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 Conn-ecting the
work anywhere
Mobile tech is key, advisors say, but some firms fall short
in the midst of plum-
meting markets, financial advis- ors are looking for reassurance that they’ll have sufficient digital access at all times. Even prior to the Covid-19 crisis, advis- ors participating in Investment Executive’s (IE) 2020 Brokerage Report Card indicated that “sup- port for mobile technology and the mobile advisor” is increas- ingly important.
The importance average for the mobile advisor category rose to 8.7 from 8.1 a year ago, hitting a five-year high. The perform- ance average for the category rose 0.3 year-over-year to 8.2, suggesting that firms have been investing in the area. But the satisfaction gap (the amount by which the importance of a cat- egory exceeds its performance) grew to 0.5.
While the performance rat- ings in this category for four firms jumped significantly (by 0.5 or more), other firms did not seem to be meeting the needs of advis- ors looking to work remotely. Winnipeg-based Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc., which joined the Report Card this year, had the highest rating in the mobile advisor category, with a 9.8. “[The support is] really, really great, even on [the] phone. I’ve never had mobile sup- port before,” says one advisor, while others say they have lap- tops, a “supportive” IT team and 24/7 contact.
“Everything is cloud-based for us,” says Shaun Hauser, founder and president of Wellington-Altus. “We’ve extended [our technology infrastructure] by building a really
 robust, interactive, mobile-based intranet that our whole company uses every day.”
Advisors at Calgary-based Leede Jones Gable Inc. also rated their firm highly for mobile support. That category rating rose to 9.6, up by 0.7 from 2019.
“Everyone is now [able] to do things on iPads, which is amaz- ing when you have to travel,” says one Leede Jones advisor. Says another: “I could trade on a beach.”
When asked about advisors’ remote working tools, Leede president Bob Harrison said in early March, “We upgraded our remote environment and we’ve gone to the cloud. When you get something like the coronavirus, who knows; maybe everybody will have to be on [the remote network].”
Montreal-based National Bank Financial Inc. (NBF) also performed well in the mobile advisor category, with a rating of 8.6 — 0.8 higher than in 2019.
“Out-of-office technology is very good and helpful to my busi- ness,” says an NBF advisor in the Prairies.
Still, an NBF advisor in Atlantic Canada says the tech- nology could improve: “[It] needs to be a little more intuitive and user-friendly.”
Steve Galimi, senior vice president, branch administra- tion, at NBF, says, “Investing into bandwidth [has made us] a lot stronger. We want [advisors] in the office, but they could work all the time outside of the office.” In the past, he notes, work-from- home capacity was more limited and “things would be slow [with] a chance of crashing.”
Advisors with Toronto-based CIBC Wood Gundy, however, mentioned technological issues. They rated their mobile technol- ogy 7.0, down from 7.2 a year ago.
“What they have is lean. It’s
also cumbersome and diffi- cult to use,” says a Wood Gundy advisor in Ontario. Says a Wood Gundy advisor in Quebec: “I find the remote access interface slow and very dated.”
The bank-owned broker- age is trying to improve. Ed Dodig, managing director and head, CIBC Private Wealth Management and Wood Gundy, says in a statement emailed to IE that “various technology improvements and investments [are] underway to support our advisors. They use Citrix/Virtual
Private Network, giving them access to their desktop, trad- ing applications and portfolio management systems.”
Rounding out the bot- tom in the mobile advisor cat- egory were Quebec City-based Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. and Toronto-based BMO Private Wealth Canada and Asia, though advisors at Industrial Alliance rated their mobile technology higher this year, at 6.3 vs 5.9 in 2019.
Conversely, BMO advisors rated the mobile category more
than a full point lower than a year ago, at 6.4. BMO told IE in an emailed statement that the bank “invests significant resources” in tools such as virtual private networks, devices and mobile applications.
Some BMO advisors were par- ticularly harsh. “I use my iPad as a paperweight. Honest to God, it’s useless,” says one in Ontario.
“[Planning tool] MyWealth is glitchy and it's embarrassing when it happens in front of cli- ents. It freezes on the tablet,” says another BMO advisor in Ontario.
Says Stephane Gervais, head of operations and technology at BMO Private Wealth: “We con- duct regular updates. To prevent connectivity issues, advisors must also ensure these updates are synchronized with their devices.” IE
   The performance average for the mobile advisor category rose 0.3, suggesting that firms are investing in the area
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