New service will rate, review advisors

By Vikram Barhat | August 9, 2010 | Last updated on August 9, 2010
4 min read

Life is about choices. And investors shopping for financial advisors are about to get about 80,000 of those.

Coming to an online medium near you is an innovative financial advisor data base, Know Your Financial Advisor (, that claims to connect advisors and investors like never before.

The website positions itself as Canada’s first secure community with tools to help investors find, evaluate, and interact with financial advisors round the clock. Taking the concept at face value, advisors, albeit a bit circumspect, are already nodding their initial approval.

“This looks like an interesting concept and another viable marketing tool for us to use,” says Edwin Wong, a certified financial planner with Canfin Financial Group. “Anything that will bring greater visibility to our services given the fact that it’s more difficult than ever to contact prospects due to tighter regulations.”

The website will enable investors to compare advisors from its database of 80,000 advisor profiles.

“It’ll definitely keep us advisors sharp and on our toes now that the general public is able to easily compare different advisors at the click of a mouse button,” says Wong.

KYFA plans to make plentiful information available on advisors with a view to help investors evaluate them. We’re here to help, says Christian Gradley, co-founder and CEO of KYFA.

“There will be copious information and education sections on the website,” he says. As the community grows, so too will the educational tools. “With one’s life savings at stake, it’s not a decision that should be based on whose flyer you received in the mail.”

Investors need help and KYFA is here to provide it, says Gradley about the rationale behind the concept. “The impetus behind the site is to help. Right now it’s difficult and frustrating for both advisors and investors.”

KYFA is a one-stop-shop for investors to get to know advisors and their industry. “The site looks promising,” says Natalie Jamison, an advisor with Jamison Family Wealth Management, RBC Dominion Securities. “I like that advisors will be able to answer questions (from potential clients) and boost their credibility.”

In addition to a national advisor database, the site will provide advisor ratings and reviews, and the option of comparing them using the Audition tool.

This has some advisors concerned. Many expressed discomfort over the website being hijacked by people with ulterior motives to carry out personal vendettas. These advisors wonder if they would have a say in reviews about them.

“My biggest concern would be how much control would we have over the content and reviews about us posted by clients,” says Wong. “If a disgruntled client posts a bad review about the advisor, perhaps even slanderous, will the advisor have the ability to remove this content that could potentially hurt him or her?”

Jamison wants to know who will screen the reviews and make sure they are legitimate.

Gradley says steps have been taken to ensure the legitimacy of these reviews. A fraud detection system will effectively prevent individuals from posting fraudulent reviews about advisors, and advisors posting flattering reviews about themselves.

“In order to tackle both sides of this problem, we created a detailed, multi-level, checks-and-balances system to weed out any fraudulent posts and discourage tampering with the review process,” says Gradley. “Basically though, advisors, compliance (if they so desire) and our site admin have the ability, at certain stages, to vet all client reviews.”

At the very beginning, all individuals desiring to post a review must first be approved by the advisor as being a “client” of theirs, he says.

Advisors say the website could be a useful tool to build a profile, provided their compliance department will allow the use of the site and there are ways to verify the legitimacy of the reviewers.

“Everyone from Gen Y to Boomers are now online, so this will probably garner some attention, but I would hope that the social media strategies have been carefully thought out ahead of time,” says Jamison.

Through the site, advisors can also advertise their seminars or events, and answer the public’s questions in the Answers + Advice forum which will have “Canada’s first financial event calendar.”

The issue of compliance and digital delivery of information are inextricably linked. Advisors want to know if the site has been approved by regulatory authorities. Many are asking if the compliance departments of bank-owned firms will allow advisors to answer questions or post profiles.

Gradley assures the community that “important discussions with industry associations” (such as IIROC and CSA) are on the agenda.

“Compliance is a large part of an investment advisor’s daily communication and marketing efforts, we have created a system to make sure CCOs in Canada are happy.”

A former CIBC Wood Gundy employee, he is intimately familiar with what bank-owned firms considered compliance issues. “We were able to originate the idea of creating an entire compliance back-end to the website, wherein compliance departments of firms, and their individual officers, can have logins through which they can monitor and control all of their firm’s FAs’ activities on the site.”

Allowing this level of control, he hopes, will gain wide approval from compliance departments.


Vikram Barhat