I was reading The Globe & Mail last week when I came across an article about the retirement compensation packages of two former executives at CIBC. The two men; one a former CEO, the other a former COO, retired in September of 2014, yet both are to be paid their full salaries plus perks for another year- totaling approximately $25 million.

I must admit that for the briefest of moments I caught myself thinking that these two men were slightly overpaid. Many different areas of bank business support these high incomes, including one in which we ourselves compete: personal investment management. Banks charge their clients fees to manage their mutual funds, brokerages, and investment accounts. Is this a crime? Of course not, I earned my MBA at Western’s Ivey Business School; I’m a proponent of the values of a capitalist economy.

If banks simply want to charge people for the advice and products they provide, fine, as long as that advice is conflict-free. Yet a bank’s profits depend in part on how many in-house products they sell and cross sell. What’s best for the bank might not be what’s best for their clients. This conflict of interest ends up costing Canadians billions of dollars a year in the form of higher management fees, commissions, and administrative charges. This helps paint a picture of how Canadian banks are able to afford paying their top executives such high salaries. Yet are they really worth what we’re paying them?

Many Canadian bank heads point to their handling of the 2008 credit crisis as a point of pride. However, the fact that our banks avoided falling into the same traps as their American and European counterparts is due more to federal banking regulation and oversight than executive leadership.

It’s true that Canadian banks have been profitable for investors: they’ve had a monopoly in this country for the better part of three decades. They vigorously protect their grip on the investment market through control of regulatory bodies- making it extremely difficult for new independent advisory firms to enter the marketplace. Despite these attempts at profit protection, many Canadians are taking their investments away from the banks in favour of lower fee, conflict-free advice offered by independent wealth and portfolio management firms.

At Tulett, Matthews & Assoc., providing conflict-free advice in a fiduciary environment is our calling. We believe it benefits our clients more than the profits-at-all-costs bank model. Investors around the world are seeing the appeal of this independent, fiduciary-based relationship model, as evidenced by the increased growth of these firms. We are proud to be a part of this independent movement, and we thank you for your confidence in choosing to work with us.

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