Equipping tomorrow's financial-advice workforce

IFSE Institute’s managing director discusses efforts to support industry as critical transition points loom

Equipping tomorrow's financial-advice workforce

Given the financial challenges facing Canadian households today, the need for professional financial advice is more evident than ever. However, a quick look at the numbers suggests that far too many will be left to go their own way.

Figures from the 2017 MFDA Client Research Report estimated the number of Canadian households at 15.9 million, while the number of households advised by MFDA members stood at around 8.9 million; the number of MFDA approved persons, according to an annual report that same year, was over 80,000. The 2018-2019 IIROC Annual Report, the latest from the self-regulatory organization, indicates a total of 29,886 approved persons regulated by IIROC. And as of November last year, there were 16,404 CFP Professionals and 1,973 FPSC Level 1 certificants in Canada.

Some have suggested that robo-advisors, online brokerage platforms, and other technological solutions can be used to help fill the advice gap faced by Canadian households, but they can fall short for those who need some hand-holding or with more complex financial-planning needs. Clearly, there’s a need to mint more skilled and qualified financial advisors — and the IFSE Institute certainly has been doing its fair share to promote that.

“IFSE has been working on a lot of materials to promote careers in financial services,” said Christina Ashmore, managing director at the IFSE Institute. “There’s information to help new entrants learn about the sector and for those already working within financial services that want to advance their careers.”

“On our website, we recently published the Career Pathways resource, where we showed different segments of the financial services workforce — entry-level positions, advice-channel professionals, back office, compliance — and we focused in on certain job roles.” An interactive infographic, it lets users explore a description of the general responsibilities, key skills and attributes needed, and salary range associated with selected positions, as well as courses that are recommended for each.

“Employers can post any openings they may have on our website’s job board, which is available for our students to check,” Ashmore said. “And aside from the Career Pathways, our site includes ‘Faces of the Industry’ profiles, an initiative we launched last year, as well as other content for visitors to get specific information to prepare for a career in the financial-advice industry.”

“A majority of our students at IFSE are looking for entry-level positions, and the advice channel is certainly where many people choose to go,” Ashmore said. For such students, the institute offers two core courses: the Canadian Investment Funds Course and the Life License Qualification Program.

Training up new workers is a major part of the institute’s agenda, as the majority of its students are already employed by firms registered with the MFDA, including banks and mutual-fund firms. Aside from that, it welcomes individuals who are not currently affiliated with any firm, and partners with colleges and universities to bolster those institutions’ business or financial services programs.

In developing its courses, IFSE Institute takes feedback from a variety of sources — including students, employers, and regulators — and partners with subject matter experts who have real industry experience. A lot of the content focuses on developing specific proficiencies, though the institute is also aiming to arm advisors with more than that. For those that want to go beyond the core licensing courses, IFSE also offers a roster of continuing education and professional development courses. These courses help round out the knowledge base of industry professionals, helping them to navigate within the industry.

“When you look at the competencies that advisors need, it’s not just about technical knowledge,” she said. “There are also soft skills like knowing how to communicate with clients. We encourage students to complement their technical knowledge with soft skills training.”

A point of interest is the profile of IFSE’s student base. “I would say 40% of our students are 35 or younger, so there’s obviously an interest among young people. And as a reflection of our multicultural society, we also see a lot of new Canadians who are interested in getting into the industry.”
An infusion of new blood would certainly be welcome at this point. In Canada as well as other countries around the world, a massive wave of wealth is already washing over the millennial generation; meanwhile, the average age of financial advisors in Canada is generally reported to be hovering between 55 and 60 years old.

For veteran professionals, that means having to accomplish two major missions — helping clients plan for trillions of dollars, as well as mentoring the future stewards of Canadians’ financial security — before they step across the threshold of retirement.

“That’s a big question for the industry right now,” Ashmore noted. “How do you connect the younger generation with established advisors who are looking for someone to mentor and eventually take the reins of their business? It’s especially important as you consider that to be successful, succession planning should happen over a period of time.”


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