For most of the financial advisors surveyed for this year’s Dealers’ Report Card, the technology tools provided by their firms leave much to be desired. But the advisors who did report a higher level of satisfaction with their firms’ technology did so because their dealers have focused on introducing new tools.
In fact, the advisors who were most satisfied with their firm’s desktop platforms also raved about the access their firms have begun to provide for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs, which suggests that the two strategies go hand in hand for firms’ overall success in the technology department. This pattern echoes the trend found in the 2011 Brokerage Report Card.
Exemplifying this trend is Mississauga, Ont.-based PFSL Investments Canada Ltd. Says a PFSL advisor in Ontario: “In terms of technology, we are leading the pack. It blows my mind. I can do business anywhere with my smartphone. It makes my life easier.”
In the past year, PFSL has moved from a Windows-based platform to a Web-based one that allows for real-time processing online. The strategy includes a new client portal, which facilitates the completion of electronic insurance applications, and a new client relationship management program. What makes the technology most appealing is that advisors can access clients’ information from anywhere.
Says Jeff Dumanski, president and chief marketing officer of PFSL: “The ability to go home, take the application and not [have to] worry about bringing it back to the office to process is remarkable.”
Toronto-based DundeeWealth Inc. also has been proactive regarding its technology. In the past year, the firm has launched Fast Apps (an automated account opening system), as well as marketing-related technology tools, including myCampaign (a database of marketing support) and myCatalyst (email-enabled video campaign software).
“They’re really good and very up to date,” says a DundeeWealth advisor in British Columbia. “There’s aggressive rollout of new [technology] products.”
As a result, DundeeWealth’s rating in the “technology tools and advisor desktop” category improved to 8.3 this year from 7.9 in last year’s survey. The firm also received the third-highest rating in the “support for mobile technology and the mobile advisor” category, largely because of a new initiative through which the firm provides iPads for $50 a month.
“We want our advisors using iPads,” says Richard McIntyre, the firm’s executive vice president and head of retail, “so they can be providing services to their clients in the most efficient manner.”
Another firm that has reaped the benefits of introducing new technology is Lévis, Que.-based Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network, the only firm in the survey that saw its rating in the tech tools/desktop category increase by more than half a point, to 8.0 from 7.3.
In June 2009, Desjardins introduced a new Web-based CRM system that replaced a version that had been in use since 2000; it offers improved mobility, includes updated product information and integrates clients’ portfolios. Earlier this year, that system was connected to the back office.
“It’s more user-friendly and advisors see a lot of benefits,” says Stéphane Dallaire, Desjardins’ director of technical support. “Overall, the reaction has been good.”
However, the picture isn’t as rosy for four dealers: Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Global Maxfin Investments Inc. , Montreal-based Peak Financial Group, Toronto-based Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. and Calgary-based Portfolio Strategies Corp. These firms saw their ratings in the tech tools/desktop category decline by half a point or more this year.
Global Maxfin not only received the lowest rating in the category, at 5.7, it also suffered the most precipitous decline, down from 7.0 last year. This is largely a result of an unpopular change in its back-office software: advisors with its Professional Investment Services (Canada) Inc. subsidiary had to switch to Winfund Software Corp.’s platform from Univeris Corp.’s platform in October 2010.
“I don’t mind paying for it,” says a Global Maxfin advisor with PIS in Manitoba. “But when it’s not as good as what I’m used to, then I don’t see the value of it.”
Meanwhile, advisors with Assante — which saw its technology rating drop to 5.9 from an already low 6.6 last year — have lost patience after being promised a new CRM system for years.
“For the past three years, they’ve been saying they’ll introduce a new product,” says an Assante advisor in Alberta. “What we have now is not technologically competent.”
Steve Donald, Assante’s presi-dent and CEO, says the firm’s integrated desktop and CRM system will be completed by the third quarter: “We’ve had tremendous progress in the past year; we’ve cleared some major hurdles.” IE