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Becoming a Financial Planner in Canada

According to Statistics Canada’s 2009 publication, the median after-tax income of Canadian households with two or more persons was $63,800. Throughout most of Canada this has remained largely unchanged in recent years. Exceptions exist in Saskatchewan, where the median household income rose by 7.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, and in New Brunswick, where it rose by 3.2 percent. According to Statistics Canada, market income from investments and private retirement funds dropped by 3.2 percent between 2008 and 2009. Financial planners work to help mitigate the effects of market fluctuations by helping Canadian families maximize their financial potential, whether their financial plans include establishing adequate savings and income to ensure a comfortable retirement, or establishing a college savings account and contribution plan so as to able to cover the cost of their children’s college education.

Requirements for Marketing Financial Planning Services in Canada

In order to hold out as a financial planner or market financial planning services in any of the Canadian provinces, Candidates must be licensed as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) of Canada or hold one of the following professional designations/certifications offered by recognized credentialing bodies:

  • Association for Investment Management and Research/CFA Institute: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Registered Financial Planners Institute (RFP)
  • Canadian Institute of Chartered Life Underwriters and Chartered Financial Consultants (CLU)
  • Canadian Institute of Financial Planning (CIFP)
  • Chartered Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Canadian Securities Institute (CSI): Fellow of the CSI
  • Personal Financial Planner (PFP) of the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI)
  • Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia or of a Canadian province or territory:  Certified General Accountant (CGA)
  • Certified Management Accountants Society of British Columbia or of a Canadian province or territory: CMA (Certified Management Accountant)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia: Chartered Accountant (CA)

Becoming Certified as a Financial Planner in Canada

Since CFP Certification is the standard for the industry across all of Canada, the process is explained in detail here. There are four main components to CFP certification: Education, Examination, Experience, and Ethics/Continuing Education. All CFP Certification requirements must be completed within a period of 12 years.

Education: FPSC Core Curriculum
The first step along the pathway to CFP Certification is to complete an FPSC-approved Core Curriculum program. These may be found in colleges, business colleges, online, and through professional organizations across the 13 Canadian provinces/territories. Completion of the Core Curriculum program is necessary before candidates will be allowed to sit for the Financial Planning Examination Level 1 (FPE1).

Four main courses are common to all Core Curriculum programs: Retirement Planning, Income Tax Planning, Strategic Investment Planning, and Risk Management and Estate Planning. Depending upon the Core Curriculum program Candidates choose, they might have additional courses, especially if they are in the midst of obtaining a degree, but these four courses are vital to CFP certification and in preparing to take the FPE1.

Those who hold any of the following credentials may be exempt from Core Curriculum requirements and may be able to go straight to taking the FPE1:

  • Professional Accountant (CA, CGA, CMA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • CFP from another country
  • Being a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (FCIA)
  • Being a member of a provincial law society
  • Holding a PhD in finance, business or economic
  • PI.Fin (IQPF): exempt from Core Curriculum and FPE1, may go straight to taking FPE2 exam

Examinations: FPE1
After completion of the Core Curriculum program, Candidates may take the FPE1 exam, which is offered twice yearly, in June and December, in both French and English, across Canada. Steps to take the FPE1:

  • Provide an official transcript showing completion of Core Curriculum program (or certification documents/letters of exemption)
  • Read the Guide to Examinations for CFP Certification, which will give information on the examinations and application procedures and deadlines
  • Apply to take the FPE1 by creating an online account. This will also give information on when and where to take the exam.
  • Take the FPE1 within four years of completing the Core Curriculum program
  • The FPE1 is a competency-based, 100 question multiple choice examination that can take up to four hours to complete

Once the FPE1 is passed, Candidates will receive an FPSC Registered Candidate application in the mail. Candidates return the completed application and return it, along with required fees.

