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This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

The Big Six are investing in digital tools for branch advisors. But advisors and planners say that if training doesn’t keep pace, those tools won’t meet their needs.

As part of the 2023 Report Card on Banks, advisors were asked to rate their bank’s “general technology training & IT support,” which is a new category.

The category’s debut performance average was 7.4 across the Big Six, making it one of the worst-performing categories. Its importance average was 9.0.

Bank of Montreal (BMO) received the lowest rating for tech training. BMO advisors gave the technology training category a 6.4, but gave it an importance rating of 8.7, leaving a satisfaction gap (the difference between a category’s performance and importance ratings) of more than two points.

“There’s very little we get in terms of training on the systems themselves. [For] anyone [coming from] outside of BMO, it’s a nightmare to learn our systems,” said a BMO advisor in Ontario.

A BMO advisor in British Columbia said they were trained in person when they first joined the bank, but now, “We do it all online, and I have to do it myself. There’s a big library online but there’s no support.”

“We recognize it’s essential for the [financial planner] salesforce to have reliable networks and connections as well as tools and support,” BMO said in an email.

On the upside, said one BMO advisor in Quebec, “There has been significant improvement in recent years. While the user interface is outdated [and] the system crashes sometimes,” there is a planned “revamp” of the bank’s systems.

BMO confirmed that it has made “a multi-year commitment to invest in our technology platform” and created resources to assist with areas such as client onboarding.

The next two lowest-rated banks in this category were Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS; rated 6.8) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (where planners work with TD Wealth Financial Planning; rated 7.2).

Advisors with these two banks also pointed to the need for continued improvements. As one BNS advisor in B.C. explained, “There’s just a lot [of upgrades]. Everything is a lot better now than a year ago [but] they don’t do a good job for training.”

“We always have [digital] issues and it usually comes out during client meetings,” said an advisor with BNS in Ontario. “It’s embarrassing.”

BNS said in an email that it offers “robust training and development programs” for advisors, which includes a “blend of classroom and e-learning, coaching, job shadowing and mini-training sessions.”

At TD, there are “lots of new technologies on different platforms,” said one of that bank’s advisors in Ontario. “We need more training.”

Another TD advisor in Ontario said, “We learn from peers [and] colleagues or figure it out ourselves. This can cause problems.”

“On the heels of last year’s [Report Card] results, we’re investing in digital improvements,” said Franceen Bernstein, vice-president and head of financial planning with TD Wealth. “Our planners are asking for simplification and digitization, [so] we’ve rolled out a whole bunch of changes this year, from small-scale [ones] to wholesale transformation.”

Bernstein said the bank offers both self-directed online lessons and “more traditional, formal training” that can be delivered virtually or in person. TD also has “escalation protocols” available for advisors in a jam when in front of clients, and uses advisor councils to help pilot new tools and training.

CIBC, where advisors work with CIBC Imperial Service, led the technology training category with an 8.4 rating.

“They are doing a ton of work to improve the tech. It’s come a long way and I look forward to future enhancements,” said a CIBC advisor in Atlantic Canada.

Still, many CIBC advisors identified opportunities to improve. For example, an advisor in Ontario called their digital infrastructure a “spaghetti system.” Despite implementing new systems, the bank hasn’t “gotten rid of the old ones. So, I have to use both old and new,” that advisor said, adding they were often unsure of where to get help.

Rory Mitz, senior vice-president and head of CIBC Imperial Service, acknowledged that digital enhancement creates the need for more training. “We have created a national specialist team that supports not just the ongoing adoption [of technology], but also the usage and best practices of those tools,” he said.

To help advisors in branches learn in the ways they prefer, he said, CIBC offers both in-field and virtual training using a variety of teaching methods.

Royal Bank of Canada (where planners work for RBC Financial Planning) was rated second highest, at 8.0, for its technology training.

“Advisors can go in and play with the technology using case studies,” said Michael Walker, vice-president and head of mutual funds distribution and RBC Financial Planning. “That gives them an enhanced sense of confidence before [tools] go live.” This process was used before RBC launched the Conquest Planning Inc. platform in September.

Still, success can come down to “a question of time to do the training,” said an RBC advisor in B.C.

“Training is on top of everything else,” observed an RBC advisor in Atlantic Canada, so the more hands-on it is, the better.