The financial advisors surveyed for Investment Executive‘s 2015 Report Card on Banks and Credit Unions said they expect more from their firms regarding wealth-management support services. Specifically, they want access to knowledgeable tax and wills and estates specialists.

The results of this year’s Report Card demonstrate that deposit-taking institutions are failing to meet their advisors’ expectations in such wealth management-related categories as support for tax planning and support for wills and estate planning. These two categories have the third-and fourth-highest (the latter in a tie) satisfaction gaps the difference between the overall average performance rating and the overall average importance rating respectively, among the 32 categories in the Report Card.

These satisfaction gaps stem largely from advisors facing a growing need to help their aging clientele, who often have questions relating to estate and tax planning issues.

For the most part, advisors at the deposit-taking institutions don’t have the expertise to handle such questions themselves. Says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia: Especially with the baby boomers, [wills and estate planning] is of great importance. And a lot of [advisors] don’t have the knowledge in that field.

Without that knowledge, advisors are dependent upon their firms’ assistance to help them with clients’ increasing wealth-management needs. And one of the most important aspects for advisors especially one related to a bank’s or credit union’s support for wills and estate planning is that resources be readily available.

For example, although advisors with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada have access to a team to help them with clients’ wills and estates needs, advisors said those specialists are stretched way too thin. As a result, the advisors gave their firm one of the lowest ratings in the category, at 7.5.

They’re just [now] rolling out [this support service] to Western Canada, and there’s not a lot of support for our province. The people are really good, but there are only two of them, says a National Bank advisor on the Prairies. This is something we need to be really good at, but we’re just OK.

In turn, National Bank has focused on wills and estate planning this past year and recently rolled out support in that area. For a fee of $375 (plus taxes), clients will have access to product specialists who can help with the gathering of important documents, the consolidation of assets, legal advice, cancelling accounts and even psychological support. If [we] don’t do [wills and estate planning support] well, we’re not continuing on our brand, says Annamaria Testani, vice president of national sales. It’s important. We definitely have to fill that gap.

Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) received a relatively high rating of 8.2 for its support for wills and estates planning despite a drop from 8.7 in last year’s Report Card. For the most part, RBC advisors appreciated the support the firm offers and the direct contact that higher networth clients have to specialists.

A client’s father passed away, and I didn’t realize the depth of what our estate services specialists could do for her, says an RBC advisor in Ontario. From the introduction [of the specialists] to how they presented everything to the client, even the emotional support, I was quite amazed.

The support doesn’t end there. Advisors who have questions for their affluent clients can access a centralized team of tax, legal and financial planning specialists over the phone, says Michael Walker, vice president and head of branch investments with RBC.

Yet, for some RBC advisors, accessing these services can be difficult. Says an RBC advisor in Ontario: There’s too much red tape and [too many] hurdles.

Meanwhile, advisors who were happiest with the support from their banks and credit unions for wills and estate planning appreciate when knowledgeable support specialists are available to meet in person with advisors and clients. That’s especially the case for Scotiabank advisors, who gave their firm the highest rating in the category, at 8.7.

We have two guys we refer clients to, and they even come up here from Victoria to help our older clients who aren’t able to travel, says a Scotiabank advisor in British Columbia.

When it comes to support for tax planning, advisors’ needs are quite similar. In fact, many advisors pointed out that they need to be able to refer clients with complex tax needs. Thus, not having access to such specialists often results in a lower rating for a firm.

For example, advisors with St. Catharines, Ont.-based Meridian Credit Union, who gave their firm one of the lowest ratings in the category, at 7.0, said their firm offers tax planning support in the form of seminars and reference tools. But without expert staff on hand to help with complex tax situations, advisors find themselves looking elsewhere for help.

There’s only one estate and trust specialist and one insurance specialist, says a Meridian advisor in Ontario. Give us more of them, and throw a tax specialist in there.

Much like for wills and estate planning, the advisors happiest with their tax planning support appreciated teams that are easily accessible and ready to answer a question or to meet with clients in a timely fashion.

I don’t have to call them very often, but there’s a quick turnaround time when I do, says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), which had the highest rating in the support for tax planning category, at 8.9, up from 7.8 in last year’s survey.

CIBC offers significant wealth-management resources to its branch-level advisors, says Larry Tomei, CIBC’s senior vice president, national sales and service, retail and business banking, including a call centre and access to experts. Providing good financial planning advice is part of sales and service, he says. So, we want to make sure this team is constantly being upgraded in terms of its capability and what it provides to our clients.

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