Considering the constant stream of changes and developments taking place on the regulatory landscape, staying compliant is not easy for financial advisors at banks and credit unions. But deposit-taking institutions are making it easier for their advisors to stay on top of their compliance-responsibilities through proactive communication and support

The results of Investment Executive‘s 2015 Report Card on Banks and Credit Unions revealed that advisors generally are pleased with the support they’re getting from their firms’ compliance department, as they gave their firms an overall average performance rating of 9.0 in the advisor’s relationship with the compliance department category.

Advisors indicated that even though dealing with their compliance department can be frustrating at times, they’re grateful for the help they receive from these support staff for ensuring advisors are meeting all of their regulatory requirements.

They’re very supportive and make sure we follow guidelines and procedures, says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Everyone hates compliance in this industry, says an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Toronto-based TD Canada Trust. But, [compliance staff] do what they’re supposed to do.

In particular, many advisors commended their firms’ compliance departments for being proactive in helping advisors prepare for looming regulatory changes. This has been particularly helpful amid the comprehensive disclosure requirements being imposed under the second phase of the client relationship model (CRM2).

We’ve been going through a lot of CRM2 [material], says an advisor in Ontario with St. Catharines, Ont.-based Meridian Credit Union. We’re well prepared.

Any time changes come up, we get a ton of emails and internal training on it, says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal (BMO).

Ongoing compliance education and training are critical, given the changes advisors are facing under CRM2, says Bill Whyte, senior vice president and chief of member services with Meridian.

In turn, Meridian ensures its advisors are informed about and prepared for such changes through regular meetings, email updates and interactive online portals, he says: They’re getting a lot of timely and effective information.

In addition to being informed about the regulatory changes taking place, many advisors also indicated that their compliance departments have adopted a more collaborative approach in recent years, working closely with advisors to help them understand their compliance responsibilities.

They’re great; you can actually talk to them if you have a question before you do something, says a BMO advisor in British Columbia. It’s better than getting your knuckles rapped later. You need that support.

One bank that has placed a particular emphasis on this type of collaborative approach is Torontobased Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), says Larry Tomei, senior vice president, national sales and service, retail and business banking, with CIBC. We believe [that] to be able to provide the best advice, you also have to have the best regulatory policy, guidelines and support, he says. So, we surround our teams with great compliance partners and I want to stress that it really is a partnership.

CIBC advisors lauded this approach, giving their bank’s compliance department the highest rating in the Report Card, at 9.5, up from 8.7 last year.

They’re a fantastic support system, says a CIBC advisor on the Prairies.

Similarly, Meridian advisors said they appreciate the accessibility of their compliance department.

Because we’re a smaller institution, I can just call my compliance officer if I have issues and he’ll be flexible if he can, says a Meridian advisor in Ontario.

Meanwhile, advisors with some other firms say they would very much like their compliance department to adopt a more approachable manner. For example, advisors with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada, who gave that bank the lowest score in the category, at 8.4, said there is room for improvement.

Our relationship could be more collaborative, says a National Bank advisor on the Prairies. We could work together better.

Other National Bank advisors suggested that compliance staff also could take steps to be more proactive in their efforts.

They’re always reacting to changes rather than being proactive about training us to prepare for those changes, says a National Bank advisor in Ontario.

Contrary to this feedback, says Annamaria Testani, vice president of national sales with National Bank, the bank works hard at educating its advisors regarding their compliance responsibilities and regulatory changes through digital and printed materials, as well as coaching within branches.

National Bank provides its advisors with the information they need in phases to avoid bombarding them with too much at once particularly for regulatory developments that have a longer time frame, says Testani: We take education and we break it down into bite-sized parts because, at the end of the day, I want retention [of information] to be high.

© 2015 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.