March 29, 2022

What are the average financial advisor fees in Canada?

The popular adage “there is no such thing as a free lunch” holds true for Financial Advisory services in Canada — despite marketing efforts, which may make you believe otherwise. It is important you know how much, and to whom, you are paying.

By

Camber

When researching and comparing financial advisors, people often ask, “what are the average financial advisor fees in Canada?” This question ties directly into our core investment principles: “Use low-cost investment vehicles and minimize transaction costs.” The fees that you pay for financial planning and investment management directly impact your investment returns. There is no better way to increase your return than to pay less in fees. Read that again. 

Two major components make up investment fees in Canada: 

  1. The fund-level expense
  2. The firm-level expense. 

For this article, we are going to focus on the firm-level expense, which is often referred to as a commission fee, trailer fee, or advisory fee. If you want to learn more about fees in the wealth management industry, check out out video "Understanding Wealth Management Fees"

Improving transparency

A handful of years ago the Canadian financial industry reached out to investors and promised them fee transparency. This program is known as CRM2 (Client Relationship Model 2). The multi-phase program only had one goal when it was created: to help Canadians gain a better understanding of the fees they pay to their financial advisors. According to the Morningstar Global Investor Experience Study: Fees and Expenses, Canadians pay some of the highest investment fees in the world.ⁱ This is due, in part, to a general lack of transparency, as well as an overall misunderstanding of how fees are collected.

Many people wrongly assume that they do not pay commission fees, trailer fees, or advisory fees, when in actuality, they  do. To make matters worse, when Canadians were polled about the advisory fees that they pay, 58% of them claimed that they did not pay them at all, while another 25% were unsure.ⁱⁱ This only leaves about 17% of Canadians who are aware that they pay their advisor through a trailer or advisory fee. We want to make it clear that the vast majority of Canadian investors do pay trailer fees, commission fees, or advisory fees, even though they might not see them.  This massive disconnect between Canadian investors and the financial industry has been a major point of contention, and although CRM2 did bring some awareness and transparency to this problem, it did little to force firms to disclose all of the fees.

In Canada, getting a clear understanding of these fees can be quite complicated. Every firm has a different fee structure and can choose to report it in their own way. (Writing this article proved to be very labour-intensive, as we had to dig through many different sources to ensure we were citing the most accurate information possible.) Many financial institutions will either bundle their firm-level fee into the MER (Management Expense Ratio) of a fund, or they will charge it separately. If it is bundled within an MER, then figuring out what portion of the total cost is represented by the advisory fee becomes even more complicated. According to Morningstar, the average MER on an equity fund in Canada is 1.76%.ⁱⁱⁱ The problem with this number is that it does not break out the components of an MER fee any further; it is just reported as a whole number. It also includes both passively and actively managed investment options, as well as mutual funds and ETFs.

Different fees for different services

As a general rule, advisory fees are almost always on a decreasing scale based on how much money you have to invest. This is known as the percentage of asset method. According to AdvisoryHQ, for a $1,000,000 portfolio, the average financial advisor fee is 1.02% per year.ⁱᵛ This means that you would pay $10,200 per year in advisory fees on that $1,000,000 portfolio. As your assets get bigger, this fee drops. At $5,000,000, the average financial advisor fee is 0.84%, which equates to $42,000 a year in fees. Every firm has a different scale, and with that scale comes different service offerings.

DIY: self-directed investing

The cheapest and most basic offering is a do-it-yourself (DIY) option.  In most cases, these DIY solutions are transaction-based and will cost you around $10 per trade. These platforms are barebones and, typically, do not provide financial planning or investment management support.

Automated solution: robo-advisors

A step up from DIY is to use an automated solution — a robo-advisor. Robo-advisors are still fairly new to the Canadian market but they do offer several positive features, including automatic rebalancing, risk ratings, and research-based portfolios. In most cases, a robo-advisor will cost you 0.4%-0.7% per year in advisory fees.ᵛ So, what do you do if you want advice on things like reducing your taxes, or saving for retirement?

Personalized service: Financial advisors, planners, portfolio managers

Financial advisors come in many different forms and have varying specialties. Finding the right financial planner can be challenging. We recommend that you look for a planner that provides you with full financial planning that considers your unique situation. A thorough financial planner will design strategies that provide you with value in areas such as tax, estate, and, ultimately, peace of mind. Fees for these services can range from per transaction charges, annual fees, or percentage of asset. For example, Camber charges based on the size of assets we manage:

Camber's fees:

          First $2M assets — 0.95%
          Next $3M assets — 0.70%
          Next $5M assets — 0.50%
          Next $10M+ — 0.30%
          Minimum account size of $500,000

Don't be afraid to ask

Now that you are more aware of what advisory fees should cost and are able to understand what you want to get for those fees, we encourage you to hold your advisor accountable. If you do not know already, ask them what you pay in fees, what that fee covers, and who receives the compensation. If you are not receiving the level of planning you desire, or feel that you do not need the planning at all, then it might be time to reconsider if you should be paying fees.

At Camber, we value transparency in our fees. We want our clients to know how much they pay and what services they are paying for. You can read more about our fees in this article.

Overall, we believe that advisory fees should be transparent to clients and be an accurate reflection of the services provided — they should never be hidden or confusing.  A trusted financial advisor should focus more on gaining an understanding of you and your money, rather than trying to pick stocks and follow the latest trend.

We hope that you enjoyed this comprehensive look into the average financial advisor fees in Canada and can gain a better understanding of what you are paying, how much you are paying, and what you are getting.

More information on us

If you've made it this far and are interested in what makes Camber different, please check out the video above or check out our blogs, like this one detailing our service offering.

If you wanted to ask us any questions, please do! You can send us an email at CamberHQ@camberco.ca.

We wish you wealth.

ⁱ Kennaway, Johnson, Pettit, Dutt, et al. “Global Investor Experience Study: Fees and Expenses.” Morningstar. March 30, 2022

ⁱⁱ Credo Consulting. “How Trailer Fees Affect The Value of Financial Advice.” July 13, 2017. https://credo.ca/how-trailer-fees-affect-the-value-of-financial-advice/

ⁱⁱⁱ Kennaway, Johnson, Pettit, Dutt, et al. “Global Investor Experience Study: Fees and Expenses.” Morningstar. March 30, 2022

ⁱᵛ AdvisoryHQ. “What are the Average Financial Advisor Fees & Investment Fees Being Charged in 2021?” https://www.advisoryhq.com/articles/financial-advisor-fees-wealth-managers-planners-and-fee-only-advisors/

ᵛ Globe and Mail. “Presenting Canada’s cheapest robo-adviser, the best performers and the ones who don’t like Canadian stocks much” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investing/personal-finance/article-presenting-canadas-cheapest-robo-adviser-the-best-performers-and-the/