Mid-year blackboard

Dealer advisors were cautiously optimistic about their firms’ work to improve client account statements and portals in the 2022 Dealers’ Report Card. But the 2023 Report Card finds that dealers are still struggling to help advisors in the face of continued regulatory change.

The 2023 performance average for “client account statements & portals” slipped 0.4 compared with a year ago to 7.5.

Five of the 10 firms assessed in 2023 saw their ratings for their client account statements and technology decline by at least half a point from 2022. The category also remained one of the 10 areas with the largest difference between their performance and importance averages, indicating a persistent satisfaction gap for advisors across the dealer segment.

The onus isn’t solely on the firms assessed in the Report Card.

“The whole industry does a horrible job with statements. A lot of that’s regulatory driven in my opinion,” said an advisor in Atlantic Canada with CI Assante Wealth Management. (The firm was rated 7.2 in the category, significantly lower than 8.4 in 2022.)

An advisor in Ontario with Manulife Securities said they’d rate the industry as a whole very low. “They’ve ruined [client statements] so badly. Not one client can read their statement anymore.” (Manulife was rated lowest out of all firms in the category at 5.7, up from 5.3 in 2022.)

The firms with the largest year-over-year performance drops were: CI Assante, with its year-over-year drop of 1.2 points; IG Wealth Management, which fell to 7.0 from 8.3 in 2022; and Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC), which fell to 6.9 from 7.9.

Advisors with these firms suggested their client account statements could be made more visually pleasing or easier to digest, especially for inexperienced or older clients.

Several CI Assante advisors cited improvements in recent years. However, “many clients, especially older clients, say [account statements] are confusing. I have to prepare a report to make the statements easier for them to understand, which takes up my team’s time,” said one of the firm’s advisors in Ontario.

“I find our [client-account] statements convoluted and not particularly attractive,” said an IG Wealth advisor in the Prairies.

While other IG advisors suggested improvements to the client portal could help, another IG advisor in the Prairies conceded, “[We are] handcuffed by regulators.”

IPC advisors noted the length and complexity of client statements, with an advisor in Ontario saying clients get “a huge package that doesn’t actually tell them anything.”

Another IPC advisor in Ontario echoed that sentiment but admitted, “I just don’t know how we [make statements] better. Clients will tell you that they can’t tell from their statement what they’ve invested in and what they’re worth now.”

These types of concerns are not lost on dealers’ leadership teams.

“Regulators have been driving the requirements for client reporting for so long and until we know what all-in fee reporting looks like, I’m reluctant to do anything [further] to our statements,” said Joady Guyot, vice-president, advisor engagement, with CI Assante Wealth Management. “We don’t want to turn them into an extra 80 pages.”

Pending regulatory change is on IPC’s radar, too. “With CRM3 on the horizon, we’ll continue to evaluate the feedback and input from advisors,” said Sam Febbraro, executive vice-president with IPC, and president and CEO of Counsel Portfolio Services.

IG Wealth is making digital investments that will help them achieve “dynamic reporting,” said Brent Allen, head of strategy and business operations. “The future is a fully interactive client portal where all the information [clients] want is readily accessible without having to navigate to a traditional paper or PDF statement.”

If advisors and firms could isolate client activity within custom date ranges in statements as well as keep detailed, easy-to-navigate client records, for example, that would be ideal, Allen added.

He concluded that final industry guidance on total-cost reporting offers “all of us in the industry an opportunity to look at our client statements [and portals] once and for all.”