The recent mystery shopping report commissioned by the OSC, IIROC and MFDA highlighted a number of advisor issues but the one that seemed to confuse ‘shoppers’ the most were the number of titles given advisors.
The mystery shopping report from the OSC, IIROC and MFDA revealed that advisors used a total of 48 titles to describe their positions to prospective clients. More if you include duplicate titles across the four platforms visited by the mystery shoppers.
Investor advocates wondered how so many titles could exist to describe the provision of investment advice. By anyone’s standard they reasoned, 48 is a lot.
Last week the FPSC made its submission to the Expert Committee to Consider Financial Advisory and Financial Planning Alternatives which was set up by Ontario’s Finance ministry at the end of April. The FPSC’s submission focused on several issues including the subject of titles.
“To garner trust and increase consumer protection and well‐being, Ontarians must be able to count on self‐explanatory titles that clearly describe the services being offered, and be assured that the title corresponds with the appropriate qualifications, competencies and services of that particular role,” the FPSC submission stated. “While there may be several appropriate, distinct titles and services within the broader ‘financial advisor’ space, we propose that the Ontario government start with the most discrete identifiable group—financial planners.”
The FPSC is suggesting that the term “financial planner” be restricted to those advisors providing professional advice who’ve demonstrated their competence by meeting unified standards and who’ve committed to professional ethics and continuing education. Ostensibly, under the FPSC’s proposal only CFP’s would be able to use the term.
“Much of the consumer and marketplace confusion is rooted in the interchangeable use of ‘financial planner’ and ‘financial advisor’. The terms ‘financial planning’, ‘financial planner’ and ‘financial plan’ are generally well‐defined and specific in nature, while the terms ‘financial advice’ and ‘financial advisor’ are broadly‐used, generic and non‐specific,” the FPSC submission stated. ‘Financial planner’ is one of the most commonly misused titles in the financial services industry. The title projects a professional image that may lead a consumer to believe that the person using it is qualified to provide financial planning when in fact they may not be”
If one follows the FPSC’s way of thinking it would make sense for regulators to insist that only those who have their CFP be able to provide financial plans and use the title “financial planner”. Those that don’t have their CFP would use the title “financial product provider” and provide product advice but not financial planning.
This takes the number of titles from 48 down to a couple.