Concept of IT problems

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.

Branch-based retail advisors and planners with the Big Six indicated that their banks’ technology needs a refresh.

The performance average for “technology tools & advisor desktop” fell significantly (by 0.5 or more) to 6.9 in the 2022 Report Card on Banks, from 7.4 a year ago. Four of the six banks were rated below the category’s average.

Advisors gave the category an average importance rating of 9.5, creating a satisfaction gap of 2.6, up from 2.0 in 2021.

The branch-based planners with Toronto-Dominion Bank rated their bank lowest among its peers for technology: 6.0, down significantly from 6.9 in 2021.

The remaining below-average institutions followed closely. Bank of Montreal (BMO) was rated 6.2, as in 2021; Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) was rated 6.4, down from 6.8; and National Bank of Canada (NBC) was rated 6.5, down significantly from 7.2.

Advisors with all four banks cited poor technology integration as well as the need for better roll-outs for tools.

“The communication within systems could be improved,” said a TD advisor in Atlantic Canada. (TD advisors work for TD Wealth Financial Planning.) “There are a dozen systems and they don’t all talk to each other.”

Another TD advisor in that region said, “We have to do everything in duplicate and sometimes triplicate.”

“There are just multiple systems that don’t work together,” said a BMO advisor in Alberta. “There’s not enough capacity to manage transactions.”

A BMO advisor in British Columbia noted the bank’s tools were “clunky and inefficient” but “getting better.”

A BNS advisor in Ontario called their bank’s technology “archaic,” pointing to regular glitches, but acknowledged that BNS “is working on changing us from an old platform to a new platform. They’re in a transitional phase.”

At NBC, where systems also have been in flux, an advisor in Quebec said that system bugs “make our job very difficult; we lose time.” Another NBC advisor in Quebec said the bank would benefit from working with “more professional” digital experts.

Bank executives with these institutions said they are aware of, and plan to address, branch advisors’ struggles.

“We’ve got the core infrastructure, and [now] some of the data structures, put in place,” said David Terry, vice-president and head of TD Wealth Financial Planning. He explained that the bank’s plans include establishing better links between customer relationship management (CRM) systems and Salesforce tools, and offering more automation for handling and transferring client accounts.

Now, Terry said, “We have to start to link each of the platforms that we operate. I know that’s an area that planners are very clear about.”

Nancy Paquet, senior vice president, personal banking with NBC, said technology investment and training are priorities. A plan was made pre-pandemic that didn’t account for remote-working demands, she said, so improvements to hardware, bandwidth and tools are all in the works.

NBC planners receive regular updates through a dashboard, Paquet said. “Is [technology] improving? A lot,” she said. “When we speak again next year, it’s probably going to be less of a subject.”

Executives with BMO and BNS said in written statements that their institutions are investing in technology. BMO is working on stabilizing and modernizing its tools and use of data, while BNS said new hardware is on offer at branches and that it has two new advice-based platforms.

The two banks with above-average ratings were CIBC, rated 8.3, and Royal Bank of Canada, rated 8.2. But both ratings were lower compared with 2021 (9.1 and 8.4, respectively).

CIBC advisors (who work with CIBC Imperial Service) saw room for improvement: “There are a lot of systems that do different things,” said a CIBC advisor in B.C. “If they had one unified system, it would be much better.”

“I think [they’ve been] doing a great job over the last couple of years. There’s been a huge advance in investing into tech,” said a CIBC advisor in Ontario.

Upgrading the CIBC GoalPlanner financial planning tool “has been a big project for us,” said Peter Lee, CIBC’s executive vice-president of banking centres. “We’ve rolled that out all across the advisor base and we’ve been executing on that very diligently.”

Lee said the bank appreciates advisor feedback on what to adjust because “technology’s not perfect when it gets rolled out.”

At RBC, where planners work for RBC Financial Planning, “Technology investing is [part of] our core infrastructure, and digital technologies are [a] key focus,” said Michael Walker, vice-president and head of mutual funds distribution and RBC Financial Planning.

Even so, some advisors expressed frustration with the bank’s roll-out of tools. “I think RBC wants to be early to market with a lot of technology, which is great, but I think sometimes we bring it out before it’s fully implemented — which creates extra work,” said an RBC advisor in B.C.

Walker said RBC is most focused on improving its MyAdvisor platform, as well as clients’ mobile capabilities, alongside launching a new CRM tool called Client 360.

Across the board, branch-level advisors and planners want technology that improves, rather than complicates, client interactions. As one RBC advisor in Ontario put it, “I want to be consulted when they are making changes. I don’t want to be a guinea pig, per se. I want to be confident in them and the decisions they make.”