communication during covid
Investment Executive with files from DrAfter123 and akindo, both from

This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Independence is important to almost any financial advisor, but when a pandemic hits, advisors appreciate more communication from their firms.

As part of the research for Investment Executive’s 2021 Dealers’ Report Card, advisors were asked to rate how well their firms supported them during the pandemic. Firms were on the ball with their pandemic response, with an average performance rating of 8.9.

The top ratings went to Peak Financial Group (9.6), Carte Wealth Management Inc. (9.4), IG Wealth Management (9.3) and Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC; 9.3). Worldsource Wealth Management Inc., meanwhile, had the lowest score of the 11 firms included in the Report Card, though it still received a respectable 8.0 rating.

Advisors who were happy with their firm’s support over the past year praised the level of communication from executives, which included weekly conference calls, webinars and other resources.

At Peak, for example, executives conducted regular calls with advisors across Canada. “They kept us up to date with everything that was going on every week,” said a Peak advisor in Quebec.

Robert Frances, Peak’s founder and CEO, said the firm tended toward over-communication in the early days of the pandemic, but eased back once advisors began to feel comfortable with their new reality.

Advisors from Carte Wealth also appreciated the level of communication they received. “They were right there for us and I was able to grow my business by quite a bit,” said one Carte Wealth advisor.

Carte Wealth’s pandemic communication strategy focused on local priorities. Rather than overwhelming advisors with national updates, the firm relayed pandemic restrictions that applied only to advisors’ local communities, said Kirk Purai, Carte Wealth’s president and CEO.

“We’re doing all that heavy lifting for the advisors, so they’re just relying now on the information directly from head office,” said Purai. “They don’t have to worry about it because we’ve got their back.”

IPC, meanwhile, focused on practice management in addition to relevant pandemic news. Advisors were particularly impressed by the webinars IPC held during the pandemic.

“They did weekly webinars on how best to serve clients from home,” said an IPC advisor in Ontario. “We didn’t have e-signatures, but they jumped on that fast too.”

IPC’s priority was helping advisors keep their businesses running during the pandemic, said Sam Febbraro, IPC’s executive vice-president, advisor services. The firm provided resources to help advisors focus on their business goals, build portfolios for clients and tailor their advice to client preferences, among other initiatives.

At Worldsource, advisors had mixed opinions on how well the dealer kept in touch during the pandemic. Some advisors said Worldsource was proactive and thoughtful in their communication, checking in over the phone.

“I’ve been with other dealers and you were just a number,” said a Worldsource advisor in Ontario. “Here, you actually feel like people care. It’s an awesome dealership.”

For other Worldsource advisors, the communication was spotty. One Worldsource advisor said they felt more supported by fund companies than their dealer.

“I haven’t really heard from or seen top-level management. I’m one of their biggest producers. [I’ve] gone to conferences, sat on advisory councils. I like to think I have a role and some influence, but we haven’t had a single Zoom meeting,” said a Worldsource advisor in B.C. “I’ve met with a fund company 10 times over the year and not even once with my dealer.”

Doce Tomic, head of wealth management at Guardian Capital Group Ltd., Worldsource’s parent company, said he has contacted advisors directly and that the dealer has been communicating with advisors regularly through several methods, including town halls.

More than a year after the first lockdown, however, advisors are in “communication overload,” Tomic said, so Worldsource is looking to change the way it communicates, with a new focus on conferences and email communications.