Although financial advisors have never been shy to share their thoughts about their firms when surveyed for Investment Executive's (IE) annual Report Card series, they still place much value on doing the same through direct communication with their company's executives.

For some advisors, having a healthy, twoway conversation with management in which executives keep advisors informed while also listening intently for advisors' suggestions about the way the business is run often is cited as one of the most positive aspects of working at their firms.

As an advisor in Ontario with Torontobased RBC Dominion Securities Inc. says: "[The brokerage is] a very entrepreneurial culture, one that is supported not dictated by head office. Senior management listens to what we advisors have to say."

Perhaps not surprising, then, advisors who echoed this sentiment typically rated their firms highly in this year's Report Card series. More specifically, firms that received strong ratings in both the "firm's effectiveness in keeping advisors informed" and "firm's receptiveness to advisor feedback" categories also ranked among the top 10 firms in the entire Report Card series in terms of the IE rating and overall rating by advisors. (The IE rating is the average rating among all categories in which advisors rated their firms excluding the overall rating by advisors, which is a rating advisors give their firms as a whole. Both ratings are on a scale of zero [very low] to 10 [very high].)

Case in point: Mississauga, Ont.-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN), a managing general agency (MGA), received the highest IE rating and overall rating by advisors in this year's Report Card series, as well as among the highest ratings in both communications-related categories. Regarding advisor feedback, IDC WIN advisors rated their firm at 9.1 for the ongoing communication between advisors and management throughout the year especially at annual conferences.

"There are open discussions at our annual meetings," says an IDC WIN advisor in Alberta. "And throughout the year, if I have anything, I could just mention it to the head [of the MGA]."

In addition to being able to share ideas with management, advisors like to be kept in the loop about what's going on at their firms and in the investment industry.

For example, advisors with Mississaugabased Edward Jones ranked their firm's effectiveness in keeping them informed at 9.1, which tied that firm with Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce for the second-highest rating in the category in this year's Report Card series.

"We have regular [communication] from management; we know where the company is going," says an Edward Jones advisor in Ontario. "We want to know what's happening with the company."

Edward Jones keeps its advisor force informed through several channels, including daily e-bulletins, web portals and regional meetings.

"We have many branches across Canada, so communication is critically important in both directions: head office to the branch teams, and branch teams back to the head office," says Kevin Birch, principal, branch and regional development, with Edward Jones.

Although advisors appreciate being kept up to date, that feeling can quickly turn sour if they feel overwhelmed with information or if that information is presented in a way that can be difficult to navigate. Such was the sentiment of advisors with Lévis, Que.-based Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network.

On one hand, Desjardins advisors acknowledged that their mutual fund dealer provides information through several channels. However, the amount of information sent and the way in which it is presented can be troublesome for advisors.

"Communication is key, and I think that sometimes there's just too much stuff. And [Desjardins'] online 'office' that they use [to provide] information still is a little difficult

to [use to] find things," says a Desjardins advisor in Ontario.

As a result, Desjardins advisors, who gave their firm among the lowest ratings, overall, in the Report Card series also rated their firm low in keeping advisors informed.

Desjardins executives are aware of the challenges and are in the midst of streamlining some of the firm's communication methods, says Nancy Schafer, vice president, brokerage distribution and wealth services, with Desjardins: "We know that the communication that we've had has not been effective."

Thus, Desjardins has begun to combine three newsletters covering compliance, news about the dealer, and sales and business development into one bulletin entitled DFSIN Connect as part of those efforts to improve the firm's internal communications.

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