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Fewer investors are depending on financial advisors to purchase mutual funds, according to the 2020 Canadian Mutual Fund and Exchange Traded Fund Investor Survey.

The survey, released by Pollara Strategic Insights and the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC) on Monday, found that only 75% of mutual fund investors said they work with a financial advisor, compared with about 90% who said the same in 2016.

ETF investors, meanwhile, were more independent in how they purchase their funds. Forty-six percent used an advisor for their last purchase (the same percentage as in 2019), with the remainder using platforms such as discount brokerages and robo-advisor services.

This difference emphasizes investors’ changing expectations for accessing advice and financial products, according to panellists speaking at a Canadian Leaders session at the 2020 IFIC Annual Leadership Conference.

“Investors have preferences to receive advice in different forms and we’re starting to see more consumer-led steering of how they’re going to receive advice,” said Kathleen Bock, managing director and head of Toronto-based Vanguard Investments Canada Inc.

Investors who chose to work with advisors are happy with the service they receive: 98% of mutual fund investors and 96% of ETF investors were “somewhat” to “completely” satisfied with their financial advisors.

In terms of fee awareness, 84% of mutual fund investors reported that their advisor had discussed at least one of three fee categories with them (fees and commissions; management expense ratios; fees paid to the advisory firm). Only 45% said their advisors had discussed all three.

There were small year-over-year declines in terms of fee discussions. For example, 58% of mutual fund investors said they had discussed fees paid to the firm in 2020, compared with the 63% of investors who said the same in 2019.

Fee awareness was slightly better among ETF investors. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they had discussed at least one fee structure with an advisor, compared with 49% who had discussed all three. Sixty-six percent of investors said they discussed on fees paid to the advisory firms — a higher proportion than among mutual fund investors — which represents a decline from 2019’s findings of 69%.

In August, the Canadian Securities Administrators published the results of a three-year study that revealed that little has changed in key areas, such as investors understanding fees, in the years since the investment industry adopted measures designed to significantly enhance disclosure.

Research for the Pollara survey was conducted via phone interviews of 1,138 mutual fund investors and 500 ETF investors between May 28 and July 5, 2020.