For many financial advisors surveyed for this year’s Dealers’ Report Card, their firm’s corporate culture is difficult to define and embrace because of geographical distance. But a few firms manage to overcome this obstacle by giving priority to strong communication and focusing on relationships with their advisors.

Many advisors pointed out that because their dealer’s branches are spread throughout the country – with head offices far away from the rural towns in which many advisors conduct their business – it’s difficult to find a shared culture within their firm.

“I’m not involved in the corporate culture because I’m based in rural Ontario. I think they could do more to engage with us,” says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based HollisWealth Inc.

Some advisors mentioned that the only real sense they have of a corporate culture comes from speaking with head office personnel on the phone. However, there are a few firms that employ strategies to circumvent these geographical barriers.

Advisors with Montreal-based Peak Financial Group, Toronto-based Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. and Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. rated their firm highly in the “firm’s corporate culture” category because their leaders work hard to communicate with advisors and promote access to upper management and support – instead of competition – among advisors.

Advisors with Peak, who rated their firm’s corporate culture at 8.8, laud the firm’s commitment to fostering communication among advisors and with management.

“There is openness and a lot of communication,” says a Peak advisor in Ontario.

Robert Frances, Peak’s chairman and CEO, says he relies on technology to foster relationships with advisors: “With technology today, everything is really close. We can do business all over Canada on a cellphone.”

Assante advisors, who also rated their firm’s corporate culture at 8.8, spoke of a firm that focuses on establishing a collegial and supportive atmosphere in which management is easily accessible.

“It’s a very inclusive [culture],” says an Assante advisor in Atlantic Canada. “I get along with [other advisors and] with the vice presidents.”

Similarly, Investors Group, which was rated at 8.7 in the corporate culture category, focuses on mentorship and camaraderie to bolster the work environment, says Todd Asman, senior vice president of products and financial planning with the firm.

“We have long had the philosophy that senior advisors need to put their arm around [newer] advisors, share their knowledge and experience, and bring [the newbies] along,” he says.

“Everyone is very supportive of one another. You don’t compete; you help each other out,” says an Investors Group advisor in Ontario.

The firm also strongly supports volunteering outside the office because “being supported to pursue your passions outside of work – as well as working hard and developing our corporate identity of helping clients – makes it easy to have a strong culture,” Asman points out.

“It’s a company with integrity, honesty and putting your clients’ needs first,” says an Investors Group advisor in British Columbia. “We had a food fundraiser recently. [The firm] is a firm of strong ethics.”

Advisors with Peak, Assante and Investors Group also consider corporate culture to be very important, giving the category an importance rating of 8.8, 9.0 and 9.0, respectively.

In contrast, advisors who gave their firms the lowest corporate culture performance ratings are not necessarily unhappy with their firm. Rather, they consider corporate culture to be far less important because their firm focuses on providing the independence advisors need – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Being independent, it’s up to you to do what you want. Corporate culture is not really a big factor,” says an advisor in B.C. with Markham, Ont.-based Worldsource Wealth Management Inc.

“[Management] leaves me alone,” adds an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Global Maxfin Investments Inc. “They’re very good. They only contact me when they need to.”

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