Banker turned fee-only advisor reveals all

A banker turned fee-only advisor is detailing the pressure placed on her to cross-sell.

A retail banker turned fee-only advisor is now detailing the pressure she faced to cross-sell -- regardless of client needs.

“When I was in the bank I was incentivised to sell (its products), that’s how my performance was evaluated,” Sandi Martin of Spring Personal Finance as a guest on the online Canadian Mortgage Hangout TV. “Even though I really wanted to serve the person across the desk from me as best I could and give them the best, unbiased advice… a little voice was telling me ‘but you’re going to have to tell your manager that you couldn’t sell them another Visa card or whatever.’”

Really, said the former mortgage specialist, the primary focus of that job is to ensure the client is sold as many products as possible, essentially  a strategy that often forces advise to take a back seat to selling.

“The more depth you have in your client profile, the more money you can make off of them,” Martin said. “Once you have a mortgage and a transactional account, if you can add one more thing – like some kind of investment – the branch feels like it’s really got its client in position.”

This may come as no surprise to mortgage brokers and other independent advisors who started at the banks. The imposition of firewalls between retail bank and wealth management divisions springs from that kind of pressure to cross-sell.

Still the practice is alive and well at the local branch, especially round mortgages, suggests Martin, based in central Ontario.


“(Mortgages) are very profitable for the branch… the real competition for mortgage brokers is the person in the branch office down the road; that person is really concerned with how many mortgages, new money to the branch a mortgage can bring them,” Martin said during the online discussion last week. “(They) want to be identified as the primary bank – so that includes having a checking account, having a savings account, having your RRSPs, having your mortgage, having your line of credit, your unsecured car loan.”

And perhaps most interestingly, Martin revealed exactly how she tried to pry business away from mortgage brokers.

“When I was in banking, if someone would come into the branch – I’ll just kind of give you my spiel, what I used to say to clients, as a responsible bank employee who really wanted their mortgage dollars,” Martin said, recalling her script. “‘Mr. Client, I understand that they can give you 25 basis points and that’s fantastic; I would love to do that for you. But what your 25 basis points is going to buy you here and the bank: I’m here all the time.

“’If you have a problem, it’s my mortgage. I can call my back-office, I can give you service. Once a mortgage broker sells you that mortgage they’re done with you – they’re not going to give you any service, they don’t care about you; you’re the next client out the door for them.’”

Martin delves much deeper into the psyche of a bank employee on the 45 minute segment. To watch the entire episode, click here.