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As the financial services industry evolves, firms must ensure that both veteran and rookie advisors receive sufficient training.

As revealed in Investment Executive‘s (IE) 2019 Report Card series, respondents across most segments were positive about the “ongoing training” category. In all but the retail bank space, the performance rating rose or stayed the same, leading to a higher collective average of 7.9 (up from 7.7 in 2018).

“The quality has ramped up significantly because they’ve dedicated more staff and resources to it,” says an advisor in Ontario with Montreal-based brokerage National Bank Financial Inc.

“There’s so much [that] you can learn about anything and everything. But it’s also not pushy,” says an advisor with Windsor, Ont.-based dealer Sterling Mutuals Inc.

The importance rating of the category to advisors’ businesses was also up slightly, to 8.4 from 8.3 a year ago. The dealer space saw the lowest importance rating but also the largest year-over-year rating increase, rising by 0.5 to 7.9.

Since both the importance and the performance averages rose for the training category, the industry as a whole still hasn’t closed the satisfaction gap (the amount by which a category’s importance exceeds its performance). While that gap shrank 0.1 compared with a year ago, some advisors said firms aren’t providing in-depth, streamlined and accessible training.

One retail bank advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said they’d like “more of a structured and detailed support [system] for accreditation, and more of a personal touch.”

On the opposite end, an advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based bank-owned brokerage TD Wealth Private Investment Advice lauded the firm’s “rollout of behavioural finance software” and training, and specifically the “streamlined processes” that came along with them.

Respondents also said the relevance of training materials could be improved to reflect the needs of advisors in different regions, as well as of both veteran and newer advisors.

“I would like easier access to training for all employees. Having training [that’s] regionally focused would also help prevent miscommunication nationally,” says an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Toronto-based dealer Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd.

“I think what’s offered to the corporate office isn’t the same as what’s been offered to the independent offices, but it’s come together a little over the years,” says an advisor in the Prairies with Lévis, Que.-based dealer Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network.

As for language diversity, some firms were lauded for offering bilingual resources. Others, however, were encouraged to find “a healthy balance” rather than simply translating materials from training events.

While several advisors from Markham, Ont.-based dealer Worldsource Wealth Management Inc. said it’s difficult for young people to enter the industry and that training should be focused on new recruits, others disagreed.

“As an established advisor, [training] really drops. The problem is [the firm] focuses so much on the newer recruits. When you are established, you have to go look for it to get trained on something new,” says an advisor in Ontario with London, Ont.-based insurance agency Freedom 55 Financial.

Abbie MacMillan, vice president of Freedom 55, tells IE that various teams work with advisors to ensure they’re “trained and educated” – such as regional compliance consultants who address regulatory changes as they occur, for example.

Still, advisors recognized the value of mentoring: “We continue to need to bring new blood into this business and train them effectively. Mentoring is so vital. I don’t see enough of it going on,” says another Freedom 55 advisor in Ontario.

A portion of advisors across all industry segments criticized their companies for leaving ongoing training to the individual advisor, regardless of tenure. This was most often due to respondents working more independently (e.g., operating through a dealer firm).

“I’m lucky to have an extended team that helps me, but Worldsource doesn’t really provide much [ongoing training]. We are independent, so it’s kind of up to us,” says a Worldsource advisor in Ontario.

Worldsource executives tell IE that the firm’s paid portal service includes articles, webinars and training resources, and that there are quarterly conference calls and annual regional events.

“Non-existent [training] for Desjardins,” says one of the firm’s advisors in the Prairies. “The reason why I often consider changing [firms] is because they don’t offer anything, at all. And things change all the time in this industry.”

Other respondents from Desjardins conceded that dealer advisors’ various business models can make it hard to design resources. The firm’s executives say a digital learning portal was launched in the last 12 months, and “elite advisors” can access seminars and experts on tax, estate and financial planning.

Another frequent comment across the Report Card series was that some of the ongoing training offered was too firm- or product-based, rather than reflecting what advisors want to learn.

An advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based bank-owned brokerage RBC Dominion Securities Inc. (RBC) says, “I’d rather pay for my own education so I can get a non-RBC bias, which I think is better for my clients and my own development.”

Conversely, an advisor in Alberta with Toronto-based managing general agency PPI Management Inc., which led in the training category in the 2019 Insurance Advisors’ Report Card, was happy with the firm’s offering, saying, “They have a continuous stream of education that actually teaches more than product.”

Advisors also asked for more in- person and one-on-one training. Despite their desire for updated back-office and client-facing technology – a common request across the Report Card series in recent years – it seems online webinars and modules aren’t always enough.

One advisor with Montreal-based dealer Peak Financial Group liked that their firm “also does face-to-face [training],” while an advisor with Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. says, “They should have a person in the regional office and ongoing training sessions, as well as individual training.” (Investors Group executives tell IE that the firm offers industry courses at no charge, financial support for advisors seeking designations and up to 12 in-branch education days per year.)

This sentiment held true at the banks. “One thing I wish they would bring back is more in-person training,” says a retail bank advisor in Ontario with Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia. “We have a whole library if we’re interested in something [but] it’s all online.”

Jamie Auerbach, a vice president at Scotiabank, tells IE that classroom sessions on certain topics and in-branch coaches exist.