There is an interesting dichotomy among the financial advisors surveyed for this year’s Report Card on Banks and Credit Unions relating to the technology that their firms provide.

On the one hand, advisors felt that the technology that deposit-taking institutions make available for advisors’ daily usage is just not up to par. (See story above.) On the other hand, advisors said, the technology their firms provide to clients for checking their investment accounts and conducting daily banking is current, easy to use and has many innovative features.

Advisors’ satisfaction with this technology is evident in the 8.9 overall average performance rating they provided for the “online account access for clients” category. Furthermore, the slight difference between the overall average performance rating and the overall average importance rating (9.1) resulted in one of the smallest “satisfaction gaps” in the survey. This indicates that banks and credit unions are meeting their advisors’ expectations and that advisors are, on the whole, impressed with their firms’ offerings.

Integration is key

Advisors did not hesitate to share why they felt this way. Many praised their firms’ online platforms, which are easy for clients of any age to access, intuitive to use and have significant integration of investment and banking accounts.

“Clients are very, very pleased,” says an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). “[It’s] very simple to log in and transfer money to and from their banking and investment accounts.”

“There are so many ways of accessing [clients accounts] – through mobile and online,” says an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Toronto-based Bank of Montreal. “You can do so much through the investment account, and it’s linked to banking.”

In fact, many advisors also commended their firms for being on top of their game by being able to develop innovative mobile banking applications and other mobile functionality for clients.

“The [bank] just launched a new iPad app that’s really good, and clients love it. It’s the best I’ve ever seen,” says an advisor in Ontario with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada. “[The bank] is reaching out to the younger generation through technology.”

“[Our clients’ online platform is] easy to access and market-leading. We were the first to come out with cheque imaging – and the mobile banking app is fantastic,” adds an advisor in the same province with St. Catharines, Ont.-based Meridian Credit Union.

Some firms even have gone above and beyond such measures to incorporate additional tools for clients – and advisors praised these firms highly for doing so. For example, advisors with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) gave their bank the highest rating in the category, at 9.7, for incorporating more high-end functions for clients.

“You can see financial planning tools, and the graphs illustrating cash flow are great,” says a CIBC advisor in Alberta.

Adds a colleague in Ontario: “They just revamped the website, [and] there are more pie graphs.”

Larry Tomei, senior vice president, national sales and service, retail and business banking, with CIBC, says the bank recently made upgrades to its clients’ online accounts to include personal financial-management tools such as a net worth calculator: “It gives [clients] a really great picture of their finances. Having good tools is very, very important for providing great advice.”

RBC advisors also rated their bank highly in the category, at 9.6, for the unique features available to clients who want to access their accounts online.

“RBC Online is very good, easy to navigate and quick to get to what you want to see,” says an RBC advisor in Ontario. “[The] information on investment research is very good.”

Adding tools for clients

Specifically, RBC’s online platform has links to investment advice articles and an alert system that clients can sign up for to receive notices about their bank accounts and investments. Furthermore, the bank also added a finance tracker, says Michael Walker, vice president and head of branch investments with RBC.

“[The platform] takes all the info from [clients’] spending habits and really starts to map that out,” he says. “So, clients understand, from a budgeting perspective, where they’re spending money and ways to save money.”

Although advisors, on the whole, were fairly pleased with their firms’ online account access for clients, some said their firms’ platforms have room for improvement. In particular, Meridian advisors, who still rated their firm highly in the category at 8.7, said their credit union’s online access for clients is missing some relevant information.

“The info provided in the platform could be more detailed and comprehensive, such as showing history and rates of return,” says a Meridian advisor in Ontario.

“It’s a little clunky and not as detailed as it should be,” adds a colleague in the same province. “It gives us a high-level overview, but limited ability to drill down.”

Bill Whyte, senior vice president and chief of member services with Meridian in Toronto, says the credit union is aware of its advisors’ concerns and is working with Vancouver-based Credential Financial Inc., which provides dealer services to partner credit unions, to provide more investment details to clients via Meridian’s online platform.

“That’s why we listen to our advisors and what our members are telling us what they’re looking for,” he says, “so we can continue to make [the online platform] more robust and more complete.”IE

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