As Canadians embrace technology and manage more and more of their finances via their digital devices, financial advisors surveyed for this year’s Report Card on Banks praised their banks’ efforts to deliver top-notch, client-facing digital offerings.

For example, advisors gave their banks a lofty overall average performance rating of 9.0 in the “online account access for clients” category, tied for third-highest in the Report Card. In addition, the category is one that matters greatly to advisors as they gave it an overall average importance rating of 9.1. The slight 0.1 of a point difference between the two ratings is telling, as it reveals that banks are meeting their advisors’ high expectations.

“[The bank] has taken a vision that the future is going to be digital, and [has] invested a lot of money there,” says an advisor in British Columbia with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), which received a survey high rating of 9.6 in this category.

“Innovation’s always been a part of our heritage, and we’ve been first to market with many technological innovations. Online banking is one of them,” says Scott Wambolt, senior vice president, national sales and service, with CIBC. “Our clients are telling us they want to do this; we’re asking exactly what they want online and we’re building it. As a result, we’re seeing not only increased client satisfaction, but industry recognition come our way.”

The reasons for advisors’ satisfaction with their banks’ client-facing websites and mobile applications vary, but ease of use and access often was cited as key factors. Advisors said these digital offerings are easy for all clients to use – even those who are not particularly well versed in technology.

“[The bank’s digital offerings]are easy to use and very accessible[ and always updated,” says a CIBC advisor in Atlantic Canada. “Even when I think [the tools] look and work wonderfully, [the bank] makes [them] even better. Moving between the CIBC Investor’s Edge [discount brokerage] platform and online banking is so seamless. Clients always comment on it.”

“[The digital offerings] are really easy to use and everything is there for clients – all their accounts are combined on one [platform],” adds an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia.

The convenience for clients of having one place online to access their various banking and investment accounts – as well as to perform transactions – is something advisors praised across the board.

“We merge everything into one profile,” says an advisor in Alberta with Toronto-based Toronto-Dominion Bank’s TD Wealth Financial Planning division. “Clients have personal, business and wealth management all in one [user] account. [Clients] can access and see things seamlessly [and] do transactions for any of these accounts all in one [user] profile with a click of a button. Everything is there.”

“You can do anything online,” adds an advisor in B.C. with Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada. “There’s a lot of access. It’s convenient. Very client-friendly. It’s pretty self-explanatory, too. It’s a slick online platform, and I advise all my clients to get onto it.”

Although advisors, on the whole, were overwhelmingly positive about their banks’ online account access for clients, advisors with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal (BMO) and Montreal-based National Bank of Canada see room for improvement. Specifically, advisors noted problems with the interface as well as client complaints about lack of functions – and glitches.

“[The online platform for clients] could be improved,” says a BMO advisor in Atlantic Canada. “The user interface needs to be revamped and easier to understand, with smoother graphics and things like that.”

“A few more functions for clients would be nice,” adds a colleague in Ontario. “For example, they can’t access certain portions of their accounts.”

Meanwhile, advisors with National Bank pointed to various glitches and problems with clients accessing their accounts online.

“There are some operating inefficiencies [that the IT department] still is trying to remedy with declining access and password resets,” says a National Bank advisor on the Prairies.

“[The digital platform] is very good, but it does have some glitches,” adds a colleague in Ontario. “Everybody, over the course of the year, is going to get locked out [of their accounts] at some point.”

In turn, the bank is working on fixing these issues to improve its online account access for clients in order to deliver the highest level of service available, says Joel Pomerleau, senior manager, digital channels, with National Bank.

“This is one of our highest priorities: to offer the highest satisfaction possible,” he says. “It’s a lot of small steps and big steps at the same time. It’s always at the top of our list.”

The focus, Pomerleau points out, is to allow customers to do more of their own smaller, simpler transactions themselves in order to give advisors more time to focus on the bigger picture.

“[Online access for clients] is about [allowing] advisors to have more time to create high-value interactions with customers,” he says. “We really see that our customers are demanding that. [Our philosophy] is about delivering a holistic service for customers.”

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