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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.

The investment industry has undergone considerable change in the past year, and dealer firms have had to adapt quickly to find solutions that work for advisors and clients.

Amid this upheaval, the “leadership stability” category in Investment Executive’s (IE) 2021 Dealers’ Report Card received an average performance rating of 8.8, basically unchanged from 8.9 last year. Also like last year, firms’ leadership ratings generally corresponded with their IE ratings (the average of all their category ratings) in terms of their positioning among their peers.

Carte Wealth Management Inc. and Peak Financial Group, which had the highest IE ratings, also led all of the management-related categories such as “strategic focus” and “corporate culture.”

Carte Wealth had the highest IE rating (9.1), up from 8.9 last year. One Carte advisor described the firm’s leadership as “stable and consistent,” a sentiment echoed by other advisors with the firm.

Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. had a strong showing this year despite small dips across all the management categories and a significant drop in its corporate culture rating, which fell to 8.6 from 9.1 last year. Assante’s IE rating was 8.8 this year, tied for third with Sterling Mutuals Inc., and Assante’s leadership stability was rated 9.2, compared with 9.5 a year ago.

Many Assante advisors once again praised the hiring of CEO Kurt MacAlpine, who joined the firm in 2019. “The new CEO is great — he‘s a weapon for us, I think,” said an Assante advisor in Atlantic Canada.

Sean Etherington, president of Assante Wealth Management, also highlighted MacAlpine’s positive influence on the company: “Kurt has been very supportive of continued investment in our day-to-day business because he knows Assante can grow and attract high-net-worth clients.”

The only firm to significantly improve its leadership stability was IG Wealth Management, which saw its rating rise to 9.2 from 8.5 a year ago. That dealer underwent a change in leadership recently, with Damon Murchison becoming president and CEO in September 2020.

In a statement emailed to IE, Murchison said the biggest challenge he faced in the past year was meeting the firm’s advisors — something he had hoped to do in person but had to do virtually. “I dedicated my first few months to embarking on a cross-country virtual tour to connect with our advisors and employees,” he wrote.

An IG Wealth advisor in the Prairies praised the stability Murchison has brought to the firm: “The previous CEO was changing the company a lot. The new leadership is trying to land all the planes: [begin] fewer projects, and get them done well.”

On the other end of the stability spectrum were Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN) and Worldsource Wealth Management Inc.

DFSIN’s leadership stability rating plunged to 7.5, down from 8.6 a year ago, while its IE rating was the Report Card’s lowest at 7.3 (down from 7.4 in 2020).

“They change the leadership every six months, it seems. I couldn’t tell you who was in charge today,” said a DFSIN advisor in Atlantic Canada.

André Langlois, president of DFSIN since 2017, acknowledged the firm has “made some changes during the past few years, but these changes were part of a game plan to improve our services to advisors.”

Meanwhile, Worldsource’s stability rating dropped to 7.9 from 8.7 in 2019 (there was insufficient data to calculate last year’s rating). Worldsource had the Report Card’s second-lowest IE rating (7.8) this year.

“[The leadership is] all new,” said a Worldsource advisor in Ontario. “I don’t know who they are.”

Doce Tomic, head of wealth management with Guardian Capital Group Ltd., Worldsource’s parent company, said the firm’s strategy is to “continue to grow and add a lot of individuals with industry experience, so that does create a lot of new faces.” But Tomic said he and Anthony Messina, president of Guardian Partners Inc., offer “a lot of continuity” to the firm.

Advisors with Portfolio Strategies Corp. gave their firm’s leadership stability a rating of 8.2 this year, down significantly from 8.8 last year. The firm was among the bottom three in the category, and its IE rating fell to 8.1 from 8.3 a year ago.

Many Portfolio Strategies advisors were pleased with the leadership of Mark Kent, the firm’s president and CEO, but some noted challenges in the rest of the organization.

“The top [leadership] is good but the next level is a little bit unstable, I think,” said a Portfolio Strategies advisor.

Kent confirmed that the firm has been bringing on new management staff in both operations and compliance. He also highlighted the hiring of Jason Bobee, vice-president of business development, in April, which was done to help the firm’s top advisors.

Said Kent: “I’m trying to work more at a higher level strategically, with good managers and staff, and just continue to grow the firm.”