What Canadian FP internal education means for financial planning

“[W]We are committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to trusted, professional and quality advice,” said Tashia Batstone, president and CEO of FP Canada, in a release announcing the change. “At the heart of this mission is ensuring that all QAFP professionals and CFP professionals are equipped with the best technical and professional skills.”

Jason Knell, director of academic, curriculum, and corporate training programs with SeeWhy Learning in Mississauga, Ont., says taking home education allows Canadian FPs to “close the gap in proficiency,” especially given that multiple designations have been approved for use. title of “financial planner” in Ontario. In addition to QAFP and CFP, these include arrangements overseen by the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI), the Financial Advisors Association of Canada (Advocis) and the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning (CIFP).

The appointments “are not all equal,” Knell said. “For that reason, I strongly support that FP Canada has taken this kind of leadership approach to setting such high standards.”

CSI, Advocates and CIFP, along with Business Career College (BCC), are the national providers of education for Canada’s FP designation. They have provided technical education, as do post-secondary institutions, and may continue to do so.

“FP Canada recognizes that different candidates are interested in pursuing different educational and certification paths,” the certifying body said in an emailed statement.

As education agreements mature, “we encourage national providers to resubmit other agreements with us to deliver materials leading to certification,” said Alexandra Macqueen, vice president of learning, development and professional practice with FP Canada. “Competition is healthy.” (Post-secondary institutions may also renew their education agreements.)

In an emailed statement, Jason Watt, vice president of BCC in Edmonton, said, “Given the usual quality of FP Canada’s content, I believe other providers (like us) have to step up our game. I hope this results in an overall better experience for all students, with any provider, pursuing certification.

But Keith Costello, president and CEO of CIFP, said that as Canadian FPs became the dominant education provider to CFPs over time, “the most obvious result has been a lack of competition. [in education].” Less competition means candidates can pay more for content that isn’t necessarily best-in-class, he says.

FP Canada says it is not accepting applications from new national providers to provide technical education. And national providers are currently unable to offer end-to-end programming for QAFP and CFP because, as non-degree institutions, they are not eligible to be accredited to offer professional education programs.

The certification body says its technical education is priced to ensure competitiveness, and package pricing is available. Those with industry qualifications gain cost savings from exemptions.

Costello foresees more competition under title regulation, with education providers making financial planning appointments in line with set regulatory requirements.

With Ontario’s multi-credential degree protection regime, which can be replicated in other provinces, more designations are inevitable, he says: “Canada FPs are bringing their education home – it’s only going to speed up that process.”

The more appointments are approved, the positive results will be “options for advisors, so they can get the best prices and the best content available to become financial planners,” says Costello.

The fear with a multi-credential title regime is that it can lead to individuals and companies seeking the lowest-cost credentials, Knell said. However, “smart students will realize, ‘I need a quality program’” to serve clients well, he said.

In addition to regulatory approvals, any new credential will face industry acceptance hurdles, Knell said: “Most major employers … have identified what they consider to be acceptable designations.”

He suggested third-party providers could find greater business opportunities in focusing on QAFP and CFP exam preparation materials. “Many students are looking for help to get this title,” he said. Third parties provide test prep for chartered financial analyst appointments, he says, while the CFA Institute* provides the main curriculum.

Ruining undergraduate education?

A potential consequence of FP Canada offering in-house education is that Canadian universities could be deterred from creating bachelor’s degrees in financial planning, said Jodi Letkiewicz, professor of finance at York University in Toronto. Universities can relegate financial planning to the “continuing education bucket … and not the discipline itself,” he said.

Canadian post-secondary institutions that offer financial planning programs usually do so within the context of a degree in commerce (or post-graduate certificate), such as at York. Canada doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree in financial planning, while the US has many – a result of how the country’s education system developed historically amidst land grants and home economics programs, said Letkiewicz.

A Canadian bachelor’s in financial planning would allow for “rich” and “dedicated” financial planning content and a “more well-rounded” education, Letkiewicz said.

York University is working with FP Canada to pilot an enhanced professional education program from the certifying body. This pilot program replaces FP Canada’s previous capstone course requirement and includes a behavioral focus, along with professional responsibilities and more case studies. York was chosen because of his “unique expertise and background in human behavior,” said FP Canada.

FP Canada’s professional program “is not as strong as” the “intensive case-based” capstone course at York it replaces, Letkiewicz said. “Students don’t get a good education.”

York’s capstone course offering, which includes hands-on case studies, goes beyond CFP certification requirements and costs students less, says Letkiewicz. The university may reinstate the capstone course and still consider doing so, he added.

However, compared to capstone course requirements, FP Canada says its professional education program better prepares financial planners “because of their holistic focus versus the singular focus of [the] cornerstone,” which is financial planning.

And changes to the QAFP certification announced last month will extend direct interactive client discovery to professional education programs. Hands-on discovery is “a really great way to build client-facing skills for certificants, so they arrive on the market… having modeled those client skills very firsthand,” says Macqueen.

FP Canada said it will be reviewing CFP’s professional education program soon as well, with plans to add a live component following feedback on QAFP’s professional education program.

* An earlier version of this story said that the CFA Society provided the main CFA curriculum. In fact, the CFA Institute provides the curriculum. Back to the corrected sentence.