business direction
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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.

Financial advisors looked to their firms for continued support in growing their businesses during the pandemic. Some firms delivered, while others left advisors wanting more, according to Investment Executive’s 2021 Dealers’ Report Card.

The average performance rating for the “business development support” category was 7.6 this year, up from 7.4 in 2020. While the category’s importance rating dropped to 7.7 from 8.2 a year ago, advisors who were satisfied praised their dealers for offering a variety of resources, particularly marketing materials. (The category was previously called “firm’s marketing support,” but was expanded this year to include other forms of business development support, such as coaching.)

Carte Wealth Management Inc. had the highest business development rating at 9.1, up from 8.7 in 2020. Advisors at the firm credited the leadership of Kirk Purai, the firm’s president and CEO, and spoke highly of new marketing initiatives offered by the dealer.

“This year, a lot of new [tools have] come out of the woodwork,” said one Carte Wealth advisor. “[Purai’s] idea was to offer something that suited everybody.”

Carte Wealth advisors can choose from three tiers of business and marketing support, some of which include access to Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Higher-tier packages include access to Carte Links, a content library that includes pre-approved articles and videos that can be placed in newsletters and blogs.

The most basic of the three packages costs $40 per month. “If [advisors] had to go out and get this package [on their own], it would easily cost them $300 a month,” said Purai.

The other two firms rounding out the top three for business development support were IG Wealth Management (with a rating of 8.4, up from 8.1 in 2020) and Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. (8.5, down from 8.7 a year ago).

IG Wealth advisors were particularly pleased with their dealer’s client seminars and marketing materials. They were also impressed by how well the firm adapted to the pandemic through virtual events.

“They have a number of programs [such as] virtual events and support for online marketing,” said an IG Wealth advisor in Ontario. “[We] have the ability to set up a website that’s pretty structured for us.”

IG Wealth’s strategy includes in-house marketing specialists and a centralized marketing fund to help with local campaigns. Recently, the firm added virtual corporate events with speakers such as Martin Luther King III and Chris Hadfield. In addition to marketing support, IG Wealth offers practice management support through Elevate, a program launched last fall that provides coaching to small groups of advisors.

This marks the first year Peak Financial Group appeared in the business development category. Advisors gave Peak a 7.1 rating, with many noting a lack of marketing materials for their own businesses and weak brand awareness for Peak generally.

“They could try to compete in the ad space, from TV ads to online ads,” said a Peak advisor in Ontario. “They should try to keep up with the competition.”

In an emailed statement, Peak said it plans to continue to invest in “materials and coaching in the next 12 months” to support advisors in developing their practice branding and gaining exposure.

Advisors with Investia Financial Services Inc. also grumbled about a lack of marketing materials and their firm’s minimal brand recognition.

“Investia has become a behemoth in the mutual fund space but it is a Quebec-based organization,” said an Investia advisor in Alberta. “No one in Alberta knows who we are.”

These sentiments earned Investia a rating of 6.0 for the business development category — the lowest of all dealers rated in this year’s Report Card, although still a significant improvement from the firm’s rating of 5.5 last year.

Some Investia advisors gave the firm credit for trying to improve business development support. “They’re not very strong on the marketing side, but they’re making changes within the next year,” said an Investia advisor in Atlantic Canada.

Louis DeConinck, president of Investia, said advisors simply may not know which marketing tools are available to them through the dealer: “Unfortunately, in an independent world, you put [business development resources] out there, but it’s very tough to say to people, ‘You’ve got to do this.’”

In recent years, Investia has grown its presence on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The dealer also offers business development support through video training for advisors, branded content for clients and annual staff conferences. Yet, some advisors still said Investia could do more. “They could at least let us know there’s something offered,” said an Investia advisor in Ontario.