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 Dealers try to deliver on tech
Advisors still want improved
back office support and client materials
two categories: Toronto-based
Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd., Mississauga, Ont.-based Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC) and Winnipeg- based IG Wealth Management.
IG Wealth improved by more than a full point for both its tech- nology and mobile advisor tools (rated 7.5 and 6.8, respectively, up from 6.4 and 5.6 last year), a rebound from its poorer 2019 performance.
Advisors at all three firms said their dealers were modify- ing their digital tools and sys- tems, causing short-term pain. Nonetheless, says one Assante advisor in B.C., “Everything is being rebuilt and it will look bet- ter in three months,” while an IPC advisor in the Prairies says, “Tech is improving; God bless their souls.”
About the technology improve- ments at IG Wealth, one advisor in Ontario says, “It’s like road con- struction: when it’s happening, it sucks. But after, you have a better road [and] you love it.”
Brent Allen, senior vice presi- dent, distribution operations, at IG Wealth, says the dealer is improving client management systems, online advisor portals and more. He adds that the chan- ges were “planned and antici- pated” with the goal of getting “the technology into the hands of our advisors faster.”
Conversely, the majority of advisors at Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities said they were frustrated with “medieval” and “hard-to-use” software that wasn’t streamlined. Manulife was rated lowest out of all deal- ers for its technology tools and mobile advisor capabilities (6.8 and 6.0, respectively, down from 7.0 and 6.6 a year ago).
“We haven’t really invested in the old portal for a few years,” acknowledges Rick Annaert, president and CEO of Manulife Securities. “I can understand when advisors are sometimes critical [but] we are enhancing
the new portal.”
Across all dealers, advisor
sentiment was more positive than a year ago for “back office and administrative support” (rated 7.9 on average, up from 7.6 in 2019), “client account state- ments” (rated 7.7, up from 7.2) and “online account access for clients” (rated 8.0, up from 7.8).
In these areas, four firms saw significant ratings improvement in the back office category while five firms improved significantly in the client statement category. Still, persistent satisfaction gaps remained, with the back office category having the largest gap (1.6) out of all areas measured.
Some advisors at Lévis, Que.- based Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN), which received the lowest back office rating in this year’s Report Card (6.9, the same as 2019), cited a troublesome lan- guage barrier.
One DFSIN advisor in B.C. says, “It is very hard to communi- cate with them,” and another of the dealer’s B.C. advisors says, “Things get lost in translation somehow.”
Overall, DFSIN’s advisors said they wanted more back office staff, better processing times and broader support for all provinces and lines of business.
“We’re on a journey to essen- tially update every aspect of technology,” says Denis Dubois, president and COO, Desjardins Financial Security. The firm is making the transition to Dataphile, for instance, to boost advisor and client access. As for language barriers, he says, the dealer makes an effort to adapt communications and under- stand each region’s needs.
Manulife Securities also had a rough showing, receiving the lowest ratings out of all firms for its client statements (6.4, down from 6.8 in 2019) and online client access (5.0, down from 5.3). Some advisors blamed the indus- try for hard-to-read statements,
says an Assante advisor in B.C. “We met with him when he was in town [and] the communica- tion has been excellent.”
Assante was rated 9.1 for cor- porate culture, up from 8.7 a year ago. “It’s changing and improv- ing; they’ve adjusted the cor- porate staff,” says one Assante advisor in Ontario.
About the firm’s reputation with clients, one respondent said Assante has been success- ful in building its brand despite the ubiquity of bank-owned brokerages.
While clients might choose advisors based on the strength of their personal relationship, rec- ognition of a firm’s brand makes it “easier for clients and pros- pects to feel comfortable,” says Etherington.
Mississauga, Ont.-based
Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC) was the only firm to collectively improve signifi- cantly (by half a point or more) vs last year in the strategy (8.9, up from 8.1), culture (9.1, up from 8.1) and reputation cat- egories (8.6, up from 7.9). IPC advisors said that leadership is focused on helping advisors grow
and hinted at improvements by their firm, but the majority said clients want more graphs, charts and better-organized information.
“The statements are limited in terms of content and base values. Even as an advisor, I can’t pull more information in, and the online stuff is brutal,” says one Manulife advisor in Alberta.
Manulife’s back office has long been accessible through remote and mobile technology, says Annaert. The dealer’s digit- ization of account opening and maintenance has been delayed due to Covid-19, he adds, but “it’s ready to go” and the next step is revamping clients’ statements.
The only firm to simultan- eously improve significantly year-over-year in the back office and two client account categories was IG Wealth, although its ratings were on the lower end of the scale. Advisors acknowledged that the dealer has made changes to cre- ate a more “modern” experience, but consistently said their new statements are more complex and unpopular with clients.
Numerous advisors also men- tioned delays in accurate market pricing via online client account tools as well as “a lot of mistakes” made by the back office.
