Consumers deserve to understand the service they’re receiving. When a consumer wishes to purchase an investment fund or insurance product, they can meet with someone who has a product sales license.
When that same consumer wants to look at the bigger picture and plan for their financial future, however, they should have the peace of mind that they are working with a qualified professional who will focus on providing the advice needed to achieve their goals.
A Financial Advisor does a lot more than sell a product. In fact, 80-90% of our day is spent providing advice, guidance, and counselling for our clients. When we sell a product, it is only one part of a holistic strategy to achieve our clients’ objectives.
In 2020, we were thrilled that Bill 207, The Financial Planners and Financial Advisors Act, passed the legislature unanimously. This Bill bore the fruits of the efforts of our professional association (Advocis, The Financial Advisors Association of Canada) by ensuring that those holding themselves out as either a financial advisor or financial planner would meet defined and regulated standards for the benefit of those seeking financial advice. We support the ongoing work of the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) towards restricting both titles. It is long overdue.
This must, however, be done the right way in order to strengthen consumer protection. In Ontario, the qualifications for the Financial Advisor title simply do not go far enough to reflect what we do on a daily basis – and most importantly, they do not satisfy what consumers deserve and expect. A sales license should not, by any means, be the minimum standard for a professional title that consumers rely upon.
For context, it takes years to obtain a designation like the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and these designations cover topics related to client service and ethics. A sales license, on the other hand, can be obtained in a matter of weeks. A sales license is a pathway to product; however, when delivering professional financial advice, a designation should be a necessity.
Saskatchewan is poised to do what we do best: take a leadership role. We did it with Universal Health Care, and we are ready to do it again with protecting consumers who rely on financial advice.
We support the FCAA’s proposal to raise the bar for the financial advisor title beyond that of a sales license. By implementing its product-agnostic “Comprehensive Approach”, the FCAA would better align the title to client expectations and enhance consumer protection by eliminating the inherent product bias of a sales-focused standard.
We believe that consumer protection needs to be placed at the centre of the title protection framework. Saskatchewan’s approach achieves this.
Though we are supportive of harmonization across provinces wherever possible and we commend Ontario for its work in launching a title protection framework in that province, we firmly believe that consumer protection should not be sacrificed at the altar of harmonization.
The bottom line is simple: the major improvement to consumer protection gained by holding financial advisors to a higher standard outweighs the costs from reduced harmonization.
Let’s do this for consumers. Let’s raise the bar and encourage other provinces to, once again, follow our lead.
Curtis Kimpton, CFP, CLU, RRC, CIM, HRF, Chair, Advocis Saskatchewan Provincial Advocacy Committee.