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Financial advisors who ply their trade at Canada’s Big Six banks greatly appreciate when their bank provides support to improve their skills and continue to develop their careers. However, the results of this year’s Report Card on Banks revealed that some banks do a better job than others in providing advisors with these necessary opportunities.

Specifically, advisors who gave their banks the highest, or higher, ratings in the “ongoing training” category pointed to the access they have to resources such as courses, conferences or help in attaining professional designations as the main reasons for their satisfaction with their banks.

Case in point: advisors with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) gave the bank the highest rating in the category for the fourth straight year – at 9.0 this year – largely because of CIBC’s willingness to help its advisors cover the cost of attaining professional designations such as certified financial planner (CFP) or personal financial planner (PFP).

“When I went through [this process, the] fees were covered,” says a CIBC advisor in Ontario. “It’s not everywhere your employer pays for your accreditation.”

Although the CFP and PFP designations are mandatory for advisors with CIBC’s Imperial Service division, achieving these designations also is a source of pride for advisors, says David Nicholson, vice president, CIBC Imperial Service.

“A lot of our advisors are very proud that they are, in fact, professional financial planners or certified financial planners,” Nicholson says. “They’re also proud because this increases their capability to do what’s right for their clients.”

Advisors with Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) also appreciate the emphasis their bank puts on improving their training compared with previous years. In fact, RBC advisors gave their bank the second-highest rating in the ongoing training category, of 8.9, up from 8.3 last year.

“Everything’s paid for when we want to enhance our skills,” says an RBC advisor in Alberta. “The [bank] also does a lot of in-house training. There’s no expense to us for licensing requirements and external courses we need to do.”

RBC subsidizes advisors’ costs to pursue professional designations. This ensures advisors provide the best services to their clients, says Michael Walker, vice president, branch investments.

“In order for our financial planners to deliver the best financial advice to our clients,” Walker says, “continuing education is the cornerstone of the role.”

In the case of Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia, its advisors gave the bank a rating of 7.6 in the category, up from 7.1 last year.

Some advisors mentioned improvements to the training the bank provides. “We have ‘financial advisor days’ every quarter,” says a Scotiabank advisor in Ontario. “They come and give us the lowdown on new information.”

However, Scotiabank, despite its increased rating, garnered the second-lowest rating of all the banks in this year’s Report Card. According to some Scotiabank advisors, that’s because the training isn’t focused enough to meet their needs.

“There’s constant training, but it’s completely irrelevant,” says another Scotiabank advisor in Ontario. “A lot of the [training sessions] have to do with compliance. But they’re so repetitive, they don’t add any value.”

In turn, Scotiabank is working to improve its training programs and support system for both new and experienced advisors, says Jamie Auerbach, vice president of advice and service effectiveness. The bank introduced initiatives such as “learning zones” for newer advisors across the country and created additional district vice president positions to the bank’s branch network. These district vice presidents support advisors at the branch level and provide coaching.

“We’ve leveraged those learning zones to bring in existing financial advisors to focus on initiatives [such as] having holistic [wealth-management] conversations with customers,” Auerbach says.

Although Scotiabank advisors were split in their assessment of that bank’s ongoing training, advisors with Toronto-based TD Wealth Financial Planning, a division of Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), were far more negative about their bank’s ongoing training. In fact, the rating of 6.7 that they gave their bank in the category not only dropped from 7.8 last year, it was the lowest ongoing training rating of all the banks in the survey.

Some TD advisors expressed frustration that the bank cut back on training opportunities for advisors – notably, that in-house conferences are few and far between and that whatever training is available just doesn’t cut it.

“[The bank] seems to be cutting back more and more,” says a TD advisor in British Columbia. “They cut down on the big conferences; now, it’s just small, local events. This means less and less support for advisors.”

“[TD] is trying to do more with less and they just don’t put the proper time and resources into this area,” adds a colleague in the same province. “They don’t actually train you; they tell you look at this online module – and that’s it.”