Macro view of laptop computer, tablet and smarphone

Although technology plays an increasingly critical role in financial advisors’ daily business activities, the advisors surveyed for this year’s Dealers’ Report Card reported growing frustration with the level of support their dealer firms provide in all aspects related to technology.

Advisors gave their firms an overall average performance rating of 7.0 in the “technology tools and advisor desktop” category, down from 7.4 last year. In addition, the difference between this year’s overall average performance rating and the category’s overall average importance rating of 8.8 resulted in a tie for the largest “satisfaction gap” in the survey.

Advisors also were displeased with their firms’ efforts in the “support for mobile technology and the mobile advisor” category. Four firms’ ratings dropped by half a point or more in the category year-over-year. This, in turn, resulted in the overall average performance rating dropping to 6.7 from last year’s 7.2. And the difference this year between the category’s overall average importance rating of 7.6 resulted in the seventh-highest satisfaction gap in the survey.

There were several reasons for this widespread dissatisfaction with technology. Some advisors blamed their firms’ inability to make a seamless transition to a new platform; others, that their technology is outdated and in need of an upgrade.

As for the dissatisfaction with mobile technology, the biggest point of contention for advisors was that they want better support to conduct their business remotely on their tablets and the capacity to accept e-signatures on these devices when meeting with clients.

Markham, Ont.-based Worldsource Wealth Management Inc.’s advisors were displeased with their firm’s performance in both categories. They gave the lowest rating in the tech tools category, at 4.7, down from 7.3 last year, because of issues related to the transition to Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.’s Dataphile platform from Univeris Corp.’s eponymous platform. The biggest gripe among Worldsource’s advisors was that the transition took place during this past RRSP season.

“If [the company] had introduced this platform in April or May, that would have given us a chance to become familiar with [the technology],” says a Worldsource advisor in Ontario. “But they introduced it in January, which is our busiest time.”

The growing pains related to the implementation of Worldsource’s new tech platform also resulted in the firm’s advisors rating their mobile support at 5.3, down from 6.3 last year.

“I have difficulty connecting to Worldsource’s platform,” says a Worldsource advisor in Ontario. “I cannot get into it using my tablet.”

Worldsource is working on improving mobile support as the firm builds out its new platform, says John Hunt, Worldsource’s managing director: “[Mobile is] extremely important – especially for younger advisors. Every year, you get a generation [for which mobile support] is expected.”

Advisors with Toronto-based HollisWealth Inc. also had major issues with a change in their tech platforms, a result of Quebec City-based Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. (IA) acquiring HollisWealth from Bank of Nova Scotia last year. HollisWealth’s advisors also gave their firm the second-lowest rating in the tech tools category, at 5.8, down from 7.0 last year.

“The system we came from was way superior,” says a HollisWealth advisor in Ontario. “We took a major step back when we were sold to IA. We’re missing simplicity, clarity and ease of use.”

IA is trying to ease the transition by attempting to recreate the experience advisors had with their old platforms, says Richard Legault, president of Montreal-based Industrial Alliance Securities Inc.: We’re investing a lot in the systems and interfaces right now to be able to create an experience [that’s] close to what [HollisWealth advisors] had before – and as fast as possible.”

Advisors with Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. rated that firm’s tech tools at 7.3, down from 8.2 last year, for a different reason: advisors believe the technology is outdated. In addition, they still must deal with a lot of paperwork for which they believe technology could do the job.

“[The tech platform] is supposed to be improving, but it’s very antiquated,” says an Investors Group advisor in Ontario. “We’re still using a lot paper, which [creates] more chances for mistakes.”

Mike Dibden, chief operating officer of IGM Financial Inc., Investors Group’s parent, says that a digitalization program will be launched this summer to replace “all of that paper with digital forms that can be pre-populated, be pre-validated and reduce errors.”

Advisors with Windsor, Ont.-based Sterling Mutuals Inc. also cited the use of paper when technology could take its place as a reason for giving their firm a mobile support rating of 7.0, down from 8.4 last year. Those advisors mentioned they want better support to conduct their business remotely using their tablets and to be able to accept e-signatures when meeting with clients.

“I can’t have clients sign on a tablet,” says a Sterling Mutuals advisor on the Prairies. “I have to run back and get a sheet of paper for them to sign.”

Despite Sterling Mutuals’ advisors’ dissatisfaction with their mobile tech, they gave the firm a score of 8.6 in the tech tools category, up from 8.1 last year, because of the firm’s unique OneBoss system, developed in-house, which, advisors said, makes their jobs more efficient.

“[OneBoss] makes meetings [with clients] totally simple, easy and time-saving,” says another Sterling Mutuals advisor on the Prairies.