This article appears in the last print issue of Advisor’s Edge magazine. If you’re a print-only subscriber, learn more about our digital transition and how to continue to receive all the best news and features on Advisor.ca.
If the headlines of the past decade are to be believed, millennials are master assassins. We’ve been accused of killing cereal, cable TV, the institution of marriage — and financial advice.
The list of suspected advice-killers contains more than just millennials, though, and it’s often contradictory: both high and low interest rates are on it. So are all generations following the greatest one — including the often-overlooked generation X. Technology, of course, features prominently.
But financial advice isn’t dead.
According to the latest statistics from the Investment Industry Association of Canada, the investment industry has never employed more staff or been more profitable. CFPs number more than 17,300, the highest figure since 2014.
Here’s a look at three things pundits said would kill financial advice over the past few decades, and why that hasn’t happened.
The industry tends to fight new rules and regs vociferously, arguing the additional burden will raise compliance costs and threaten survival.
Time and again, however, such fears are allayed by extensive consultations, industry-friendly adjustments and a glacial rollout pace.
For example, the Stromberg Report recommended a single self-regulatory organization back in 1995, and the industry took nearly three decades to implement that advice. And Ontario’s title reform initiative, which many hoped would separate the financial-advisor wheat from the money-ninja chaff, has been diluted by the approval of an embarrassing number of designations.
Regulators have proposed plenty of rules that require course correction. But in many cases, a protracted process results in investor-protection initiatives being reduced to shells of their intended glory. Depending on your point of view, that’s encouraging or depressing — but advice-killing it’s not.
2. The tech wreck, 2008 and the pandemic
Bad markets are scarring for advisors and investors alike, and the experience can feel singularly catastrophic.
When the Nasdaq peaked and then popped in the early 2000s, cutting deeply into the net worths of North America’s baby boomers, many felt that generation would never again trust equity markets and the advisors who placed their savings there.
Today, polls find that baby boomers’ propensity to work with financial advisors is generally on par with other generations, and in some cases boomers exhibit higher trust than other age cohorts.
Far from killing advice, economic downturns tend to bolster the argument for competent financial advisors. With the good times gone, advisors must justify their fees through education, risk management, behavioural coaching, and tax, estate and cash-flow planning, instead of performance.
ETFs have been around since 1990, but alarm about the products reached a fever pitch in the 2010s as they proliferated. (We were admittedly guilty of milking the hysteria, publishing our share of “ETFs vs. mutual fund” headlines.) The hype was not unfounded: today, more than 1,300 ETFs trade on Canada’s two major exchanges, and annual ETF sales have outpaced those of mutual funds in four of the past five calendar years.
Still, not every financial advisor is able to sell ETFs — at least until the new SRO sorts things out — and those who can often use mutual funds and ETFs together. Time saved by using ETFs instead of stock picking, on the other hand, is often redeployed for client relationship-building and coaching.
ETFs fuelled the rise of robo-advisors, another suspect on the advice-killing list. Many said investors would eschew advice when they could buy their own securities. But many DIYers may want to talk to someone once they mess up, like following the meme-stock craze of 2021.
Advisor’s Edge launched in 1998 with a simple mandate: “To help you do your job. To help you better serve your clients. To help you build your business. To provide you with perspective on the enormous amount of information that lands on your desk.”
A quarter century later, that information is more likely to land in your inbox and on your screen. In response, we’re devoting all our resources to bringing you the best possible digital experience, and we’re looking forward to continuing to serve you at Advisor.ca.
People will always need advice. And we’ll be here to advise the advisors.
With files from Phil Porado, who led Advisor’s Edge from 2008 to 2016.
Update your Advisor.ca profile
This article appeared in our final print issue before all coverage moves to Advisor.ca. Retain access to our award-winning financial journalism by signing up for our newsletters at Advisor.ca/profile. Look out for our new and improved website later this year.