Although technology plays an increasingly important role in financial advisors’ businesses, their banks’ efforts in this key category leave much to be desired, according to the results of this year’s Report Card on Banks.

This lag is evident in the difference between the overall average importance rating (9.3) advisors gave to “technology tools and advisor desktop” and the overall average performance rating (7.3) advisors gave their firms in this category. That two-point difference results in the second-largest “satisfaction gap” in the survey, revealing that advisors’ expectations of their banks are far from being met.

Advisors often cited technology or tech-related factors as the aspects that their firms could improve upon most. The key reasons for this include outdated software and hardware, delayed or improperly executed updates and a whole whack of tech bugs that prevent advisors from doing their jobs efficiently.

As an example, advisors with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada rated their firm’s tech tools at a survey low of 6.2 this year, lower than the 6.6 rating they gave their firm last year, because of some issues and bugs related to the implementation of new customer relationship management (CRM) software.

“There are lots of bugs with the new CRM,” says a National Bank advisor in Atlantic Canada. “It doesn’t work well. [The IT department] did not test drive it before they brought it out.”

“It doesn’t work; it’s rotten; there are all kinds of bugs,” adds a colleague in Quebec. “There are many tools that are slower and make more work [for us] than what we had before.”

In contrast, advisors with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), both based in Toronto, gave their banks the two highest ratings in the category. However, advisors’ concerns related to outdated and unreliable technology have resulted in both banks’ ratings in the category dropping by 0.7 of a point year-over-year.

“Our systems are outdated and not user-friendly,” says an RBC advisor in Ontario. “Our investment calculators aren’t the best. The systems also go down quite often – at least a few times a week.”

“We are plagued by computer issues, programs that crash and systems that are always down,” says a CIBC advisor in Ontario.

“The [tech tools] are outdated,” adds a colleague in Alberta. “We’re on a DOS database for a few things.”

Scott Wambolt, senior vice president, national sales and service, with CIBC, says the bank is in the process of making several improvements to its systems.

“We’re making a very large investment in the system that advisors use, taking them off a DOS system and putting them on more of a system that you and I would be more accustomed to using,” he explains. “It’s a big system – a massive system – [so] we want to make sure we get it right.”

Some advisors surveyed for this year’s Report Card acknowledged that their banks were making improvements to their technology. However, some of this confidence was tempered by the fact that these updates were taking a long while, with many delays and systems still not fully integrated.

“[The bank] has done a lot of upgrading, [but] our technology is not the most reliable and there are manual processes that seem outdated,” says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based TD Wealth Financial Planning, a division of Toronto-Dominion Bank.

“[Our tech tools] keep changing, [but] none of our systems talk to one another,” adds a colleague in Alberta.

Meanwhile, advisors with Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia were glad to see that updates to their hardware and software are taking place.

“[Our technology] is getting better. [The bank] is putting a lot of money into upgrading our older systems. We have new computers now,” says a Scotiabank advisor in Ontario.

“About a year, year-and-a-half ago, we began replacing the branch technology,” says Alice Eastman, senior vice president, customer experience and distribution strategy, with Scotiabank. “We replaced all the computers, the monitors, the printers, [for] all our branch employees. We are in the process of upgrading the software and we’re just starting to roll that out.”

Still, many Scotiabank advisors said that the process to upgrade the technology has been slow and not without its warts.

“[The bank] is behind and we’re trying to catch up,” says a Scotiabank advisor in Atlantic Canada. “We’re getting all these new things all at once – and they’re not running smoothly. There are growing pains.”

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