If you’re an advisor or planner in Ontario wondering if your credential will be approved under the province’s title protection regime, patience will be a virtue. Stay tuned as more approved credentials are announced in the coming weeks, said the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) at an informational webinar on Thursday.
Last month, Ontario’s title protection regulation for the use of “financial advisor” and “financial planner” came into force. The regulator has so far approved four credentials to use these titles: the PFA designation for financial advisor; and the CFP, QAFP and CLU designations for financial planner.
“You will start to see some announcements coming out soon” regarding approved credentialing bodies and credentials, said Joel Gorlick, director, policy – market conduct with FSRA.
Advisors and planners were told at the webinar to check FSRA’s website weekly for approval updates.
In the meantime, the clock’s ticking on your use of a protected title if it turns out you don’t hold an approved credential and must get a new one.
As previously established, those using “financial advisor” or “financial planner” on or before Jan. 1, 2020, and who need to acquire an approved credential can continue to use the titles during a transition period of two years for “financial advisor” and four years for “financial planner” from the date the legislation came into force (March 28, 2022).
Those who started using one of the titles after Jan. 1, 2020, can no longer do so until they get an approved credential.
“There is a choice to be made,” said Wendy Horrobin, head, licensing and risk assessment, market conduct with FSRA, referring to those eligible for the transition period. You either wait to see if your credential will be approved or start working toward an already approved one.
Mark White, FSRA’s CEO, said the transition period is meant to protect consumers and provide industry professionals with flexibility and time. He added that the transition dates were widely supported during consultations.
“More credentialing bodies are coming in,” White said. “Let’s see how that unfolds for the next little while.” The regulator is committed to working with organizations that want to be credentialing bodies, he added, and “that will take some time.”
In the short term, the self-regulatory organizations (SROs) aren’t expected to be approved as credentialing bodies. “We have not received applications from the SROs,” Gorlick said.
Whether the new single SRO, which is in the works for year’s end, will apply to be a credentialing body is “to be determined,” he said. An SRO application is welcome under the title protection framework, said Huston Loke, executive vice-president, market conduct with FSRA.
For licensed life agents, more details about a potential top-up credential is “something we will likely see soon,” Horrobin said.
FSRA reiterated at the webinar that its focus for 2022 will be title protection implementation and education, not proactive targeting of non-compliant title users. The regulator, along with the industry and credentialing bodies, is working on education campaigns for both industry professionals and — slated for fall — consumers, Horrobin said.
When it comes to non-compliant title use in the coming months, “we’ll focus on complaints as well as educating consumers about the transition period,” she said. Specifically, a consumer complaint against a non-compliant title user would result in the regulator asking the user to voluntarily stop using the title within 30 days and get an approved credential.
If non-compliance continued, consumers would be notified with a public warning about the user, she said.
The regulator is working on a common, searchable registry of title users that will combine each credentialing body’s registry.
White suggested advisors and planners can build brand value by explaining their credentials and titles in engagement letters with clients.
Various other issues were clarified at Thursday’s webinar.
Those with an approved credential for “financial planner” don’t have the option to use either “financial planner” or “financial advisor.” To use “financial advisor,” they must have an approved credential for that title.
The CFP, for example, “would not in and of itself give you the ability to use the financial advisor title in addition, unless you have a separate approved credential that gives you that ability,” Gorlick said.
Those with approved credentials don’t have to use one of the protected titles. “It’s up to the individual’s choice,” he said.
Also, examples were provided about who specifically is captured by title protection, based on previously published guidance.
“Individuals should be considered in scope if they have a nexus to Ontario,” said Andrea Foy, senior manager, market conduct policy with FSRA. Examples include if they use one of the protected titles in Ontario, or conduct business or live in the province, she said.