High angle view of businesspeople shaking hands and closing a deal

Given the vastness of the branch networks of Canada’s Big Six banks, the barriers to communication between management and financial advisors can be great. But the results of this year’s Report Card on Banks revealed that banks are succeeding in their efforts at effective, two-way communication, as advisors were more satisfied on average, year-over-year.

This improvement was evident in the overall average performance ratings that advisors gave their banks in the “firm’s effectiveness in keeping advisors informed” and the “firm’s receptiveness to advisor feedback” categories, which rose to 8.5 from 8.2 and to 7.9 from 7.7, respectively, year-over-year.

Those increases were driven by ratings for three banks that were higher by half a point or more in the effectiveness category and two banks’ ratings that increased by the same margin in the receptiveness category. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) garnered the highest rating of 9.2 in the effectiveness category, up from 8.3 last year, and the second-highest receptiveness rating of 8.5, up from 7.9.

RBC advisors praised their branch managers for keeping them up to date on changes and the bank’s strategic focus – as well as welcoming feedback.

“We have weekly sessions with our manager,” says an RBC advisor in Alberta, “and we also have strategy meetings once a week with our [sales] associates. [This helps us] stay focused on what the goal is and how we’re going to achieve it.”

“You’re safe to speak up, and you have outlets [to do so],” says a colleague in the same province. “[This access] helps you get better and to vent if you have to.”

Advisors with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada also were more satisfied with their bank in both communications categories. Most notably, National Bank advisors gave their management a rating of 8.1 for receptiveness, up notably from 6.8 in 2017.

National Bank’s advisors praised the bank’s increased efforts to listen to advisors and consider their input when making decisions.

“They want us to be more involved in the changes,” says a National Bank advisor in Quebec. “They want us to voice our opinion right away.”

“[The communication] has gotten better. Before, it was top to bottom,” adds a colleague in the same province. “Now, they challenge us and ask us questions about how we might implement things.”

Nancy Paquet, vice president, investment, with National Bank, says greater emphasis on advisors’ input was a “no brainer,” given that she used to be an advisor herself.

“With the robo-advisors of this world, selling a balanced Canadian fund won’t be difficult,” she says. “But how does that balanced fund fit into your dreams of sending your kids to college, buying a cottage and retiring at 62? That’s what the financial planner can answer.”

To enhance communication between National Bank’s managment and advisors, the bank adopted Yammer, an enterprise social networking service, which allows advisors to receive updates from management, post comments and ask questions.

“[This] is a very lively community,” Paquet says. “And it’s not just your peer across the street whom you can talk to; you can actually talk to [any National Bank personnel in] the entire country.”

But while some National Bank advisors appreciate the broad base of contacts and quick response times that Yammer provides, other advisors are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available through the platform. For this reason, advisors gave the bank a rating of 7.9 in the effectiveness category. Although that’s up from 7.4 last year, it’s still the lowest rating in the category this year.

“The information is there,” says a National Bank advisor in Quebec. “When I need it, I know there’s a way to find it. If anything, there’s too much information.”

Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia also has a social media-style communications platform, which led to increased satisfaction among advisors in the effectiveness category: the bank’s rating rose to 8.3 from 7.7 year-over-year.

Scotiabank’s advisors spoke well of Scotiabank Live, an internal portal that fosters effective communication among executives and advisors alike.

“[The portal] is like Google, in that you type in what you’re looking for,” says a Scotiabank advisor in Ontario. “You can talk to [anyone who works at the bank] and get answers pretty quickly.”

“If you want to stay informed and you have the time, all [the information] is there,” adds a colleague in the same province.

Although Scotiabank Live has been in use for about seven years, the bank recently added a mobile version, notes Laurie Stang, executive vice president, Canadian branch banking, with Scotiabank: “The [mobile platform is] more interactive, allows streaming of videos and pictures in real time and is great from a team engagement perspective.”

Meanwhile, advisors with To- ronto-based TD Wealth Financial Planning, a division of Toronto-Dominion Bank, gave their bank a rating of 7.2 in the receptiveness category, down from 7.7 last year, because of perceived lack of visible progress on the feedback advisors give.

“There are so many teams put together to get your advice, but they don’t take any action on it at all,” says a TD advisor in Ontario. “We give them all the feedback and tell them what needs changing, then they say it can’t be changed.”

In turn, Rowena Chan, senior vice president of TD Wealth Financial Planning, says the bank “[doesn’t] take it lightly” that advisors feel this way: “We need to ensure that we communicate even more frequently, or highlight it more, to ensure [advisors] are aware of what we’re working on based on their feedback.”