Regulators may finally address what ‘advisor’ means

Regulators may finally address what ‘advisor’ means

Regulators may finally address what ‘advisor’ means

The Ontario Securities Commission may decide on what exactly it means to be an "advisor" or "planner." There's growing consensus that something must be done – among the industry and among investors – but a pathway to reform may be difficult.

“I want to make sure that regulators condone that everyone in the business has continuing education,” said Frank Tooton, an advisor in Nova Scotia who is also licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and BC. “Some provinces don’t require CE [continuing education] credits to be licensed and I think it’s important that everyone that’s out there have some continuing education.”

OSC said it has decided to address issues of accreditation and titles in its review of a best interest standard; which may make the titles of “advisor” and "planner"  more exclusive. “As part of our analysis of the best interest standard we will consider the impact that adviser titles and proficiency standards have on investor protection,” it said in its latest Office of the Investor newsletter.

One challenge is that industry hasn’t established a consensus – with different standards among different industry bodies and associations. Also, there is a lack of a unified vision among the 13 different provincial and territorial regulators.

The OSC had not previously indicated that it would be addressing titles, and the addition comes after consultation with the public and industry groups. Unlike the contentious issues of trailing commissions and whether a universal fiduciary standard is needed, there seems to be a degree of consensus that it is far too easy for an individual to call him or herself an “advisor.”

For instance, at a late-July roundtable on the proposed best interest standard, there was consensus among investor advocates and industry representatives that the alphabet soup of different accreditation standards confuses clients.

“Here [in Ontario], anyone can take the correspondence course from CSI [Canadian Securities Institute], write the multiple-choice exam – and you only need 60% or more to pass,” Ken Kivenko chairman of Canada's Advisory Committee for the Small Investor Protection Association told Wealth Professional. “And then you can sell mutual funds and ‘advise’ – and I say that with quotation marks – I shudder to think that anyone who took that course is actually going to take a 75 year old’s portfolio and do anything good with it.”

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