IAFP conference update: RFP group happy staying small

By Mark Brown | September 30, 2005 | Last updated on September 30, 2005
4 min read

(September 30, 2005) The incoming president of the 500-member Institute of Advanced Financial Planners (IAFP) admits their numbers are not growing quickly. And that’s just the way he wants it.

“Unlike other organizations, our raison d’être is not to be the biggest,” said Larry Jacobson at the IAFP’s annual symposium in Ottawa. “In fact we probably want to be the smallest.” Why? Because Jacobson believes there are fewer than 1,000 people in Canada who would qualify for the RFP designation.

The RFP mark, in Jacobson’s opinion, is the ultimate designation in the financial planning community and as a result the organization puts potential members through a rigorous test before awarding it. Non-members are not even allowed to attended events to find out what the IAFP is all about. This year the group’s complex case study looked at issues such as constructing a will, how the use of capital dividend accounts can be used for tax savings as well as the intricacies of term-life and universal life insurance coverage.

“We will never under my watch allow a non-member to attend [our symposium],” says Jacobson. “If you want to learn and you want to congregate around other professionals, step up to the bar.” Earlier this year, Advocis, the country’s largest association of financial advisors, decided to open itself up to those without a designation in an effort to increase its membership base.

Despite their closed approach, the IAFP has come a long way in the three years since it split off from the Canadian Association of Financial Planners when it merged with the Canadian Association of Insurance and Insurance Advisors to create Advocis. Initially some RFPs even walked away from the IAFP when it first formed. Now several of those people are returning having not been able to find another organization to satisfy their needs, Jacobson says.

Reflecting on his tenure as IAFP president, Ian Secord feel his role was to act as a steward, to help provide a solid foundation upon which the organization can grow. While he is confident that foundation is there, growing the membership will be the biggest challenge for years to come. Beyond membership, the IAFP also has to raise its profile in the industry, increase public awareness and try to find a seat at the table with government and regulators.

“Right now we are not top of mind,” Secord admits. He singles out the Joint Forum of Financial Market Regulators committee which earlier this year released its final standards for financial services intermediaries on professionalism and fair conduct. “Going forward we have a right to be at the table,” Secord says, adding the IAFP is against market regulation of financial planners.

With an annual operating budget of just over $100,000 a year the IAFP will never be as large a lobby group as Advocis. Even in the shadow of the Peace Tower, the IAFP doesn’t seem inspired to be a particularly politically active stance. Although, over the next year the IAFP will be writing to all of the provincial regulators to better explain who they are and what type of expertise they can bring to a discussion.

Going forward, Jacobson has three key goals. First he would like to set up errors and omission insurance for its members. Most of the policies cover products, but Jacobson would like to see one for planning as well. Second, he wants to establish more local meetings in major centres to attract new blood. And he wants to increase attendance at the IAFPs symposium, though he admits with a third of its members from across the country already attending its annual meeting that may not be a realistic goal.

He will also re-examine how much disclosure the IAFP members are required to provide their clients. “How much is too much, how much is too little,” he says. “A client has no right to know how much we earn as individuals, but at the same time they have every right to know what a product or service is going to cost them.”

RFPs are different, Jacobson stresses, and you don’t have to look further than the way a financial planner getting to know their clients. “A form is not the same as getting to know your client,” he says. It’s something more for IAFP members. “RFPs get to know their clients from the heart,” says Jacobson, pointing to the groups’ outgoing chair Lynne Triffon, who had to rearrange her travel plans from Vancouver in order to be back in time for the funeral of one of her clients.

Filed by Mark Brown, Advisor.ca, mark.brown@advisor.rogers.com


Mark Brown