Experience
After passing the FPE1, Candidates must obtain three years of qualifying experience as a personal financial planner. Prior to registering to take the FPE2, they must have at least one year of experience. This experience must meet the following conditions:

  • Be obtained through directly working with clients
  • The three years of experience must be earned within an eight year period
  • Must be full- or part-time, and calculated based on a 35 hour work week
  • Must be in personal financial planning or self-employment for compensation
  • Must be in one of the following areas:
    • Estate Planning
    • Financial Planning
    • Asset Management
    • Financial Management
    • Risk Management
    • Retirement Planning
    • Tax Planning
    • Portfolio Management
    • Teaching at a post-secondary level (for no more than two years)
  • Experience may be gained outside of Canada if Candidates can prove that it is equivalent to Canadian qualifying experience
  • Experience must be verified through a letter signed by an employer

Candidates can search for qualifying experience by networking with instructors, fellow students, and searching online. According to FPSC, as of December 31, 2010 the top 20 employers of Certified Financial Planners in Canada are:

  • Assante Wealth Management, with locations in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon
  • BMO Financial Group, with locations in all 13 provinces/territories across Canada
  • CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), headquartered in Toronto, ON with locations across Canada
  • Credential Financial, Inc., headquartered in Vancouver, BC with locations across Canada
  • Desjardins, with locations in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick
  • Dundee Wealth Inc., headquartered in Toronto, ON
  • Edward Jones, with locations across Canada
  • Freedom 55 Financial, with locations across Canada
  • FundEX Investments, Inc. , headquartered in Vaughn, ON
  • HSBC Bank Canada, headquartered in Vancouver, BC with locations across Canada
  • Investex Corporation in Edmonton, AB
  • Investors Group, with consultants across Canada
  • IPC in Ontario
  • Manulife Financial, with advisors across Canada
  • MD Financial, with locations in all 13 provinces/territories across Canada
  • Raymond James, with locations across Canada
  • RBC, with locations across Canada
  • Scotiabank, headquartered in Ontario and locations across Canada
  • SunLife Financial Services, with locations across Canada
  • TD Bank Financial Group, with locations across Canada

Education: FPSC-approved Capstone Course
Before registering to take the FPE2 examination, Candidates must complete an FPSC-approved Capstone Course. This must be accomplished no more than four years before taking the FPE2. All candidates must take the Capstone Course, as there are no exemptions. At the end of the Capstone Course, Candidates must write a Comprehensive Financial Plan. A list of FPSC-approved Capstone Courses across Canada may be found here.

Examinations: FPE2
Candidates may register to take the FPE2 Examination if they meet the following conditions:

  • Passed the FPE1 no more than four years ago
  • Completed an FPSC-approved Capstone Course
  • Have a transcript documenting completion of the Capstone Course no more than four years ago
  • Completed one year of qualifying personal financial planner work experience
  • Have a letter and resume from an employer documenting experience
  • Are an FPSC Registered Candidate
  • Completed the FPE2 Examination Application

The FPE2 is offered twice yearly, in June and December, at locations across Canada. Those taking the exam in French must schedule to take it in December. Registration for the examination must be completed online. The FPE2 takes six hours to complete, and combines multiple-choice questions with constructed response questions on core financial planning components.

Once candidates have successfully passed the FPE2 and completed all three years of the experience requirement, they may apply to FPSC for CFP Certification.

Continuing Education and Ethics
In order to maintain CFP Certification, financial planners must complete 30 hours of approved continuing education (CE) annually. Approved course providers may be found here. CE content must directly relate to the CFP Professional Competency Profile, and apply to the Financial Planning Components, Professional Skills, or Technical Knowledge Listing. It may be in the form of seminars/conferences, in-class courses, self-study courses, in-house training, writing/reviewing, or teaching. No more than twenty verifiable CE credits may be carried over from one year to the next. Planners should maintain CE documentation for at least three years.

Securities Commission Registration
Financial planners who only offer planning services only are exempt from province or territory specific registration. If financial planners expand their role to act as dealers, advisers, securities salespersons or investment fund managers, they must register with and follow the rules of their provincial/territorial Securities Commission, all of which are members of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA):