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This article appears in the September 2023 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Advisors in the dealer space are seeking better opportunities for continuing education and training.

The 2023 Dealers’ Report Card survey asked advisors across 11 firms to rate the support and tools they received for “advisor education & development.” This category measures whether dealers offer training and continuing education (CE) for new and veteran advisors, and the quality of those offerings.

Dealers have been falling short of advisors’ expectations when providing education and development support.

Firms’ performance in the education category was rated, on average, 7.7 out of 10 in 2023 (down significantly, or by half a point or more, from 8.2 in 2022). Meanwhile, the average importance rating advisors assigned to this category was 8.1, down from 8.4 a year ago.

Despite that drop in importance, the satisfaction gap between the two ratings widened to 0.4 in 2023 from 0.2 in 2022.

Many dissatisfied advisors pointed to a decline in educational support in recent years due, in part, to the reduction in conferences and in-person coaching programs during the pandemic. This was certainly a factor for Manulife Securities Inc., which received the lowest education and development rating of all firms for 2023 (6.8, down significantly from 7.6 in 2022).

“They do try,” said one Manulife advisor in British Columbia, who explained that online training is available, but “Covid has destroyed a lot of stuff.” That advisor said they would prefer in-person, local resources that would help in acquiring high-quality CE credits.

A Manulife advisor in Ontario remembered plentiful training and development opportunities before the pandemic. They noted, “We’re starting to get back into the swing of that.”

Richard McIntyre, president and CEO of Manulife Securities, said the firm currently offers both conferences and forums. He added that the full-service dealer aims to help advisors “navigate through their career,” which is “something that not many firms really want to do because it costs you money.”

Manulife’s support consists of learning sessions and access to experts for both advisors and their support staff. It also includes branch visits by McIntyre and his staff, during which he seeks “a really thorough understanding of who [advisors] are, where they’re going, what matters to them, and what keeps them up at night.”

The firms rated second- and third-lowest in education and development support were Portfolio Strategies Corp. (rated 7.0; no rating in 2022) and Sterling Mutuals Inc. (7.3, down significantly from 7.8 in 2022).

Advisors with Portfolio Strategies said the firm offered resources but that they’re largely left to their own devices — which seemed to suit them just fine. This group gave an average importance rating of only 6.9 for educational support, the lowest of all firms.

“[The] conferences are in Calgary, so I don’t attend, but there are regular webinars,” said one of the independent dealer’s advisors.

Another Portfolio Strategies advisor said they depend more on external resources, noting, “I can find all the CE info through individual [fund] companies, as opposed to what Portstrat provides.”

However, one of these advisors’ colleagues cited post-pandemic improvement, saying, “They are getting back into [educational support] now that Covid is over.”

Jason Bobee, vice-president of business development with Portfolio Strategies, said the dealer offers optional monthly webinars featuring product providers and technology support experts, for example. It also has an advisor portal that offers education around fee structures, product, business building and digital tools. Bobee said he also works directly with advisors.

Advisors with Sterling Mutuals were independently minded as well, giving an average importance rating of 7.8 for the dealer’s educational resources.

“If my wholesaler is reaching out to me to say they have a seminar happening, I don’t need my [firm’s vice-president] doing the same. Their help isn’t adding value or quality,” a Sterling Mutuals advisor said.

Still, another advisor with Sterling Mutuals identified one benefit of the firm’s internal resources: “We’re trained to be aware of many [client] scenarios. We also have webinars as well as regulatory presentations.”

The firm rated highest by advisors in the education and development category was Carte Wealth Management Inc., at 9.2 (down from 9.6 in 2022). Following Carte Wealth were IG Wealth Management (rated 8.7, down from 9.2) and Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. (DFS Investments; rated 8.1 versus 8.2 a year ago when the Report Card included Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network advisors only).

Carte Wealth has offered tools via online education platform Learnedly since 2020, with one of the dealer firm’s advisors saying, “All the courses are there and it’s free.”

IG Wealth advisors mentioned that their firm holds conferences and offers IG University, which provides a resource library and opportunities for mentorship.

Advisors with DFS Investments pointed to a site called Webi, which one of that firm’s advisors in Ontario called “top-notch.” They added, “At [my] last dealership, I had to scrounge around trying to find credits.”

The amount of educational support offered by dealers will always depend on advisor demand. But regulators also are watching, noted Carte Wealth’s president, Maria Jose Flores.

“We have gone through some regulatory audits,” she said. “They ask, ‘What systems are you using? How are you educating your advisors on the client-focused reforms, for instance?’” To avoid issues, she suggested, all firms should help advisors understand why education is important.