It may not be as scintillating as online dating services, but Sun Life has entered the matchmaking business creating Advisor Match, a website that matches up clients with advisors based on compatibility.
"Through focus groups, consumers told us that the recent recession has changed what they're looking for from companies they deal with for financial and insurance needs," says Lori Bak, vice-president, marketing with Sun Life Financial Canada. "We listened to Canadians and built an online resource based on what they told us was important to them when it comes to finding an advisor."
Advisor Match will be is an easy-to-use application that allows Canadians to input information that is used to filter potential advisor matches. Research indicates that age, gender and language preferences are significant factors for a successful advisor relationship. Based on this and additional criteria, Advisor Match provides up to 12 potential advisor candidates and allows customers to decide if they want to contact the advisor of their choice or if they would like the advisor to contact them.
Kevin Strain, senior vice-president of individual insurance and investments for Sun Life Canada, emphasized that the matches are designed to be long-term relationships.
"A lot of these relations last decades if not through generations. We have advisors who are third-generation advisors, their grandfather worked with their family advisor and now they work with the family advisor," Strain says. "We looked at criteria that form the foundation of long-term relationships; location was obviously one—you want somebody who is close to you, age was important—what life stage you're in, other factors such as gender, language and affluence sometimes also played a role."
Strain says that the M.O. of successful relationships seems to form around similar life situations.
"We've found really what people are looking for is someone who is in a similar situation to them," he says. "They understand what the other person is going through—that tends to form the basis of long-term relationships."
Over the next few months Sun Life will promote their Advisor Match service in a national advertising campaign. Strain says the program has 1,500 participating advisors in 349 communities across Canada. More than 50 different languages are spoken by Sun Life advisors and all of the advisors in the program will have both insurance and mutual fund licenses.
While the advertising campaign should increase awareness of the program to retail Canadian investors, the website may end up being just as valuable for group plan sponsors. Value-added advice for group plan members has been an increasing concern, particularly for retiring members. This service can be used for some institutions to match up plan members with an advisor, Strain says.
A group client that was sold by an advisor—a corporate account—we already work with that group business and the advisor would continue to work with the client is in that basis. We don't disrupt that," he says. "Where there are situations where there is a group client that doesn't have an advisor attached to it, we've tried to match clients up with an advisor. Right now, were in the process of replacing our Find an Advisor tool with Advisor Match."
Strain adds, "We have research that shows that Canadians derive financial benefits with working with advisors. Eighty-six percent of Canadians say they make better decisions about their finances when working with an advisor, 83% say they are more confident about their finances and 82% they will have a better a retirement if it's created with an advisor. We want to help all [our customers] link to advisors who will help create that value for them."