tools and ex­per­tise. (See story on page 12.)

“[The firm has] given me all the [mar­ket­ing] ma­te­rial I need to be suc­cess­ful,” says a Hub ad­vi­sor in On­tario. “[Clients] like to have tan­gi­ble things [to read and go over], so this is im­por­tant.”

Sim­i­larly, many ad­vi­sors — par­tic­u­larly those who work through an MGA — were pos­i­tive about the on­go­ing train­ing they re­ceive. In fact, two MGAs and Lon­don, Ont.-based ded­i­cated sales agency Free­dom 55 Fi­nan­cial — re­ceived rat­ings in the cat­e­gory that were higher by half a point or more year-overyear. (See story on page 12.)

Much like the rea­sons given for mar­ket­ing sup­port rat­ings, ad­vi­sors ap­pre­ci­ated hav­ing a range of op­tions and re­sources avail­able — from con­fer­ences and sem­i­nars to on­line courses — to stay on top of con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion re­quire­ments.

“[The firm is] re­ally good at putting on tar­geted [train­ing] ses­sions for ad­vi­sors that are rel­e­vant,” says an ad­vi­sor in Bri­tish Columbia with Kitch­ener, Ont.based Fi­nan­cial Horizons Inc.

Re­gard­less of the dif­fer­ences in the rat­ings that ad­vi­sors gave their firm or the type of in­sur­ance agency they work through, ad­vi­sors were unan­i­mous, once again, in tout­ing the im­por­tance of their agency’s ethics and their abil­ity to run their busi­nesses as they see fit. In­deed, the “firm’s/ MGA’s ethics” and “free­dom to make ob­jec­tive prod­uct choices for clients” cat­e­gories re­ceived the two high­est rat­ings for both over­all av­er­age im­por­tance and over­all av­er­age per­for­mance.

Ad­vi­sors were con­fi­dent that their in­sur­ance agen­cies are eth­i­cal — and this, in turn, al­lows ad­vi­sors to act in the best in­ter­est of their clients — par­tic­u­larly in choos­ing prod­ucts.

Says a Sun Life ad­vi­sor i n On­tario: “We pretty well [have] free rein to pro­vide what­ever we think is best for the client.”

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