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Insurance advisors look to their insurance agencies to provide the training advisors need to develop their skills, enhance their services and build their businesses. Based on the results of this year’s Insurance Advisors’ Report Card, most firms – whether a dedicated sales agency, a personal producing general agency or a managing general agency (MGA) – are getting this right.

Advisors gave an overall average performance rating of 8.4 in the “ongoing training” category this year. The difference between this rating and the overall average importance rating of 8.9 that advisors gave the category resulted in one of the narrower “satisfaction gaps” in this year’s survey. This means that overall, advisors’ expectations are being met.

This result is evident in the performance ratings advisors gave their agencies in this category. Calgary-based PPI Solutions Inc. (9.3), Toronto-based PPI Advisory (9.1) and Mississauga, Ont.-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN; 9.1), received the highest ratings in the category.

Advisors who work with each of these three MGAs pointed to the easy access they have to resources such as seminars and online webinars, which are available on a regular basis, as the main reason for their satisfaction.

“[The agency] does such a good job, I can’t keep up with what they offer,” says a PPI Solutions advisor in Alberta. “They definitely go above and beyond.”

“They’re running [training sessions] all the time with the [insurance] carriers,” says an IDC WIN advisor in Ontario. “You could go to a meeting every week.”

As well, advisors with three other insurance agencies in the survey pointed to similar services as the reason for their increased satisfaction with their firms’ ongoing training offerings in this year’s survey.

Advisors with Kitchener, Ont.-based MGA Financial Horizons Inc. rated their firm’s ongoing training at 8.7, up notably from 7.8 last year, in large part because of the MGA’s wide range of training resources, including regular seminars.

“If I need training, I know it’s only a phone call away,” says a Financial Horizons advisor in Ontario. “They have regular ongoing training.”

Financial Horizons arranges events such as professional development days for advisors that focus on industry trends and provide the opportunity for insurance carriers to speak directly to advisors, says Perry Villanueva, director, sales and training, Ontario and Atlantic regions, with the MGA.

“We try to get [insurance carriers] that are actually supporting advisors in front of them,” he says. “So, [advisors] are more informed on the changes or the advantages of the products [these firms] offer.”

Advisors with Woodbridge, Ont.-based Hub Financial Inc. also had a greater level of appreciation this year for the amount of resources the MGA provides for ongoing training. In fact, Hub’s advisors gave the firm a rating of 8.6 in the category, up from 8.0 last year.

“Anyone who says they can’t get their [continuing education] credits isn’t making the most of the training that [Hub] offers,” says a Hub advisor on the Prairies. “There are a lot of seminars and online modules available.”

According to Terri Botosan, Hub’s president, the MGA’s Critical Path training resource, which helps advisors find the training program best suited to experiment with and develop their skills, has evolved during the past 12 months to help advisors better.

For Hub, these improvements were focused on “making sure [advisors] put whatever we bring to them into their practice,” Botosan says. “That they use it, they try it, they experiment and they fail. They experiment again, and they succeed.”

Meanwhile, in the case of London, Ont.-based Freedom 55 Financial, advisors were enthusiastic about a new program that the dedicated sales agency introduced recently to help advisors get their certified financial planner (CFP) designation. As a result, advisors gave their firm a rating of 8.0 in the category, up from 7.4 last year.

“They’re paying employees to get the CFP; that’s ridiculous,” says a Freedom 55 in Alberta.

Although obtaining the CFP is not mandatory for Freedom 55 advisors, there has been a strong response to the program since it was introduced, says Abbie MacMillan, vice president with Freedom 55: “We had more than 300 advisors sign up right out of the gate, and we’ve been really overwhelmed with the participation and the positive feedback we’ve received.”

In contrast, advisors with Waterloo, Ont.-based Sun Life Financial (Canada) Inc. rated the dedicated sales agency’s ongoing training efforts at 7.4, down from 8.3 year-over-year. Some Sun Life advisors mentioned that although there’s training available for rookie advisors, those who are more experienced are left to fend for themselves.

“Advisors with fewer than five years of experience get a lot more training,” says a Sun Life advisor in Ontario. “The people who have been around forever don’t get [any]; [the firm] looks away from us.”

However, Rob Popazzi, assistant vice president, business evolution program, at Sun Life, says the firm’s training programs are available for all advisors to access. He adds that Sun Life constantly looks to train advisors in the most effective way possible to meet their needs.

“If [advisors] haven’t had a chance to dive into all of the content that’s available to them,” Popazzi says, “we’re looking for ways to partner up with them and figure out how to do that in a way that’s more effective.”