In Canada, financial planners are known by many different titles. While some may call themselves a “financial planner”, others may be a “financial advisor”, “financial consultant” or “investment advisor”, to name just a few. This is because financial planning is not regulated in most Canadian provinces and territories.
Financial planners can also have varied training, qualifications and experience. Many financial planners have passed courses and exams in financial planning, and hold designations granted by an education provider or standards body. Others are also registered with their securities regulator to sell investments or provide investment advice. They may also be licensed to sell insurance or hold designations in accounting or estate planning.
Ask about and understand the qualifications and experience of a planner before your work with them. Make sure the products and services they provide meet your needs.
Financial planning credentials
There are many financial planning designations, which offer a combination of training and experience. Most designations require training in money management, investing, tax, estate planning and insurance. Some also include ethics and a voluntary code of conduct. Your planner’s qualifications will help you make sure they can provide the services you’re looking for.
If your planner also sells investments or offers investment advice, they need to be registered with their securities regulator. There are different registration categories. For example, some planners are registered to provide advice only on mutual funds. Others can advise on a broader selection of investments. Make sure the services they are registered to provide meet your needs.
Examples of financial planning credentials
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Personal Financial Planner (PFP)
- Chartered Financial Consultant (CH.F.C)
- Registered Financial Planner (RFP)
Examples of additional qualifications that financial planners may hold
- Chartered Accountant (CA)
- Certified General Accountant (CGA)
- Investment Dealer – Dealing Representative
- Mutual Fund Dealer – Dealing Representative
- Insurance broker
Six Tips for Choosing a Financial Planner
1. Understand your financial goals and needs
Choose someone who can meet your goals and needs. For example, if you want your planner to provide investment advice, choose someone who is registered with their securities regulator. If insurance is a priority, look for someone who has an insurance licence.
2. Check qualifications
Referrals from trusted sources are helpful, but not enough. Check each potential planner’s qualifications and background. Find out if they have any credentials. Call their professional associations to check on any complaints against them.
If they sell investments or provide investment advice in Ontario, you can also check out their qualifications and background through the Ontario Securities Commission.
3. Interview more than 1 planner
Make sure you feel comfortable discussing your finances with the people you interview. Find out if they provide the services you want. Ask each person about:
- their education, experience and specialties,
- how many clients they have,
- how long they’ve been a planner,
- how often they communicate with clients,
- what kinds of investment products or services they’re registered to sell
- which organizations they’re regulated by,
- how they’re paid, and
- if they’ve been subject to disciplinary action by any regulator or industry association.
4. Ask for references
Ask for references from clients with similar needs to yours. Find out if the planner works with any other experts, such as lawyers, accountants or insurance agents. Ask for references from these individuals.
5. Compare fees
Ask the planner to explain how they’ll be paid, and compare their rates with others. Make sure you get a written letter outlining the specific terms of your agreement. Also make sure you get notice in writing of any changes to compensation structure during your relationship.
6. Understand any conflicts
If your planner is also qualified to buy and sell investments, understand how they choose investments for you. Do they recommend a wide range of investments? Or do they only recommend certain products such as mutual funds from certain companies or only products that their firm sells? Will they make more money if they recommend one investment over another? Do they make money from sales fees every time you buy and sell?