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June 2020
  Supporting advisors through a pandemic
back-office software, leading to mixed sentiment. Still, one of the firm’s advisors in Ontario says, “It is getting better. I’d love to see paperless applications.”
One example of that deal- er’s “significant investments” in technology is Guardian Capital’s January purchase of a major- ity interest in Modern Advisor Canada Inc., says Messina. This will help digitize client inter- actions, he says. The firm is also looking at streamlining operat- ing systems and adding features such as chatbots.
In the coming months, the two dealers — like all investment firms — will be focusing on clearing pandemic hurdles. (See “Tackling pandemic challenges,” below.)
Along with daily advisor com- munication and weekly, bilin- gual video calls, Frances says, “We have a microsite for advis- ors with lots of information on Covid-19. Most of our advisors are paperless, but for those who aren’t, we’re offering support.”
At Worldsource, support has come in the form of buying lap- tops for staff who needed them, communicating regularly and discussing future office re-entry plans.
Says Messina: “I’m pretty hands-on. I wrote a comfort letter to not only our advisors but also our clients, to let them know we’re well capitalized and financed, and that we’re behind [them].” IE
The leaders of Peak and Worldsource reveal their strategies and Covid-related measures
develop tools that help with com- pliance automation and to gather business intelligence to help leverage client data.
Advisors at Worldsource said in March that they were making the transition to new
 one effect of the covid-19
crisis, which worsened in Canada during the 2020 Dealers’ Report Card research period, is that Investment Executive (IE) was unable to attain sufficient survey samples for two of the Report Card’s long-time par- ticipants: Montreal-based Peak Financial Group and Markham, Ont.-based Worldsource Wealth Management Inc.
Still, IE gleaned insights into both firms by speaking to 20 financial advisors at each dealer.
Heading into mid-March, advisors at Peak and Worldsource were largely positive about the ser- vices their dealers were providing. Areas of strength for both dealers, based on the small-sample analy- sis, included “firm’s stability” and “quality of firm’s product offering.” Both firms were lauded for listen- ing to their advisors.
“Every advisor [should] be so lucky as to deal with a firm like Peak. Leadership all the way down is doing their best,” says one Peak advisor in Quebec.
One Peak advisor in the Prairies praised the independ- ence they’re afforded, saying, “[You can] let your clients know that everything is in their best interest. [You] can’t do that if your compensation is derived from incentives and product sales.”
Robert Frances, founder and CEO at Peak, says, “We are grow- ing; we crossed $11 billion in client assets in mid-February.” He attributes this growth to the firm’s investment in compli- ance-related and advisor tech- nology tools, as well as a drive to expand the firm’s securities, mutual fund, insurance and pri- vate wealth arms.
Worldsource advisors appre- ciated their dealer’s advisor orientation.
“[They’re] very support- ive. [The] corporate culture at Worldsource is focused on helping the advisor grow their
practice. [At] other dealerships, you’re just a number,” says one of the firm’s advisors in Ontario.
“They have done more in the two years that I’ve been here than I’ve experienced with any other firm. If something can’t be done, they’ll let you know why,” says a Worldsource advisor in B.C.
“Our company has gone through some challenges, [but] it’s been a year and a half since I [assumed my current role]. We’ve done some good things and there’s been positive turnover at the exec- utive level,” says Anthony Messina, president and CEO of Worldsource Securities Inc. and Worldsource Financial Management Inc. since autumn 2018.
Key areas of focus now, Messina says, are technology advancements and upgrading advisors’ digital skills, along with leveraging parent company Guardian Capital Group Ltd.’s various businesses.
Weak categories for both firms, once again based on the small-sample analysis, included “technology tools and advisor desktop” and “ongoing train- ing.” Importantly, these categor- ies have persistent satisfaction gaps (the amount by which the average importance of a cat- egory exceeds its performance) across the entire Report Card. Nonetheless, many advisors at both Peak and Worldsource pointed to recent improvements.
“Robert Frances has embarked on trying to bring technology to [the] forefront [and] could make us a frontrunner,” says one Peak advisor in Ontario.
Peak advisors wanted to see improvements to client-fa- cing documents and reporting, but one respondent in B.C. says there’s been a “revamp over the last few years. E-document sign- ing [is] big going forward.”
