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Advisor News FP Canada doubles down on certification and education

Cary List, president and chief executive officer of FP Canada.

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What was once the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) – the non-profit standards-setting and certifications body for certified financial planners (CFP) in Canada – is no longer. The organization relaunched on April 1 as FP Canada, introducing a slew of changes that go far beyond a new name and which have significant implications for financial planners and financial advisors who want to earn the CFP designation.

The relaunched FP Canada has two major divisions. FP Canada Standards Council will fulfill the role of the old FPSC in establishing and enforcing financial planning standards, setting the certification requirements for financial planners and developing and delivering certification examinations. Meanwhile, FP Canada Institute is an educational arm that will offer three professional education courses and tools for current and prospective financial planners.

FP Canada is also working toward launching the qualified associate financial planner designation, which will replace the the current FPSC Level 1 certification, the first step on the path to earning the CFP designation, as of Jan. 1, 2020. The organization is currently developing courses to train prospective candidates for this designation.

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As part of the rebranding, FP Canada also has partnered with the Institut québécois de planification financière (IQPF) to increase that province’s representation in FP Canada’s governance and to unify the standards and certification processes for financial planners across all of Canada.

“There’s an awful lot ahead for [FP Canada], but it’s very, very early days,” says Cary List, FP Canada’s president and chief executive officer.

Globe Advisor spoke with Mr. List to gain a further understanding of what these changes mean for the organization, financial planners and investors.

What was the inspiration behind making the changes that came with transition to FP Canada?

In September, 2015, we started doing blue-sky sessions to discuss “Where is the world going?” And when I say that, I mean, really, where is the world headed? Obviously, technology, even back in 2015, was clearly a theme of the day. Technology’s going to change the way we think about everything, the way we do everything, and based on that, where are the financial services industry and Canada going? And then, what’s the role of the human advisor and the financial planner?

If the financial services industry is going to consolidate because margins are going to be squeezed and computers are going to be doing an awful lot, what does it mean for financial advice? And what we concluded was that the notion of what the value proposition of financial advisors was in the past is going to be turned on its head.

What’s going be left is only advisors who can deliver value that technology cannot. Part of this process was to redefine the CFP. The role of financial planners is through their holistic lens, through their ability to see the client as a whole, to be able to help break down the complexities of people’s lives, financial aspects, in particular, bring simplicity to complex matters and help them find solutions that are going to help them live their lives more confidently.

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We looked at that and we said, “As a standards-setter only, what role are we going to be able to play there?” We can make ourselves obsolete if we don’t do something about all these changes.

We said, “We need a whole new institute that’s going to build up the body of knowledge, that’s going to build up the learning, and we need a whole new way of thinking about professional education, and that’s what the institute and the professional education programs are built on.”

What kind of impact do you see the change to FP Canada having on advisors and investors?

We think there are going to be fewer advisors over the next decade, and 100 per cent of advisors practising at that time are going to have to be certified. Advisors are going to have to up their game, and we’re giving them an opportunity – through modern learning built from scratch for the future – to develop the skills through interesting, exciting new programs. Advisors are either going to spend the next 10 years working themselves into retirement or out of the market, or they’re going to reinvent themselves in a way that’s a lot more exciting, to become true professional advisors to their clients.

For Canadians and consumers of financial advice, we think there’s a real opportunity to gain greater confidence and trust in human advisors because they’re actually undertaking financial planning. And we’ll see more and more advisors actually become financial planners, acting solely in their client’s best interest and being successful both for their clients and for themselves.

Regarding your partnership with the IQPF, why do you think it’s important to increase Quebec’s representation across Canada?

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FP Canada is part of a 26-country network and we try to find as much common ground as possible among all 26 countries, with common codes of ethics and standards. We’re trying to work toward greater harmonization and greater unification of what it means to be a CFP around the globe. The world is shrinking and we can’t stop globalization – whether we want it or not.

So, we look here, domestically at home and say, “Why do we have two models in Canada, one for what Quebec calls the the rest of Canada, and one for Quebec?” It doesn’t make any sense. There’s federal legislation around breaking down barriers to practice for professions, so that if you’re recognized in one province, you need to be recognized in another – and readily. We’ve been toying with this with Quebec for several years, and both FP Canada and the IQPF have realized that there’s no place anymore in Canada for such a separation in the way we do things and for distinctions in what it means to be a financial planner.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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