During another year of pandemic and economic upheaval, brokerage firms that provided leadership stability and freedom in product selection received top marks from advisors.
Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc.was the top-rated firm in Investment Executive’s (IE) 2022 Brokerage Report Card. Although its IE rating fell to 9.5 from 9.8 a year ago, the firm retained the top spot for the third straight year. (The IE rating is the average of a firm’s category ratings.)
“Just when I think that [leadership] is going to slow down, they speed up,” one Wellington-Altus advisor said. “There’s no complacency.”
Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management (Canada) received the second-highest IE rating of 9.1, up from 8.6 a year ago. There, advisors also touted a supportive atmosphere.
One of Canaccord’s advisors in Ontario said there was a “winning culture,” leading to entrepreneurial advisors having the “financial ability to reinvest in the business. [The firm is] really focused on smart growth.”
Wellington-Altus and Canaccord also received their highest ratings in the categories that advisors across the Report Card deemed most important.
“Freedom to make objective product choices” was rated 9.9 for both firms, above the 9.7 Report Card-wide average. That category was also once again rated the most important to advisors’ businesses across the Report Card (9.8, unchanged from 2021).
Both firms also were rated above-average for performance in the second-most important category to advisors, “leadership stability.” Canaccord was rated 9.6, up significantly (defined as by 0.5 or more) from 9.1 in 2021, and Wellington-Altus was rated 9.9, unchanged from 2021.
The 14 firms included in the Report Card posted similar overall advisor satisfaction results to 2021.
The average IE rating was 8.6, unchanged from the 2021 Report Card, and 11 firms saw their IE rating change by less than half a point compared with a year ago.
Canaccord and BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. were the only two firms to see their IE ratings increase significantly compared with 2021. These two firms also accounted for 61% of the 79 significant category rating increases this year (see box, below).
Nesbitt’s IE rating rose to 8.6 from 6.6 a year earlier. Its results improved significantly in 28 out of 30 categories, representing a positive turnaround after the brokerage was rated lowest among the 14 firms in 2021.
“[There’s] freedom to be an entrepreneur. We’ve got a great culture. [In] the past Report Cards, we’ve been at the bottom, but the recent changes have brought us back,” said a Nesbitt advisor in Ontario.
“The last 18 months, there’s been a renewed focus on the advisors,” said a Nesbitt advisor in B.C.
In an email, the bank-owned brokerage said it had launched several initiatives aimed at supporting advisors. These included involving advisors in the design, development and testing of its digital plat forms, as well as appointing Geoff Newton as BMO Private Wealth’s head of strategy and execution in November 2021. A Nesbitt executive committee consisting of regional presidents and “widely respected” advisors also was formed.
“For a while, BMO was fiddling around to get the recipe right,” said a Nesbitt advisor in Alberta. But now, “they’re doing their best to connect and are very client-focused.”
More change is underway after Andrew Auerbach’s retirement at the end of March. Auerbach was head of BMO Private Wealth and spent more than two decades with the bank. In May, the brokerage named Newton and regional president Meghan Meger as Auerbach’s successors, effective June 1.
Despite retaining the top IE rating, Wellington-Altus experienced significant declines in several category ratings. It was one of four firms — along with Edward Jones, Odlum Brown Ltd. and TD Wealth Private Investment Advice — to see at least 10 category ratings slip by 0.5 or more compared with 2021.
But only TD Wealth PIA’s IE rating dropped significantly in this year’s Report Card, to 7.7 from 8.2 a year ago.
Almost every TD Wealth PIA advisor surveyed noted the brokerage had a strong reputation and culture, with one of the firm’s advisors in Ontario saying it was “the best brand you can have behind you.”
Yet, the firm’s performance ratings fell in several categories, such as “technology tools & advisor desktop” (down by 0.4 to 6.8) and “back office & administrative support” (down by 1.5 to 5.2). (See “Back-office woes”.)
“TD has to be quicker in terms of technology and quicker to keep pace,” said a TD Wealth PIA advisor in B.C. TD Wealth PIA shook up its management team in June 2021, naming Paul Clark leader of private wealth management, replacing Dave Kelly.
“The leadership changes that we put in motion [were] all done to ensure that we could really respond more actively to how [advisors] are feeling,” said Ryan McNally, senior vice-president of TD Wealth Advice Distribution. He said the brokerage is enhancing its technology and has made “material investments” in centralized planning resources that include planning tools and specialists.
Several other brokerages have seen management shifts in the past 18 months. iA Private Wealth and Richardson Wealth both named new presidents in February 2021. At ScotiaMcLeod Inc., Todd Barnes became managing director and head on Sept. 1, 2021. And at Raymond James Ltd. , Jamie Coulter became CEO on Jan. 1. (None of these firms saw significant changes in their IE ratings.)
In an email, Barnes called holistic planning “the anchor point” for all advisor/client relationships at ScotiaMcLeod. As Covid restrictions have eased, he’s been out in the field to collect advisor ideas.
At Raymond James, connecting with advisors has also been a priority. In an email, a spokesperson said touchpoints like its May national business conference are “critical” for maintaining culture and driving growth.
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