MOST OF CANADA'S DEPOSIT-taking institutions are still failing to meet their financial advisors' expectations regarding efficient and productive technology tools.
Many of the advisors surveyed for this year's Report Card on Banks and Credit Unions said that their systems are out of date and hamper the performance of everyday tasks. However, a couple of banks stand above the rest, having been lauded for giving their advisors the tech tools they need.
The ratings advisors bestowed on their firms in the "technology tools and advisor desktop" category reveal these disparate trends. Although the overall average performance rating in the category rose slightly to 7.1 from 6.9 year-over-year, advisors gave the category an overall importance rating of 8.9 this year, resulting in a "satisfaction gap" of 1.8 points between the two ratings - one of the largest such gaps in this year's survey.
However, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and TD Canada Trust (TD), both based in Toronto, received performance ratings of 8.8 and 8.6, respectively, in the category. Both ratings were significantly higher than the overall average.
Much improvement needed
Overall, technology continues to be an area in need of much improvement at many of these institutions. There are many reasons for this, but the ones that advisors most cited were the lack of unified software or systems, which makes basic navigation complicated and tedious, and outdated systems that still rely on DOS-based technology, which is frustratingly slow.
Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) saw its rating for the tech tools category drop to 7.1 from 7.6 in 2012 mainly because of the bank's lack of follow-through in implementing full Windows-based operating systems at all levels of the bank's network.
"[Our technology is] awful. The systems are way outdated. They're still DOS-based," says a CIBC advisor in Atlantic Canada. "You should be able to click a mouse and have a drop-down menu. We can't switch between accounts. It's a nightmare."
CIBC advisors do use a Windows-based system when dealing face-to-face with clients, says Larry Tomei, senior vice president, national sales and service, retail and business banking, at CIBC, but the supporting systems have less intuitive interfaces. "Both the client and employee experience are priorities for us," he says, "and we'll continue to invest in our technology platforms to enhance these systems."
Advisors with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal (BMO) had similar criticisms and, as a result, rated their firm's tech tools at 6.2, tied for the lowest rating in the category. Although BMO advisors noted that some systems are still DOS-based, it is the principle of convenience that is missing in their proprietary technology.
In particular, the software that BMO advisors use is not unified - there are multiple programs that must be accessed in order to complete a single function. This lack of unification hampers advisors in their everyday jobs.
"We need better system integration," says a BMO advisor in Alberta. "If I'm doing financial planning, it's on one software; I need to use a different one if I'm doing breakdowns; and yet another for processing new transactions."
Adds a colleague in British Columbia: "We have multiple systems, but they don't communicate well. We need consistency."
Consistency is what Montreal-based National Bank of Canada is attempting to provide to its advisors. Despite sharing the lowest tech tools rating of 6.2 with BMO, National Bank saw a significant increase from its 5.2 rating in the category last year.
Efforts are being made
Although there were many complaints from National Bank's advisors regarding non-unified and outdated systems, advisors at the bank have noticed that efforts are being made to upgrade the technology.
"The bank is improving its system by revamping and unifying our platforms," says a National Bank advisor in B.C. "[But] now, everything is separate and our systems don't talk to each other."
In the past year, National Bank has been deploying its Max program, the aim of which is to provide advisors and their clients with quicker and more efficient processing, says Annamaria Testani, vice president, national sales, intermediary business solutions.
However, rather than undergo one massive rollout, the deployment is being done slowly to ensure it's successful, she adds: "We're rolling it out in pilots to ensure that if there are enhancements or better things we can be doing, we take that information and improve the future rollouts along the way."
Such ongoing evaluation of feedback and innovation is a reason why RBC and TD continue to be ahead of the pack in the tech tools category.
Says an RBC advisor in Ontario: "We've evolved a lot. We're always getting new developments, such as new calculators and client-presentations tools."
Adds a TD advisor in Ontario: "Our tech tools are constantly being updated and the [information-technology department] can give us remote support. We have our manager come in and help us with hands-on training."
In particular, explains John Tracy, senior vice president, retail savings and investment, with TD, communication is key in rectifying any advisor concerns with technology: "We have ongoing and regular communication with advisors to take their feedback. We're constantly making improvements to the [tech] platform and we are proactively making sure they have the tools and resources they need."
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