A woman adding a star to existing ratings

This article appears in the September 2022 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

Advisor satisfaction at Canada’s big banks was about the same as in 2021, according to Investment Executive’s 2022 Report Card on Banks.

The top and bottom banks by IE rating remained the same as last year, but those ratings dropped for both. (A firm’s IE rating is the average of its category ratings.) CIBC (where advisors work with CIBC Imperial Service) was rated 9.0, down from 9.3 in 2021, while Toronto-Dominion Bank (where planners work for TD Wealth Financial Planning) was rated 7.2, down from 7.4.

The collective IE rating for the six banks in the 2022 Report Card also was similar at 8.1, compared with 8.2 a year ago.

As in previous years, the top two banks — CIBC and Royal Bank of Canada (where planners work for RBC Financial Planning) — received the highest ratings in the categories deemed most important by advisors.

Those categories were “support for developing a financial plan for clients,” which received an average importance rating of 9.5; “technology tools & advisor desktop,” which also received 9.5; and “reputation with clients and/or prospective clients,” which received 9.4.

For the technology tools category, CIBC and RBC had the highest (8.3) and second highest (8.2) ratings, while TD had the lowest rating in the category (6.0).

CIBC’s digital tools were described as “great” by one Ontario advisor, who cited recent improvements. (See “Overcoming tech troubles”)

A CIBC advisor in Alberta, meanwhile, touted the bank’s “collegial and very advisor-centric nature.”

“We always try to drive support for the advisor, so that we can help on the advice side, with in-depth discussions and quality plans,” said Peter Lee, executive vice-president of banking centres with CIBC. “We’re always looking at feedback from advisors; they’ve got the best vantage point.”

Advisors with TD, however, criticized their bank’s technology and business operations.

The bank also received mixed reviews in the “total compensation” category. TD’s rating was significantly lower than a year ago (7.2, down from 7.8), even while its “bonus structure” rating improved significantly (to 7.8 from 7.3).

While one TD advisor in British Columbia called their compensation “flexible” and focused on “the right practices and efforts made,” another of the bank’s planners in B.C. requested transparency and criticized the “convoluted” structure that takes years to grasp.

“If compensation doesn’t keep competitive, they will see a migration of people,” said a TD advisor in Ontario.

David Terry, vice-president and head of TD Wealth Financial Planning, called the bank’s branch-based compensation structure “very competitive” in comparison to its big bank peers due to “a greater proportion” of compensation being driven by aspects like book revenue, asset growth and planning for clients.

Terry also said the bank adjusted base salary for new planners, especially because “the competition for talent increased in 2022.”

From an overall culture point of view, some TD advisors praised their colleagues and the support they received.

“The people I deal with on a regular basis is the best thing,” said a TD advisor in B.C.

The firm that showed the most significant year-over-year improvement in this year’s Report Card was Bank of Montreal (BMO), whose ratings in 12 of the 29 categories rose by at least half a point. The bank’s IE rating rose to 8.3 this year from 7.7 last year.

“Every time there’s feedback, they let us know and they do it in a timely manner. If I wanted to [gain] additional skills, they always support it and [provide] funding through the bank,” said a BMO advisor in Ontario.

“The values are really good, and the company is very strong,” said another BMO advisor in Ontario. “They really care for the customers. We are not pushed to sell mutual funds; we sell what we feel is right.”

However, a prevailing pain point for BMO’s branch-based advisors was technology. The firm was rated second lowest in the technology tools category at 6.2, the same rating as a year ago.

“The challenge that we have as a company is to deliver and be productive when we have ancient technology,” said a BMO advisor in Ontario.

“BMO is currently working on fixing these problems but, unfortunately, it’s been years in the making.”

In an email, BMO said it was investing in Salesforce and other tools.

A “diversity, equity & inclusion policies” category was added to IE’s Report Card on Banks for 2022. This category had the highest performance average of the 29 categories (9.4), and none of the banks received a rating lower than 9.1. This category received a 9.1 rating for importance.

CIBC had the highest rating in the category, with a performance average of 9.9.

“From my experience, I think CIBC is one of the best banks [in] giving minorities opportunities,” said an advisor in B.C.

At Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS), which was rated 9.1, advisors pointed to educational opportunities. “We have to complete courses about inclusion, for example,” said a BNS advisor in Ontario.

“I think they’re very outspoken in this area. Everywhere I look, they [create] awareness about this. They’re always involved in social causes,” said another BNS advisor in Ontario.

“They do a good job here in focusing on it and being truthful about it — it’s not just for appearances.”

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