How to become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP)

One of the many career paths of a financial planner is that of Personal Financial Planner (PFP) certification. Get to know if this is for you

How to become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP)

As someone new to the career of a financial planner, you will discover that there are dozens of possible paths and certifications you can choose. One of the many possibilities open to you is to become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP).

What is a Personal Financial Planner in Canada? How do you become one? Apart from having the relevant education and work experience, taking the Personal Financial Planner (PFP) course is the first step to getting PFP certification.

In this article, Wealth Professional provides some insight into this potentially lucrative career path. We’ll also answer other related questions like how to become a personal financial planner, how much you stand to earn, and more. Let’s get into it.

What is a Personal Financial Planner (PFP)?

The Personal Financial Planner (PFP) is status or certification that a bank employee, investment advisor, or a mutual fund representative in Canada can earn by taking a course at the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI). It is one of the top credentials for comprehensive financial planning services in Canada and is widely recognized by the financial industry.

Having a PFP designation signifies that the finance professional has the knowledge and skills to assess their clients’ overall financial situation. This also means that they can provide the right financial advice to help clients achieve their financial goals and help them secure the best outcomes.

When you get PFP certification, you possess one of the most sought-after designations for a financial planner in Canada and are expected to deliver financial services of the highest standard.

How do I become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP)?

Based on the Canadian Securities Institute curriculum, there are at least three paths to garnering PFP certification. These pathways differ according to the candidates’ current positions and work experience.

1. Path to PFP certification for bank and credit union employees

Initial courses: Canadian Securities Course OR Investment Funds in Canada

Succeeding courses:

  • Personal Financial Services Advice
  • Financial Planning I
  • Financial Services Advice Certificate
  • Financial Planning II
  • Advanced Financial Advice Certificate
  • Financial Planning Integration Course
  • Applied Financial Planning Certification Examination

Graduating as Personal Finance Planner

2. Path to PFP certification for investment advisors

Initial Courses: Canadian Securities Course

Succeeding courses:

  • Management Wealth Essentials
  • Financial Planning Supplement
  • Advanced Financial Advice Certificate
  • Financial Planning Integration Course
  • Applied Financial Planning Certification Examination

Graduating as Personal Financial Planner

3. Path to PFP certification for independent mutual fund advisors

Initial Courses: Canadian Securities Course OR Investment Funds in Canada

Succeeding courses:

  • Advanced Mutual Funds Advice Program
  • Financial Services Advice Certificate
  • Financial Planning Supplement
  • Advanced Financial Advice Certificate
  • Financial Planning Integration Course
  • Applied Financial Planning Certification Examination

Graduating as Personal Financial Planner

These are CSI’s approved education paths. However, these are not the only ways to obtain PFP certification. Other educational institutions offer their own course paths as well.

Each of these courses can equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to become a personal financial planner. The courses on each path make up the educational requirements apart from having a bachelor's degree in any course – although a business or finance degree would be best.

If you need to obtain a bachelor’s degree (or a more appropriate degree) first, here’s a guide to some of the courses and institutions that can help you on your path to PFP certification. You can also earn other useful certifications on your journey to PFP certification.

What is required to become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP)?

Becoming a Personal Financial Planner (PFP) is a challenging endeavour. A few years of work experience are required, so it’s not for those completely new to working in the field of financial planning.

Here are the most important requirements for a finance professional to acquire PFP certification:

1. Have the requisite education

Applicants for PFP certification must have a bachelor’s degree, then pursue the approved education paths determined by the CSI or other educational institutions.

2. Take a certification examination

Aspiring future PFPs can take the Applied Financial Planning (AFP) Certification Examination at the CSI.

3. Have sufficient work experience

Applicants must fulfil the required work experience requirements, such as:

  • at least 3 years' experience in the past 7 years while working in a financial planning or advisory role
  • completing at least 97 of the 115 PFP Elements of Competency in the CSI PFP Competency Profile

Verifying your work experience

On the application form for PFP certification, candidates will be asked to verify their work experience. This is done by candidates providing the name and contact information of their chosen verifying individual on their application form.

To confirm your work experience, here’s how the process will go:

  • a request for verification will be emailed to the verifying individual as assigned by the applicant on their application form
  • to let the applicant know they are being assessed, a copy of the request will be sent to them
  • contacts will be allowed 30 days from the request to submit verification
  • if no confirmation is received, CSI will notify the applicant, and a copy of the notification will also be sent to the work experience contact
  • if a response is not received within another 30 days, the applicant and the verifier will again be contacted

Inaccurate or misleading information will mean fraudulent reporting of the applicant’s work experience, which will likewise be reported to the Designation Ethics Committee as a violation of the PFP Code of Ethics. This will then be dealt with in accordance with the Committee’s Ethical Misconduct Process.

