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The investment portfolio review service that Money Coaches Canada set up a year or so ago has revealed the secret to what makes clients unhappy with their advisers.

“The big takeaway is that people want more clarity,” said Karin Mizgala, chief executive and co-founder at Money Coaches Canada. “We thought that it would be largely fee-driven.”

About 35 people have used the On Your Side Investment Report Card service from Money Coaches, a financial-planning firm that charges a flat fee for advice and does not sell or manage investments. Seventy per cent of report-card clients had advisers, while 30 per cent were do-it-yourself investors. Of the people with advisers, 80 per cent indicated they were going to move their account after receiving the report card.

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A common theme with this group was dissatisfaction with the answers they received when asking questions. “There was a sense they weren’t being heard or responded to appropriately,” Ms. Mizgala said.

The report cards cost $1,500 for individuals and $2,500 for couples. They consider fees, performance, investment mix, tax optimization and alignment of client portfolios with their goals. Fees, while not a major irritant with report-card clients, generated some surprising observations.

Ms. Mizgala estimated that fees in many cases were 0.5-per-cent to 1-per-cent higher on average than they needed to be, in large part because of the common use of high-fee mutual funds. Money Coaches says these fees can be reduced through the use of low-fee mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.

Most clients had a fairly good idea of what their fees were in percentage terms. But Ms. Mizgala said many were shocked to see the fees in dollars. The investment industry is required by regulators to disclose advice fees in dollar terms in an annual statement to clients, but Ms. Mizgala said these documents leave certain fees out and, in any case, are often ignored by investors.

High fees largely explain the firm’s finding that clients with mutual funds sold by an adviser underperformed their benchmarks by 0.82 of a percentage point on average.

Half the clients who used the second-opinion service had portfolios valued at $1-million or more, and 20 per cent were worth more than $5-million. “I was surprised [the second-opinion service] would attract those kinds of portfolios,” Ms. Mizgala said. “The higher net worth category isn’t necessarily as well served as we might think it is.”

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