Four insurance agencies had a change in fortune in this year’s Insurance Advisors’ Report Card. Three agencies earned significantly improved ratings from their advisors in a variety of categories relative to last year. However, one firm’s ratings dropped significantly in several categories, with advisors particularly displeased with the state of the management/advisor relations at their firm.

Mississauga, Ont.-based RBC Life Insurance Co. received significantly higher ratings (of half a point or more) in 17 of the 32 categories in which it was rated by advisors, posting the most such increases compared with other firms in the survey. RBC Life’s IE rating, which is the average of the ratings it received in all the categories it was rated, and overall rating by advisors also increased by at least the same margin vs the previous year, to 8.4 from 7.9 and to 8.5 from 7.9, respectively.

RBC Life advisors gave their firm significantly improved ratings in various wealth-management support services, including “support for wills and estate planning,” “support for developing an investment plan for clients” and “support for insurance planning.”

“[Our support] is extremely strong,” says an RBC Life advisor in Ontario. “We have insurance-needs analysis, which covers everything.”

Much of RBC Life’s advisors’ satisfaction stems from what they perceive to be the firm’s renewed focus on life insurance. Advisors gave the firm a rating of 8.5 in the “firm’s strategic focus,” up from 8.0 last year; many advisors were pleased the firm sold its home and automobile insurance division to Aviva Canada Inc. earlier this year.

“We’re being strategic on how we can serve our clients,” says an RBC Life advisor in Atlantic Canada.

Woodbridge, Ont.-based Hub Financial Inc. received significantly higher scores in four of the 25 categories in which it was rated by its advisors. In conjunction with smaller increases to ratings in other categories, Hub’s IE rating rose to 8.6 from 8.1 year-over-year.

Hub advisors also cited continuous improvements in wealth-management support as a reason for their satisfaction, giving the firm a rating of 8.1 in the “support for developing a financial plan for clients” category, up from 6.7 last year and from 6.2 in 2014.

This rise coincides with the managing general agency’s (MGA) efforts to boost its financial planning services over the past two years, including offering advisors access to Toronto-based Razor Logic Systems Inc.’s financial planning software at a reduced rate.

“We’re starting to see some traction [in advisor adoption],” says Terri Botosan, Hub’s president.

Hub advisors also appreciate that the firm offers them access to an in-house team of financial planning specialists who are members of Hub’s Advanced Case and Estate Solutions Group.

“They offer different solutions and link me up with different people so we can create a plan together,” says a Hub advisor in Ontario. “It’s great for the stuff that stumps you.”

Hub also received a significantly improved ratings in “firm’s marketing support for advisor’s practice,” “MGA’s risk-management decisions” and “firm’s/MGA’s delivery on promises.”

Toronto-based PPI Advisory received significantly improved ratings in five of the 24 categories in which it was rated by its advisors. In turn, the firm’s IE rating rose to 9.1 from 8.6 year-over-year.

Advisors with PPI Advisory gave the MGA a rating of 8.9 in the marketing support category, up from 8.0 from last year. This year’s rating was the highest in the category among all firms. PPI Advisory offers in-house marketing support from a team of specialists. (See page 17.)

PPI Advisory advisors also gave their MGA a rating of 9.3 in the “quality of the firm’s product offering” category, up from 8.8 in 2015.

The MGA offers a full range of insurance products from manufacturers and works with those firms to create products designed specifically for PPI Advisory advisors.

“The products are really designed for what I do,” says a PPI Advisory advisor in Ontario.

Working with manufacturers to design products allows the firm to “open up new marketplaces and create a leadership position,” in the industry, says Jim Burton, PPI Advisory’s chairman and CEO.

Meanwhile, Waterloo, Ont.-based Sun Life Financial (Canada) Inc. received significantly lower ratings in 12 of the 33 categories in which it was rated by its advisors. In fact, ratings for three of those 12 categories – “firm’s receptiveness to advisor feedback,” firm’s delivery on promises and “firm’s corporate culture” – declined significantly for the second year in a row.

“They try to treat us too much like employees and they don’t foster an entrepreneurial spirit,” says a Sun Life advisor in Ontario.

Adds a colleague in the same province: “They don’t want to hear anything from you unless it’s coming from your manager.”

However, Vicken Kazazian, senior vice president and chief operating officer, individual insurance and wealth, with Sun Life, says the firm has strong processes in place to encourage feedback, including regular advisor council meetings and constant communication.

“We are doing more than we have ever done in the past,” Kazazian says, adding that the volume of change in the insurance industry may be one of the reasons why advisors may be feeling disconnected from head office or otherwise overwhelmed.

“That’s probably one of the opportunities for us: how to get all this information out,” he adds. “There’s a lot coming, and much more frequently.”

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