CFP mark gets planner accreditation in Quebec

June 4, 2009 | Last updated on June 4, 2009
4 min read

The two most important standards bodies in Canada responsible for granting the title of “financial planner” have entered into a strategic alliance.

Currently, an advisor in Quebec is only allowed to refer themselves as a financial planner if he or she obtains a Pl.Fin designation offered through The Institut québécois de planification financère (IQPF). However, a new agreement between the IQPF and the Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC) will now allow many certified financial planners (CFP) to also call themselves financial planners in the province.

The announcement was made jointly by the two organizations at the First Financial Planners Congress Meeting, hosted by the IQPF recently, in Gatineau, Que. The agreement paves the way for Pl.Fin holders and CFP holders to now get mutual recognition across Canada amongst each standards’ body.

Under the agreement, CFP professionals with a bachelor’s degree in finance, business administration, commerce, economics or a related field will be granted equivalency for all educational requirements leading up to the IQPF exam, which is the final step of the certification process in Quebec.

Conversely, individuals with a financial planning diploma from Quebec will be exempt from all educational requirements leading to CFP certification. They will be immediately eligible to write the CFP examination. Further, effective with the new CFP program requirements in 2010, Quebec financial planners will be immediately eligible to sit the final PCE2 examination provided they have one year of financial planning work experience.

There are an estimated 17,000 CFP holders in Canada — only 150 of which are registered in Quebec. Whereas there are 9,000 Pl.Fin graduates in the country, the vast majority of which reside in Quebec.

But the mutual recognition is not entirely equitable. Having a university degree is not a prerequisite for obtaining the CFP — although it certainly helps with that training. The IQPF does require its graduates to have a university education, and they will not relax this standard.

“Our graduates possess a university education, we therefore demand the same standard of training to become a CFP who holds a Pl. Fin,” says Jocelyne Houle-LeSarge, the executive director of the IQPF. “Now financial planning professionals who have stepped up to demonstrate their competence and professionalism by earning their Pl.Fin. or CFP certification have a seamless path to work anywhere in Canada.”

Cary List, the president and CEO of the Toronto-based FPSC, sees the alliance having immediate benefit for financial planners who work in border communities — most notably the greater Ottawa area. Having access to dual accreditation may allow them to expand their client base.

This agreement stems from a tremendous amount of frustration from people on both side of the Ontario and Quebec border. Planners may have practices in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, for example. They may practise in Ottawa but they have potential clients in Gatineau and they want to be able to have dual certification,” List says. “Historically there has been absolutely no mechanism for them to do that without taking the independent dual certifications from scratch on their own.”

There are currently no plans to streamline the fees for dual certification. An advisor who opts for both designations will have to pay independent fees to each organization.

Some planners interviewed by at the congress showed little interest in pursuing a double title. Others like Sylvain B. Tremblay, Pl.Fin and vice-president with Optimum Private Investment Management, see a beautiful opportunity to add a string to his bow if his work ever requires him to serve clients in the rest of Canada.

“This hastens my decision to get the title — this is a wonderful initiative,” he says.

For its part, the IQPF intends to provide additional training for CFPs who want to practise as planners in Quebec through distance-learning courses that will cover issues such as provincial taxation, the Quebec Civil Code and differences in retirement planning that exist between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

List emphasizes the alliance should create a greater consistency of financial planning standards and education across the country, something that will be of particular benefit to financial services firms.

“For some of the large national and international financial institutions, it’s been next to impossible for them to actually design a common designation strategy and platform for their financial planners across the country. There have been completely different models and paths to get your financial planning credential in Quebec versus the rest of Canada,” List says. “We’re opening the doors for those organizations to create one path that could include both designations.”

He adds, “both organizations have agreed to pool our resources to ensure the needs of Canadians are well served through common research. We will also be working together on a common regulatory solution to financial planning across the country so there is a consistent regulatory message.”