4. Adopt the Code of Ethics

Applicants for the PFP must commit to the PFP Code of Ethics.

5. Obtain the trademark licence and pay application fees

Those applying for the PFP certificate are required to agree to the terms of the PFP Certification Mark Licence Agreement, and pay the application fees.

The initial application fee is $355 and includes the applicant’s license fee for the year, your commitment to the maintenance requirements and your Fit and Proper Declaration.

Applicants who have work experience in companies outside of Canada can have that applied, if it meets the requirements. You can use the PFP® Work Experience Declaration – Assessment Tool to determine whether your experience qualifies.

Finally, those who taught financial planning at a post-secondary level full-time within the past 7 years can qualify for up to 2 years of experience.

How long does it take to get PFP Certification?

If you have passed the certification tests and your application has been approved, you will receive immediate confirmation along with an order ID number.

With all the requirements submitted, you can expect to receive your official letter of certification and a wall certificate (if you ordered one) within 4 – 6 weeks after completing your application requirements.

You should also receive a confirmation email to accept your digital badge that you can use on your digital correspondences and share with your network.

What’s the difference between a PFP and CFP?

Personal Financial Planner (PFP) and Certified Financial Planner sound similar but are quite different. Between them, the CFP designation is more common, since a CFP is chosen by financial advisors or planners who wish to build comprehensive financial plans for their clients.

Meanwhile, the PFP designation is a slightly more specialized role, and was originally created for:

  • bank or credit union employees
  • mutual fund representatives
  • investment advisors

Another important distinction is that the CFP holder is required to complete 25 hours of Continuing Education (CE) every year to maintain their designation.

Here’s a video that may illustrate the difference between a PFP and a CFP better. One of the presenters says that it’s the CFP’s job to “give meaning to money.” Watch this short video for more insight on PFPs:

Regulatory requirements and legal compliance for PFPs in Canada

In general, Personal Financial Planners (PFPs) in Canada are under the jurisdiction of FP Canada, formerly known as the Financial Planning Standards Council. The Canadian Securities Institute can also claim jurisdiction via its PFP Advisory Council if your certification was obtained from the CSI.

Apart from the CSI and FP Canada, PFPs in Canada are also subject to the various laws, regulations, and relevant authorities in the province or territory in which they operate. These laws and regulatory bodies may include:

How do I maintain my PFP designation?

Keeping your Personal Financial Planner (PFP) designation means proving that you remain as an active PFP holder in good standing. You do this by meeting the designation requirements every year.

Each PFP holder must earn 20 continuing education (CE) hours per calendar year, starting the first full year after you earn your PFP designation. Apart from these 20 hours, you must also render:

  • 15 hours of Professional Development Continuing Education (CE) credits
  • 5 hours of Ethics and Compliance-related Continuing Education (CE) credits

The CE content cannot be just any kind of content; it must be related to the competencies outlined in the PFP Professional Competency Profile.

All PFP holders must renew their designation by their anniversary date, which is the date the designation was originally granted. As your anniversary date approaches, you will receive reminders a month and 1 week before your deadline.

PFP designation holders who do not meet the requirements will lose their designation and will no longer be considered in good standing. This means you cannot use the PFP® trademarks and can face legal action if you continue to use them. Your name will also be removed from the PFP Directory.

What are the benefits of having PFP designation?

While the average salary of a PFP is around $63,800 with highs amounting to $92,000 annually, having this status comes with other benefits such as:

  • getting listed in the PFP Directory
  • having access to the exclusive PFP networking group on LinkedIn
  • getting opportunities to host your own webinars
  • having access to an online platform that helps you track your CE requirements
  • benefitting from national marketing and advertising campaigns about the CFP designation
  • enjoying opportunities to be featured in CFP advertisements

Is getting PFP designation worth it?

Working to acquire Personal Financial Planner (PFP) designation has its merits, as a financial manager or planner would be better equipped to handle clients’ financial needs.

As a PFP, you will have applied financial planning knowledge that gives clients peace of mind. The knowledge, skills, and continuing education you get from PFP designation make you more proficient at handling clients’ assets under management. You will have well-rounded knowledge on all your clients’ important financial concerns, including:

  • insurance
  • investments
  • retirement planning
  • estate planning
  • tax strategy

Having this sort of designation makes you earn more and more sought-after by clients and prospective employers like investment firms and banks.

Choosing to pursue PFP designation can be a good career move for some financial advisors. The expanded network, more knowledge, skills, and certifications to attract more clients and higher-paying employers are some of the benefits of PFP designation.

Such a certification comes with certain responsibilities, like that of meeting the yearly requirements to keep the designation. Ultimately, acquiring PFP certification depends on the career goals of the individual advisor.

What aspects of the Personal Financial Planner (PFP) designation appeal to you? Let us know in the comments