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Mutual fund advisers will be required next year to complete continuing education credits in order to keep their licence, putting them on par with other certified professionals in the financial services industry as the sector looks to increase transparency.

Securities regulators have approved new rules that will make continuing education (CE) requirements mandatory for more than 82,000 registered representatives at 111 dealer firms, starting in 2020.

Unlike other industry professionals, such as those licensed to sell securities by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada or who hold the certified financial planner designation, mutual fund-licensed financial advisers have not been required to meet continuing education requirements to maintain their licence.

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The introduction of an education regime for mutual fund advisers comes amid several other industry initiatives that look to provide greater transparency to investors about how much they are paying financial advisers and the cost of investing. Earlier this month, the Canadian Securities Administrators approved a set of investor protection rules that look to hold advisers accountable for the investment decisions they make for clients, but did not include the outright ban of certain embedded commissions investors may pay when taking out investments early.

Now, mutual fund advisers, chief compliance officers, and branch managers will have to complete a 30-hour continuing education credit every two years. An official start date for the new rules has not been announced, but the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada says it will become effective in 2020 and firms will be given an “appropriate” transition period.

“We have established what the CE program is, and now we are just finalizing how it works and how it will be implemented,” an MFDA spokesperson told The Globe and Mail.

In comparison, IIROC-licensed advisers must complete 42 hours of credits over a three-year cycle, while CFPs must complete 25 hours of continuing education requirements every year.

“These changes were a long time coming and formalizes the professionalism of the mutual fund adviser,” says Michael Stanley, president of Sterling Mutual, who oversees 300 mutual fund advisers in Ontario. “For advisers who hold dual licences – such as an insurance licence or certified financial planning designation – this should not be onerous.”

The MFDA is in the process of developing a continuing education-tracking database to help investment firms monitor their individual advisers credits; as well as “accreditation standards” that will identify the approved continuing education courses.

“The only way to have a process that is efficient for members and advisers to implement and allows us to have an effective regulatory oversight is through a technological solution," the MFDA said. “Our CE tracking and report system will give us complete transparency… into an adviser’s ongoing education and training activity efforts."

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