“That’s not acceptable, espe- cially now with the market going up or down wildly because of the virus,” says an IG Wealth advisor in Atlantic Canada.
Allen says new online hubs for advisors and clients are coming, and that the firm wants to provide flexible online state- ments that can be “much more personalized.”
About potential mistakes, he says, “We’re quite confident in our [back office] accuracy for the number of transactions we do annually, which is in the millions. Having said that, we’re focused on re-engineering busi- ness practices” to help eliminate human error. IE
irrespective of business model. “[IPC] always aligns their business plans to what an advis- or’s business plan is,” says an IPC advisor in Ontario. “They exe-
cute really well.”
Another IPC respondent in
the Prairies says, “Ultimately, [they’re] helping advisors build a better business.”
Reggie Alvares, executive vice president at IPC, confirms that the dealer accommodates a variety of business models: “Our focus is helping advisors build their enterprise value. When one day they decide [to exit the busi- ness], they would be monetizing it at a far better value than when they got in.”
Advisors at IPC say the dealer itself isn’t well-known on the street. However, it does help that IPC is a subsidiary of a financial powerhouse. “[Clients] know who Power Corp. is,” says an IPC advisor in Ontario.
Winnipeg-based IG Wealth Management also improved sig- nificantly year-over-year in the strategic focus and corporate cul- ture categories, going to 8.5 from
n BY MADDIE JOHNSON the 2020 dealers’ report
Card reveals that financial advisors are generally satis- fied with their dealers’ digital offerings.
The three main technology- related categories saw significant performance rating jumps (by half a point or more) in this year’s Report Card. These include “tech- nology tools and advisor desktop” (8.0, up from 7.4 a year ago), “sup- port for mobile technology and the mobile advisor” (7.8, up from 7.1) and “support for using social media” (7.3, up from 6.8).
The importance ratings for the technology categories have increased over the past five years. As firms have invested more in their digital capabil- ities, the satisfaction gaps (the amount by which a category’s importance exceeds its perform- ance) for both the technology tools and mobile advisor categor- ies have shrunk in recent years.
Windsor, Ont.-based Sterling Mutuals Inc. led in the technol- ogy tools and mobile advisor
categories, receiving ratings of 9.5 and 9.3, respectively. Several of the dealer’s advisors cred- ited efficient and “cutting-edge” in-house tools as the main reason.
“They keep improving the technology,” says one Sterling Mutuals advisor, while another of the firm’s advisors calls their proprietary digital system “the best-in house platform in the entire industry.”
Some Sterling Mutuals advis- ors requested planning soft- ware, e-signatures and digital documents. The last two fea- tures are part of a package that the firm released recently due to the impact of the pandemic, says Nelson Cheng, CEO and founder of Sterling Mutuals.
“We’re always looking for effi- ciency,” he says. “We are open to suggestions for how to do things better and faster.”
Three other dealers (in alpha- betical order) saw significant year-over-year increases in both of their ratings for the same
   Importance ratings for the technology categories have increased over the past five years
    Does dealer reputation matter?
Whether firms seek recognition or not, they must support advisors
n BY RUDY MEZZETTA financial advisors at the
firms included in Investment Executive’s Dealers’ Report Card tend to value their independ- ence. However, the 2020 results indicate that they still feel best supported when their dealers express strong strategic direc- tion and foster positive corpor- ate cultures.
Looking across all deal- ers rated this year, the average performance rating for “firm’s strategic focus” was 8.3, up 0.3 compared with 2019. The average
rating also was 8.3 for “firm’s cor- porate culture,” up 0.4 over last year.
However, firms may be fall- ing behind in terms of meet- ing advisors’ expectations: the average importance rating was 9.0 for firm’s strategic focus, representing a satisfaction gap (the amount by which a cat- egory’s importance exceeds its performance) of 0.7, and 8.8 for corporate culture, representing a gap of 0.5. (That compares to gaps of 0.5 and 0.4, respectively, a year ago.)
Advisors also were less than satisfied regarding “firm’s repu- tation with clients and/or pro- spective clients.” On average, advisors rated the category 7.9 while the importance average was 9.0 — leaving a gap of 1.1, up from 0.8 last year.
One firm that achieved higher
ratings than a year ago in all three of those categories was Toronto-based Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. The dealer also had the highest 2020 ratings out of all firms for both its strategic focus and reputa- tion with clients (9.2 and 9.1, respectively, and up from 8.6 and 8.9).
Many Assante advisors credited the leadership of Kurt MacAlpine, who took over as CEO of Toronto-based parent company CI Financial Corp. in September 2019. Under MacAlpine, CI Financial has identified the growth of wealth management as a core strategic goal, says Sean Etherington, president of Assante Wealth Management.
“[MacAlpine] has been updating advisors and leading the firm in the right direction,”

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