Canadians are far too complacent about the service they're getting from their financial advisers.
That's the conclusion that Adam Hennick of Hennick Wealth Management draws from a survey his firm commissioned about attitudes toward advisers. A total of 1,067 adults were surveyed and just over one-third worked with an adviser. In that group, only 1 per cent disagreed with the statement that their adviser could be trusted to work in their best interests. A similar story was told in a question about whether advisers provide valuable advice – just 1 per cent disagreed.
Survey results like these have been used many times over the years to enhance the reputation of the advisory business. But the firm that commissioned this particular poll isn't doing that. Instead, it's accusing investors of not being critical enough of the quality of advice they receive.
"This survey should set off red alert sirens that Canadians are too apathetic when it comes to their financial advisers' performance," Mr. Hennick, CEO of Hennick Wealth Management, said in a news release about the survey. "Canadians need to be a little less polite, ask more questions of their advisors, and ensure that they are getting the best performance possible for their portfolio."
The subtext here is that some advisers aren't doing the job, which is a surprising thing to hear from a wealth management firm. Get used to it. We're entering a period of rapid changes for the advisory business in which the people who actually advise will try to separate themselves from investment salespeople who are advisers in name only.
Apathy is one reason for the high level of client satisfaction with advisers. Another is that financial markets have been performing well lately, despite lingering economic weakness in Canada and many other countries. Give investors good returns and they're not liable to ask questions about the service they're getting from their advisers.
As Mr. Hennick suggests, that's not a good approach. Advisers should be judged by the comprehensiveness and quality of the financial planning they provide as much as investment returns. Here's a quick checklist to see if your adviser is actually advising you:
- You meet at least annually to discuss results and changes in your situation
- You have a financial plan that was developed by your adviser after asking you a battery of questions.
- You have discussed aspects of your finances that go beyond investments, including your debt levels (mortgage included), taxes, family obligations and intentions for retirement.
Those great investment returns we've seen lately will fade at some point. If you're dealing with an investment sales person and not a true adviser, so will the sort of high satisfaction ratings that were found in that Hennick survey.