Canadian Financial Advisor Qualifications and Courses
There are many things you should consider when choosing a financial advisor. One of the items is their academic training. Would you rather be advised by someone with the minimum amount of qualifications or someone who has made the effort to take extra financial planning courses? Unfortunately, in Canada it is possible to become a “mutual fund salesperson” with very little training.
Depending on what you want from your advisor, their qualifications might or might not be important to you. If you want to quickly set up an RESP account at your local bank, the in-branch investment specialist will probably be good enough. If you are looking for advice on retirement planning including tax and estate issues, then you will want someone with more knowledge.
I’ve listed four common financial planning courses and designations. When you are researching potential advisors, ask what courses they have taken. Another idea is to ask when the last time they took any kind of training. If they haven’t done any training in a while, ask how they keep up with recent changes in taxes, laws etc.
As Dr Rathgeber pointed out in the comments – don’t forget that just because someone has qualifications and knowledge, doesn’t mean they will use it for your benefit.
There are many other courses that are available – feel free to list any in the comments if you think they should be mentioned.
CFP – Certified Financial Planner
This is the only course listed that I haven’t completed any part
of. It is a very demanding course with two lengthy exams. Basically you have to take the course approved by the Financial Planning Standards Council. Then you write the exam and pray that you pass. In order to get the actual CFP designation, you need three years of direct financial planning experience.
The material is quite extensive and covers all the various financial planning areas such as taxes, retirement, estate, investment planning.
I would suggest that if you want to hire a financial advisor that the CFP is the main designation that you look for. It really encompasses all the subject areas necessary for financial planning.
CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst
The CFA designation is more appropriate for investment management, rather than financial planning. Portfolio managers, investment analysts are the key jobs for this designation. It is however, fairly common for CFA graduates to become financial planners. I would say this is the hardest designation to get – you have to write three lengthy exams and have four years of related investment experience.
Back in a former lifetime, I passed the first level of this exam. I did the reading for the second level, but due to a career change – I never completed the 2nd level. I’d love to get this designation now, but you need several years of investment experience to get the designation, which I can’t get with my current job. It’s not worth the effort and money if I can’t get the actual designation to brag about.