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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Certification a growing trend among financial planners

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

For Peter Andreana, working as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is about more than just selling financial products. It's about developing lasting relationships with clients, helping them achieve their goals and ensuring they're prepared for whatever comes their way.
Certified Financial Planner

"One of the biggest rewards is being able to work with families over a period of time and see the impact financial planning has on their lives," says Andreana, a CFP with Freedom 55 Financial in Mississauga.

"If tragedy strikes, you know you've helped them plan so they'll be taken care of financially ... It's amazing to be one of the people showing up to help. When it comes to retirement planning, you watch them transition from saving to early retirement to full retirement ... You help them fulfill their dreams. Everyone's lives and goals are different."

As a CFP, Andreana helps clients develop financial plans that can include retirement, estate, education and tax planning and insurance. He also works with business clients.

Not so long ago, there were distinct divisions within the financial services industry: bankers, stockbrokers, insurance agents and mutual funds sales reps. Financial planning emerged as a distinct profession in the late 1970s, the Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC) reports.

The FPSC, established in 1995, develops, enforces and promotes the highest competency and ethical standards in financial planning. It is the regulatory body that awards CFP designations.

The CFP designation is widely recognized as the highest standard in Canada and internationally. "Anyone who has earned that designation has attained our rigorous standards," says FPSC director Carolyn Fallis, CFP, CA.

Today, between 50,000 and 60,000 Canadians offer financial advice and/or sell financial products. Of those, more than 15,000 have earned their CFP designation -- a designation recognized in 17 countries. According to the FPSC, there are more than 63,000 CFPs worldwide.

Andreana recognized the benefits of that designation. He graduated from York University in Toronto with a degree in economics. He went on to complete a Canadian Securities course, which would allow him to sell mutual funds and stocks. He completed his CFP designation about a year ago.

"Our clients need to know they're dealing with someone with education, experience and ethics," he says. "As a financial planner, I'm able to look at the whole financial picture ... The FPSC has done a great job of letting Canadians know what CFPs are about."
Interested in becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)? Here are the four steps you must complete:

1. Education. You must complete an education program (certificate, diploma or degree) approved by the Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC).
2. Examination. Once you complete an accredited education program, you can write the CFP exam, which is offered each June and November.
3. Experience. You need at least 2 years of financial planning-related experience, which can be obtained before or after writing the exam.
4. Ethics. Before becoming licensed, you must disclose past or pending litigation and agree to abide by the FPSC code of ethics. Once you earn your CFP designation, you must renew your licence annually.
In Canada, financial services regulation falls under the jurisdiction of provincial governments, the FPSC reports. British Columbia and Quebec are the only two provinces with any regulation about who can call themselves financial planners.

CFPs must renew their licence each year. In order to renew, they must have completed at least 30 hours of continuing education.

Financial planners can be paid in a variety or combination of ways: salary, bonus, commission and fee. The amount they earn also varies. Generally, the longer planners have been in business, and the more clients with high net worths they serve, the more they earn, the FPSC says.

Degree of flexibility

According to an FPSC Quality of Work-Life survey, 31% of planners aged under 35 earned more than $100,000 annually. The job offers a certain degree of flexibility, such as the ability to work in a home or traditional office and the ability to work days, evenings and/or weekends.

Though still relatively young, the profession has a bright future. According to Scotiabank Group's Special Report on Canada's Evolving Job Market, financial planning is among the country's leading employment prospects.

More than one-third of Canada's CFPs are aged 50 years or older. "Many CFPs were already doing something in financial planning and saw the benefits to designation," Fallis says. "We're seeing an evolution, with people coming out of school saying they want to become a CFP."

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