Let's Talk About Financial Designations

Well hello, Brian here.

The first thing you should know is that I wanted to call this post “Talkin’ ‘bout my designation”, as in the song My Generation by The Who. Go ahead, sing it in your head a few times, it will make you smile. Smiling helps.

What were we talking about again? Oh ya, Financial Planning designations.

At You Group, we work with clients to help them create their own financial plans that fit their life, and their goals. It’s kind of like a mix of financial planning, financial coaching, and financial education. I like to call it Financial Fitness, or Family Financial Fitness.

We don’t sell you products, or try to force you to adopt a cookie cutter strategy, we just provide advice, education, and support to make sure you have financially fit behaviours so that you can live your life without undue financial stress.

But are you qualified?

This is the first question asked by financial product sales people. The good ones don’t worry too much, but the not so good ones get really worried about their clients seeking out independent, third party advice. The short answer is yes, but I wanted to share some context, and my opinion on the financial industry and the different designations in play.

If you do a google search about financial planning, or financial advisor (or adviser) designations in your jurisdiction (i.e. Ontario), you will come up with more detailed articles, or links to organizations that manage the designations. In most jurisdictions, what you will find is there is very little, or no legislative requirements monitoring the terms. So you must be aware, and understand carefully who you take advice from, and more critically, who you give your money to.

Let’s talk about those designations

In Canada, the whole financial industry has pushed hard to self-regulate. Strong self-regulation is usually a good way to prevent the government from meddling. For certain products, like insurance, mutual funds, or stocks, there is a minimum education requirement, as well as regulatory registrations in place. If you want to sell one of these products, you have to take a course, and pass an exam.

Financial Planning designations are different. To obtain a designation is a longer path, and there are several designations available. The most recognized is the Certified Financial Planner, but there is also Registered Financial Planner, Personal Financial Planner, and a few others.

They all have different education and experience requirements, and areas of focus. They are also issued by different organizations, reflecting different perspectives in the industry, and this sometimes leads to some internal politics.

If I were to provide one criticism of the designation process, it’s that most are geared towards operating an investment sales business. They are designed to teach the rules, regulations, and standards required to operate a business in the financial industry. They do not focus on different kinds of consumer debt, methods to teach basic financial literacy, or creating a well-rounded financial plan.

So what about Brian?

Thank you for asking!

I started my banking career in 2006 as a Financial Services Manager. I worked with people to set up their personal finances including loans, mortgages, savings, and investments (GICs and Mutual Funds). I took a course called Investment Funds in Canada, which along with some bank training allowed me to sell mutual funds.

As a young and eager professional, I wanted to learn more. I became fascinated with personal finance. I love knowing the fine details of different products, how they work, the history of how they came to be, and why people choose to use them. I decided that I wanted to obtain a designation. This was not required for my job, so I pursued it on my own time, and at my own expense.

At the time, if you worked for a bank, there were 2 common designations. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) was offered by the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI), and the Personal Financial Planner (PFP) was offered by the Institute of Canadian Bankers (ICB). I decided to pursue the PFP, as I intended to have a career in banking, and the ICB was reputable in offering many courses related more specifically to banking (whereas, for example CSI offered courses related to operating a boutique investment company). I also liked that the PFP required both an exam, and submission of a financial plan, whereas the CFP was only an exam. One of many small difference that reflected different preferences of industry professionals.

Listed below are my courses, and credentials received. The interesting thing about the current status of my PFP, is that it is now considered a ‘credential’, but not a ‘designation’.

About a month after I earned my PFP, and was sent a little desk plaque to mark the occasion, it was announced that CSI had purchased ICB. Soon after, the PFP was phased out in favour of the CFP. For those who had a PFP, you could choose to turn it from ‘credential’ to ‘designation’ if you agreed to an annual fee, along with minimum annual learning requirements. I kept this up a few years, but when I left the bank, I let my designation lapse, and it has reverted to a credential. If I wanted to obtain it again, I would have to start over from scratch.

In terms of annual learning, I would fiercely argue that I know much more than I did then. I read a lot on personal finance, and I’m still very interested in fine print of documents, and staying current in the industry. If I were planning to sell investments, or any products, I would start that journey over. However, I very much prefer being completely independent of having to sell any products. I am curious about financial behavior, and empowering people to make better choices, and create their own plans.

A closer look at Brian’s path:

Courses taken (Institute of Canadian Bankers)

Investment Funds in Canada

Fundamentals of Personal Finance

Investment and Taxation Fundamentals

Insurance and Retirement

Investment and Tax Planning

Risk Management and Estate Planning

Financial Planning Integration Activity (this was an exam)

Financial Plan (Plan submitted to an advisory committee)

Credentials achieved

Personal Financial Planner

AICB (Associate, Institute of Canadian Bankers)

So how can you help me again?

Let me use my knowledge and experience to help you and your family become more financially fit. If you stress about money, or aren’t even sure what products you have, let me help. If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable by a salesperson gently nudging a graph across the table showing you how much money you need to give them, let me help.

If you have any questions, or want to discuss more, please let me know. There will be many more blog posts coming covering a wide array of financial topics, but I would love to post answers to your questions first.

Thank you so much for reading.

Brian Rump