Canada wealth managers lure clients with websites

Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:59pm EST
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By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Bank of Montreal's relatively new website has everything an investor might need, from wealth calculators to videos, worksheets, checklists and information to tie it all together. But with so much free advice on offer, is there still a need for investors to contact the bank's financial advisers?

The executives who designed the site believe so.

"It's like WebMD - you might check your symptoms, but in the end, you're always going to go see the doctor if you're really concerned," said Lisa Parise, director of Enterprise Wealth Planning at BMO (BMO.TO: Quote), Canada's fourth-largest bank.

While wealth managers at Canada's big banks, insurers, and independent practices once fretted about giving information away for free, the evolution of internet marketing and consumer demand for information has pushed everyone into full-service website design.

Similar tools are found on the web page of any financial adviser or firm - retirement savings calculators, net worth worksheets, budget and investment planning for every life stage. And there are also constant links and pop-ups to connect with an adviser by phone, by email, by live chat or even video, in the hope the website will serve as an introduction to fee-generating advisers.

"It's part of what's happening in the world - people are going to (the Internet) for information. And if that's where the consumers are going and that's how they want to get information, we will be there," said Vicken Kazazian, president of Sun Life Financial Distributors (Canada) Inc (SLF.TO: Quote), Canada's third-largest life insurer.

Parise and Kazazian say they've weathered an evolution in thinking about website resources over the years. It started more than a decade ago with shallow sites advertising services, essentially online brochures, and has since moved to full-service sites where a client would be able to buy a simple product without connecting to another person.

The goal, evidenced by contact details supplied at every turn, is to encourage investors to gather information and then pick up the phone.   Continued...