Modern office building close up in sunlight

While it may be overhyped, the Great Resignation is no figment of the imagination.

Just ask the RBC and TD employees who recently received pay raises in a competitive labour market and amid rising inflation (TD reportedly cited pandemic challenges, not employee retention, as a reason for the increase).

Should financial firms also be strategizing for a potential talent exodus among the entrepreneurial advisor set?

Anecdotally, advisors haven’t made a lot of moves over the last couple of years, said Steve Galimi, vice-president, strategy and performance, National Bank Financial — Wealth Management. But that may change as the pandemic moves into the rearview mirror.

The pandemic delayed advisor moves, Galimi said, noting that the firm had “lots of quality prospects on the go” at that time. Now, experienced advisors are again starting to consider their options a bit more, he said.

But appealing to advisors is a perennial concern.

“Advisors share commissions with the firm, so they want bang for their buck,” Galimi said. “They need support on the technology side, they want better wealth management support.”

Ryan McNally, senior vice-president, wealth advice distribution, TD Wealth, said most advisors seek to grow their businesses, and want support for clients and flexibility to run their practices as they wish. “It’s about creating an environment for growth and a support model around growth that is better than anywhere else,” he said.

Geoff Newton, the newly minted co-head of BMO Private Wealth, said he respected an advisor’s decision to switch firms or go independent during the pandemic, which arrived at a particularly challenging period as the firm integrated its private wealth and private banking businesses. At the same time, the firm wants to ensure advisors understand its value proposition.

“The integration phase of Private Wealth is now behind us [and] the execution phase is ahead of us,” Newton said. “We can see the momentum that’s building.”

Can I get a little support here?

Comprehensive advice is the name of the game in wealth management, so providing planning support is top of mind for firms.

“We’ve been working hard on that,” Galimi said, referring specifically to financial planning. “We’ve hired many financial planners across the country to give better support to our advisors.”

Likewise, TD is “absolutely focused” on growing its roster of planners nationally, McNally said. “We’re actively recruiting, and we’re really excited about […] what we can offer those individuals.”

It starts with culture, he said. While top financial professionals are motivated by compensation, products and tools, “they’re fundamentally looking for a culture in which they can thrive.”

McNally’s daily mantra reflects, at least in part, the firm’s culture: If you’re in front of our clients, you know what’s best. “We are promoting that to our recruits,” he said. At TD, “You will be able to grow faster than anywhere else because you will have a voice in the direction of this business.”

McNally also noted firm offerings in the form of quality onboarding, training and practice management support.

Some independent firms have touted their success at poaching from bigger players, but at the banks, advisors are backed, of course, by banking power.

Advisors “will have support and engagement with business banking, the retail bank and with our capital markets colleagues,” McNally said — access that allows them to “engage on all the topics” clients care about, not just investments. That means ensuring your busy business-owner client benefits from tax and estate planning and risk planning, for example.

Referring to BMO’s integration of private wealth and private banking, Newton said clients were “looking for that family office approach.” Demand from affluent families was fast-forwarded “probably a decade or more with Covid,” he said, as clients centralized their assets. “Consolidation, simplification was a big theme.”

The firm plans to differentiate on team structure, with a “much deeper investment in the firm’s funding of new roles,” Newton said — professionals in financial, tax and estate planning. Further, a private banker will be added to each team, so clients have complete access to services.

A record tech spend for a systems redesign in 2023 is also on tap.

“It’s felt as if our business has been starved to some extent from a technology spend,” Newton said. With the spending allocation, “the greater enterprise has stepped up in a meaningful way.”