As banks restructure their advisory teams, Manulife Securities is reaping the benefits.

George Garner, head of national sales at Manulife Securities, says while the firm has been looking to “add good advisors to our network […] for the last three or four years, we might be a bit more active at this moment.”

He adds, “Our activity is probably ramped up by about 30%.”

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The firm is looking for advisors who can appreciate “a strong brand behind it, but really value their independence,” notes Garner, alluding to the fact that the dealer supports independent advisor practices.

Manulife Securities, which currently employs 1,250 advisors (almost an equal split between MFDA- and IIROC-licensed) and manages about $32 billion in assets, is also in the market to acquire another practice if the right opportunity presents itself.

“We’re looking for firms that would be a good fit for us and our philosophies,” says Garner. “It needs to be the right firm, right price [and] right culture.”

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He uses the 2012 acquisition of Wellington West Financial Services as an example. About 85% of Wellington advisors have remained with the firm since the deal. Having similar cultures played a key role.

“With the Wellington acquisition, we felt it would work exceedingly well for us, and it has. We’d be looking for other sorts of opportunities like that.”

Regulatory proposals

In April 2016, CSA proposed targeted reforms whereby advisor titles could change. Garner says it’s too early to comment until there is more information.

“We need to have a bit more dialogue around what the intent of these changes are,” he says. “What is the end result that people are hoping to achieve? [We need to know this] so that we can have a better idea of what the implications might be.”

However, Garner does have thoughts about CSA’s best interest standard. Even though it’s still in the proposal stages, he says Manulife Securities is being proactive by working toward it.

“We’re supportive in [our advisors’] initiatives to make the end-user customer experience better,” he says. “And yes, it can create a lot of work, and changes in processes and protocols. But the more transparent we can be for the customer and more consistent we can be in the service models we offer them, the better we are.”

Changes to service models include being compliant with CRM2 and Point of Sale Disclosure of Mutual Funds stage 3. The firm is also working with its advisors so they can address these changes with customers. For instance, the firm offers educational sessions for advisors, created CRM2 bulletins to provide updates, and has a field team of 40 people working with its advisors on these initiatives.

“We’ve hired a field director of practice management to help deliver programs to our advisors,” says Garner. “We want to make sure that everyone is prepared for these conversations that will be happening, and we’re hoping they’re already happening to make sure [clients] clearly understands [the advisor’s] service model: what, how and at what price.”