On the technology front, Frances says, Peak strives to make advisors’ work easier,
 Tackling pandemic challenges
Executives with the rest of the Dealers’ Report Card firms shared some measures they’ve taken to help advisors.
Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd.
• Technology training
• Regular video meetings, national and
regional calls, and peer-to-peer support • “Consolidating our messaging so that we
don’t bombard advisors who are busy with clients,” says Sean Etherington, president
Carte Wealth Management Inc.
• Daily seminars with advisors
• Online cybersecurity training courses
• Weekly economic and firm strategy updates
Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network
• Offering financial relief to clients — the bank
was one of three institutions in Canada recognized by the United Nations in April for its efforts
• Newsletters, social media and a dedicated online portal
Investia Financial Services Inc.
• Providing market perspective for advisors and clients, and marketing support to advisors
• Launching a webcast series for advisors and clients
• Through “recently launched” online portals, leveraging technology tools (e.g., e-signatures and secure messaging)
Investment Planning Counsel Inc.
• Weekly webcast with advisors
• Fast-tracking release of technology tools
(e.g., Docusign) — “This is the time to invest a little more and further our digital footprint,” says executive vice president Reggie Alvares
• Business coaching sessions
IG Wealth Management
• Investment in cloud-based and video tools • Hosting digital client advisory council
meetings with management
• Conservatively planning for office re-entry
Manulife Securities
• Offering easy access to planning and market experts, and in-house economists
• Work-from-home training
• Video calls with business coaches and
behavioural finance insights offered in partnership with Toronto-based consulting firm BEworks
Portfolio Strategies Corp.
• Mark Kent, president and CEO, remained in the Calgary office as of late April, with “a skeleton crew” that included the firm’s chief financial officer and a new client- advisor relations manager
• Supporting advisors who must process paper transactions, and working with fund companies early on to deal with scaled- back operations
• Dedicated back-office service line
Sterling Mutuals Inc.
• “My homework every day is to call one [advisor], just to say hi,” says Nelson Cheng, CEO
• Fast-tracking the release of new technology tool offerings, such as e-signatures, while delaying other changes (e.g., the release of ETFs to the firm’s advisors, which at press time was slated for autumn)
— Katie Keir
    Advisors value independence but appreciate support
8.0 and 7.7 from 6.6, respectively.
However, its rating for reputation with clients fell 0.3 to 7.2.
Advisors surveyed said the firm served the middle market in past years, but is now focused on the mass-affluent and high net-worth segments — which has led to uncertainty and confusion in the near term. One issue, says one IG Wealth advisor in Ontario, is “the changes haven’t been publicized enough to the people we would want as clients.”
Nevertheless, the firm seems to be turning a corner: “They’re
ahead of the curve on this [stra- tegic focus],” says an IG Wealth advisor in B.C.
Brent Allen, senior vice presi- dent of distribution operations with IG Wealth, acknowledges that there has been some dis- ruption as the firm’s strategy has transformed. However, he says, the firm’s platform infra- structure and technology upgrades will help both advis- ors and the firm in their “part- nership” to serve clients. “We can only be successful when both groups of people do their jobs extremely well,” Allen says.
On the other hand, advisors
at Calgary-based Portfolio Strategies Corp. rated their firm 7.1, down from 7.7 a year ago, for reputation with clients. While most of the dealer’s advis- ors said the firm’s lack of a pub- lic profile was unimportant, others noted that it represented a drawback: “Most clients are interested in me personally, but it’d be nice [for the dealer] to be more known,” says a Portfolio Strategies advisor.
Still, the majority of advisors said they liked the way Portfolio Strategies lets them run their businesses without interference while also providing support in
key areas such as compliance. Notably, advisors at Portfolio Strategies gave an 8.8 rating for “firm’s stability,” up significantly
compared with a year ago. “[CEO] Mark Kent has a great grasp of what it is that we want here,” says a Portfolio Strategies
advisor. “He fights for us.”
Kent says the dealer’s priority
will always be the advisor’s repu- tation: “We’ve always felt that [the advisors] are the brand in the field.”
The dealer may not offer a lot of extra frills, he adds, but “we’re a low-cost service pro- vider model. It’s not very sexy but it’s what advisors want; they’re entrepreneurs.” IE
Firms may be falling behind in terms of meeting advisors’ expectations when it comes to strategy and corporate culture

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