2002 in review: The fuss over Advocis

By Doug Watt | December 23, 2002 | Last updated on December 23, 2002
3 min read

(December 23, 2002) After years of trying, Canada’s two main financial planning associations formally agreed to join forces in 2002. The merger between the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Canadian Association of Financial Planners was relatively painless, but the new group’s decision to brand itself to the public as Advocis caused a stir among some in the advisor community.

With the assistance of a branding expert, CAIFA/CAFP settled on the name Advocis in October, although legally the organization is known as the Financial Advisors Association of Canada.

“It relates to one of our key strengths: the ability to advocate,” said Advocis chair Brian Mallard when the name was announced. “From a public policy perspective, we’ve been advocating on behalf of clients and advisors for decades.”

A small but vocal group of advisors was quick to complain, calling the Advocis name meaningless and demanding that the organization go back to the drawing board. CAIFA/CAFP refused to back down, insisting a brand name like Advocis was a better choice than the alphabet-soup approach favoured by most professional associations.

After an initial outcry, the fuss appears to have died down. “People are starting to accept Advocis,” Mallard said in a year-end interview with Advisor.ca. “We’ll have the diehards who won’t, people who are single-issue oriented, but ultimately the name doesn’t matter.”

“This is a show-and-tell exercise,” he says. “We’re telling you what we’re going to do. And if we don’t actually do it, you’ll be disappointed and vote with your feet and leave.”

Looking back on 2002, Mallard says the CAIFA/CAFP merger would top his list of accomplishments. The merger was overwhelmingly approved by members at separate meetings in September, coinciding with CAIFA’s annual conference in Ottawa.

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  • At the grassroots level, Mallard says this was a difficult year for advisors as investor confidence took a beating following a string of corporate scandals. “People you have long-term relationships with are questioning your credibility and that’s a difficult thing to deal with,” he says, noting that advisors became the focal point for jittery clients.

    “We’re the last point of contact the consumer has, so naturally they’re going to take it out on us,” he says.

    Mallard says advisors need to keep informed and communicate that information to clients in an effort to restore some of the lost confidence. “I also think advisors need to be more skeptical about information and what products are being promoted to them.”

    For 2003, Mallard says Advocis plans a media campaign to promote the new name to the public. Association members can play a key role, he says, by talking up the name with clients.

    “The best advertising is establishing a commitment among members,” he says, “but we also have to get in front of issues that are public policy issues and utilize the media to establish credibility, particularly among consumers.”

    Although the merger isn’t official until January 1, 2003, the Advocis name has already been adopted by CAIFA/CAFP. The new Advocis Web site was launched last week.

    How was 2002 for you and your business? What challenges did you face or overcome? Are there any outstanding issues that you feel will be pivotal in 2003? Share your thoughts on the past year in the “Free For All” forum of the Talvest Town Hall on Advisor.ca.

    Filed by Doug Watt, Advisor.ca, dwatt@advisor.ca


    Doug Watt