Advocis designation campaign hits the road

By Doug Watt | August 13, 2003 | Last updated on August 13, 2003
3 min read

(August 13, 2003) Advocis is stepping up its campaign to make professional designations a requirement of advice giving, recently holding meetings with senior regulators, industry representatives and politicians across North America.

Under the Advocis plan, first unveiled at the advisor association’s conference in Newfoundland earlier this year, the CFP, CLU, fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute (FCSI) and chartered financial analyst (CFA) designations would be recognized as a holding-out requirement for giving advice on financial planning, insurance, investments and portfolio management respectively.

“By making a professional designation a condition of practice, consumers will know that they are dealing with advisors who meet the highest standards of education and professional conduct, resulting in greater transparency in the marketplace,” Advocis said in a news release issued last week.

But the principle behind the idea involves more than just designations, says Advocis chair Brian Mallard. “The designation is only part of it. It’s also the commitment to a code of professional conduct and standards, maintenance of continuing education and appropriate errors and omissions insurance,” Mallard told

Mallard insists consumers are being put at risk by advisors who are not properly qualified. “The bear market has exposed the soft underbelly of advice giving,” he says. “A lot of the advice that was given in the run-up proved to be self-serving and inappropriate, and consumers are paying the price for it.”

Advocis has been pushing the designation requirement in a series of meetings with Canadian regulators and politicians, including Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) chair David Brown, Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) chair Stephen Sibold, Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Finance Minister Janet Ecker.

“If we don’t start to put these things in place, the regulators are showing the appetite to do it for us,” Mallard says, pointing to the OSC’s fair dealing model as an example.

Mallard says a new draft version of the fair dealing model, which has not yet been published but has been shown to a limited audience, will recommend that the OSC administer a single entry-level exam and licensing system.

“Such a recommendation not only ignores the long-established national professional designations and the advanced education programs that already exist, it is the harbinger of the securities domination of the insurance discipline,” he says.

Advocis executives, including Mallard, president Steve Howard and CLU chair Kris Birchard, were also in the U.S. earlier this month meeting with representatives from the American College (the U.S. educational institution for financial services), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Association for Investment Management and Research.

The Advocis proposal is not without its critics. A statement by Howard referring to “horror stories” from consumers who have been hurt financially because they acted on the advice of an unqualified individual, drew some quick responses in’s Talvest Town Hall.

“It has been my experience that you do not have to have a designation in order to give poor or bad advice,” wrote Independent Financial Brokers of Canada (IFB) president David Barber. “The vast majority of advisors are honest, dedicated, experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent, hard-working members of their community who hold no designation.”

“The IFB will not support any regulatory environment that robs veterans of their ability to make a living and continue to provide the service in their communities that has proven so invaluable,” Barber added.

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  • But Mallard says the IFB’s position is unrealistic. “My 19-year-old daughter has passed the CSC and her Conduct and Practices Handbook and under the regulations, she is every bit as qualified to give advice as someone with 30 years experience and six designations,” he says. “There’s a disconnect there.”

    And Mallard says the Advocis proposal will give undesignated advisors the opportunity to take an equivalency test to demonstrate that they have the required level of knowledge and expertise in their field.

    “We are confident that undesignated members and non-members alike who have worked for many years advising their clients will have no problems in rising to the occasion and demonstrating their proficiency,” he says.

    What do you think of the Advocis designation initiative? Join the debate already underway in the “Free For All” forum of the Talvest Town Hall on

    Filed by Doug Watt,,


    Doug Watt