question marks / Canan turan

Maintaining effective communication is essential in upholding advisor satisfaction.

In the 2024 Brokerage Report Card, the average performance and importance ratings for “effectiveness in keeping advisors informed” remained unchanged from a year ago, at 8.6 and 8.8 out of 10. However, the average rating for “receptiveness to advisor feedback” dropped to 8.3 from 8.6, even as this category remained one of the 10 most important categories to advisors.

Six firms saw their rating change significantly — by half a point or more — in one or both firm communication categories.

Three of those firms were Odlum Brown Ltd., BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. and TD Wealth Private Investment Advice. They were also the three lowest-rated firms for advisor communication in 2024, tying at 7.7 for keeping advisors informed (compared with 8.4, 8.3 and 6.8, respectively, in 2023). Further, all three were rated below 7.0 for feedback receptiveness this year.

Advisors with Odlum Brown felt their views were solicited but not truly heard. One advisor said the firm provides updates and honest feedback, but others sought greater transparency from leaders.

Regarding receptiveness to advisor feedback, another Odlum Brown advisor suggested their firm improve on “listening to advisors and working together for bigger decisions.” However, a third advisor said, “They’re very good [even if] they don’t always agree with me.”

Warren Beach, chief strategy and innovation officer with Odlum Brown, said the firm recently surveyed its advisors to gauge whether services could improve. The response rate was strong, he said.

Still, determining where improvements should be made can be difficult, said Debra Doucette, president and CEO of Odlum Brown. The firm asks advisors, “What can we do that will have the broadest reach?” she said. “We’re not able to solve everyone’s problem the way they want, but we’ve made such a big effort this year.”

Sentiment also was mixed among Nesbitt Burns advisors. Several advisors said the brokerage sends emails and conducts regular advisor calls. But, said a Nesbitt Burns advisor in Ontario, the quality of the messages “depends on who’s doing the communicat[ing]. As a group they’re not particularly strong, [or] proactive.”

Regarding the solicitation of advisor feedback, a Nesbitt Burns advisor in Ontario said, “This has been a declining area. They ask for [feedback] but nothing comes of it. I don’t even try anymore.”

A Nesbitt Burns advisor in Alberta, however, admitted: “It’s up to us to pay attention and a lot of us don’t.”

“Leaders engage with advisors through national communications, events, market visits [and] advisory committees,” plus calls, emails and 1:1 meetings, a Nesbitt Burns spokesperson said in an email.

Many advisors with TD Wealth PIA expressed similar views. One TD Wealth PIA advisor in B.C. said, “They’ve gotten feedback for years. [But] they’ve got to do whatever the [parent] bank wants for them.”

Even so, TD Wealth PIA improved on its 2023 rating for keeping advisors informed. While several advisors noted that messages could have been more organized and regionally targeted, they appreciated that the messages arrived regularly and frequently.

Getting firsthand accounts of advisors’ views and “pain points” is important, said Ryan McNally, senior vice-president of wealth advice distribution with TD Wealth.

Regional management teams deliver advisor feedback to firm leaders and are also responsible for “providing context [to advisors] on priorities from senior leadership,” he said. TD also is encouraging more advisor involvement in its strategic planning councils, which help set firmwide priorities. McNally added that TD conducts its own annual internal survey, and senior managers regularly tour advisor offices.

The other three firms with significant year-over-year rating changes in the communication categories were CG Wealth Management, Edward Jones and ScotiaMcLeod Inc.

Edward Jones saw an uptick in its results compared with 2023, but CG Wealth and ScotiaMcLeod both received criticism for receptiveness to feedback. CG Wealth and ScotiaMcLeod were rated 8.1 and 7.9, respectively, in the receptiveness category, down from 9.1 and 8.4 a year ago.

A CG Wealth advisor in Alberta said they felt the firm didn’t communicate its plans well, while several others with CG Wealth suggested the views of higher-producing advisors were valued most by executives.

Still, a CG Wealth advisor in B.C. said receptiveness to feedback can vary depending on who you speak with.

“We’re taking lots of steps to communicate even more [and there’s] a concerted effort to be in the branches,” said Tim Evans, CG Wealth’s chief operating officer, Canada. Executives travel to meet with advisors, host lunches, offer Zoom calls and send messages nationally that discuss developments in all branches.

Hearing criticism from all advisors, including those who have “tough years,” is important in helping the firm improve, added Matt Cicci, head of the private client group with CG Wealth.

Advisors at ScotiaMcLeod, which also convenes boards and committees, also questioned whether their feedback is considered.

One of the brokerage’s advisors in Ontario said the advisory boards work together and “know what’s important when it comes to boots on the ground,” but several others suggested no tangible changes have been made.

ScotiaMcLeod’s senior vice-president and head, Todd Barnes, called two-way communication “critical,” adding, “I personally spend a lot of time thinking about this.” Alongside branch-based, regional and national messaging, the firm has a quarterly newsletter and a call that Barnes hosts. There are two advisory boards — one for advisors and one for support staff.

Generally, advisors appreciated when a firm was open to changing direction in response to advisor feedback. Said one Edward Jones advisor in the Prairies: “[There’s a] healthy environment to disagree and consider options.”

This article appears in the June issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.