Given the ever-changing nature of the investment industry and regulatory landscape, even seasoned financial advisors need avenues through which to enhance their knowledge and skills. But there’s little consensus among advisors surveyed for this year’s Dealers’ Report Card about what they want from their firms in “ongoing training.”

Specifically, advisors were split on several fronts: some advisors disputed the usefulness of webinars over in-person seminars, even as others expressed their preference for web-based learning platforms; some advisors expect their dealers to provide broader training, while other advisors said they’d rather rely on mutual fund companies; and for some advisors, having access to ongoing training is considered important, while others don’t care much about it.

Not surprising, the firms that were praised the most for the category by their advisors offer just the right mix of online courses and in-person training – tailored to different levels of experience and not solely structured around the sale of internal products – to make all advisors happy.

Advisors with Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. gave their firm the highest performance rating in ongoing training, at 9.1, because the firm’s training covers a lot of ground, with webinars and hands-on training in a range of issues.

“If you want to know something, there are a ton of avenues to go through,” says an Investors Group advisor in British Columbia. “There is more information than anyone could get through in a lifetime and a very broad amount of topics we can learn about.”

Specifically, Investors Group advisors raved about frequent opportunities to learn from specialists through Link and Learn online professional-development courses and during in-class sessions.

Todd Asman, senior vice president of products and financial planning with Investors Group, says offering educational resources that reflect changing realities has always been a priority for the firm.

“Most of our training centres around a real-life scenario that you’ll encounter, and then [we] bring in all the different expertise,” he says.

Similarly, advisors with Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities spoke highly of the quality of their training, rating it at 8.1, up from 7.7 in 2015. Whether training is accessible online or through events organized by the parent firm’s insurance arm, many advisors said there’s plenty to choose from.

“[The training is] regular and consistent, and it’s not all about [the firm’s] products,” says a Manulife Securities advisor in Ontario.

A colleague in the same province adds that the parent firm “has been doing a fair bit on [preparing for CRM2].”

Meanwhile, another Manulife Securities advisor in Ontario praised the firm’s ability to provide thorough courses via the web: “[There are] a lot of online tools, and [the training] is quite extraordinary. It’s quite elaborate.”

In contrast, advisors who gave their firms among the lowest performance ratings in the category complained that their dealer is unable to provide a full slate of training opportunities. These advisors said their firm should offer more training in practice management and business-building, more in-class sessions and more material suited to different skill sets.

For example, advisors with Mississauga, Ont.-based Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC) rated their firm’s ongoing training at 7.5, much lower than the 8.1 given in 2015, for designing too many courses centred on in-house products and putting too much emphasis on webinars.

“We need more hands-on stuff rather than just webinars,” says an IPC advisor in B.C. “We need people to come in or [we should] get sent [to seminars] to learn things.”

IPC recently set up two training rooms for advisors and their staff at the firm’s new head office in Mississauga to address the challenges of holding in-person sessions.

“It’s hard to get people in one place for specified training, especially [for] technology and compliance,” says Chris Reynolds, IPC’s president and CEO. “This is where we certainly rely on online training that people can do at their own pace. [The older] generation is used to the classroom-type training, so getting accustomed to online modules does take some time.”

Advisors with Lévis, Que.-based Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network rated their firm’s ongoing training at 7.1. Specifically, there’s confusion among Desjardins advisors about what’s available. While some said there’s plenty of training material, others believe there’s not enough training related to practice management or how to use technology tools – and that what’s provided is better suited to newer advisors rather than experienced ones.

“There is some training once you start out. But after that first year, there isn’t much,” says a Desjardins advisor in Ontario.

However, Shawn Smith, vice president of distribution, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, with Desjardins, says that this confusion among advisors could be because the firm leaves experienced advisors to figure out what they need in terms of training.

“As an advisor advances, [training] becomes less directive and more consultative – and at their option,” he says. “So, if they’re not calling into those [conference] calls and if they’re not attending those [webinar presentations], then they’re going to be very misinformed as to what’s available to them because we’re not mandating it.”

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