The fundamental question to ask about financial advisor training such as FPSC Level 1 Certificants is: what do you want it to do for you?
The expectation is clear: choosing the right certificate will not only provide you a competitive advantage but will also ensure a bright future as a financial advisor and a generous salary. Often, people believe so strongly in the power of their financial advisor education that they are prepared to invest an awful lot of money and time to get it. However, not all financial planners are certified. In fact, only a select group of planners have fulfilled the rigorous requirements necessary to become Level 1 Certificants or a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) is a not-for-profit organization that develops, promotes and enforces professional standards in financial planning through Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) certification. FPSC is dedicated to driving value and instilling confidence in financial planning. As a standards-setting and certification body, FPSC ensures CFP® professionals and FPSC Level 1® Certificants in Financial Planning meet appropriate standards of competence and professionalism through rigorous requirements of education, examination, experience and ethics.
The CFP® designation: The standard
Long considered the standard for financial planning in Canada, the CFP designation provides assurance to Canadians that the design of their financial future rests with an appropriately qualified professional who will put their clients’ interests ahead of their own.
There are approximately 17,000 Certified Financial Planner professionals across Canada, part of an international network of more than 160,000 CFP professionals in 26 territories around the world.
FPSC ensures that CFP professionals and FPSC Level 1 certificants meet appropriately high standards of knowledge, skills, abilities and ethics through rigorous requirements for education, examinations and experience.
To obtain the CFP designation, candidates must complete a rigorous education program, pass two national exams and have three years of qualifying work experience.
To maintain certification, every year they complete new professional education courses and agree to adhere to the Standards of Professional Responsibility for CFP Professionals and FPSC Level 1 Certificants in Financial Planning.
As an FPSC Level 1 Certificant in Financial Planning, you will demonstrate your technical competence and your commitment to the highest ethical standards of responsibility.
How do FPSC Level 1 Certificants in Financial Planning differ from a person with a CFP® designation?
Here’s a short explanation:
- FPSC Level 1 certificants are certified by FPSC to provide financial planning strategies and solutions for clients who have less complex financial planning needs than clients of CFP professionals.
- FPSC Level 1 certificants can chose to stay at that level of certification, or can continue on to become a CFP professional at any time. If you prefer working with clients who have fairly straightforward financial planning needs, the FPSC Level 1 Certification in Financial Planning is the right credential for you.
When you attain your FPSC Level 1 Certification in Financial Planning, you will immediately receive significant marketing benefits.
- You will be featured on the “Find a Planner or Certificant” tool on the FPSC website. This tool is used by Canadians to search out a qualified individual in their region. You have an opportunity to add content to this section to enhance your marketing profile.
- You can use the FPSC Level 1 trademarked logo on your business cards, your e-signature or any other marketing materials you produce.
- You can display your FPSC Level 1 diploma and annual certificate in your office.
- You can add a new seal to your certificate every year you renew. This proves to your clients you are dedicated to maintaining the highest professional standards including abiding by a code of ethics that ensures your clients interests come before all others.
- You can wear an FPSC Level 1 lapel pin to display your credentials at client and networking events.
As FPSC Level 1 certificants, you prove your dedication to professionalism — demanded by the industry and of value to the financial planning profession.
The introduction of the FPSC Level 1 certification was based on extensive financial services industry feedback, which revealed demand for certificants with a proficiency in financial planning to address client situations that are less complex than those which a CFP professional might undertake.
While CFP professionals can address client situations at all levels of complexity, market demand has called for advisors who have sufficient and appropriate competence in financial planning to address client situations that are relatively less complex and who have obtained a planning proficiency at a foundational level. This can be likened to other professions that have different levels of certification to meet different levels of client needs.
FPSC Level 1 certification also provides consumers the protection of a certification that is held to the same ethical and practice standards as CFP certification. This is not only of value to you as an FPSC Level 1 Certificant in Financial Planning and to consumers, but to the financial planning profession as a whole. Further, financial services firms are seeking this certification as demonstration that their employees have reached a meaningful milestone on the path to CFP certification.
CFP® professionals have an obligation to ensure that their knowledge and competence remains current. To renew CFP certification, CFP professionals must attest to completing 25 hours of Continuing Education (CE) activities each year. FPSC Level 1® Certificants in Financial Planning must complete 12 hours each year.
CE requirements help maintain the integrity and reputation of the certification and of those who hold it, ensuring that the knowledge and competence of CFP professionals and FPSC Level 1 certificants remains current and continues to expand.
What types of continuing education qualify for CFP certificants and FPSC Level 1 Certificants?
Financial Planning CE activities that fall within the Financial Planning category must be related to one or more aspects of the CFP Professional Competency Profile, the foundation of certification requirements leading to CFP certification. CE in this category may relate to one or more of the financial planning areas, professional skills and technical knowledge.
Qualifying CE requires the application of the standards, principles and rules outlined in FPSC’s Standards of Professional Responsibility for CFP Professionals and FPSC Level 1 Certificants in Financial Planning. CE that focuses on direct knowledge of the Standards of Professional Responsibility rather than their practical application will not qualify. Application-oriented CE may commonly be delivered by such means as discussion, debate, storytelling, case studies and role-plays with the purpose of guiding CFP professionals and FPSC Level 1 certificants in the face of what may be difficult ethical decisions or challenges of practice.
Qualifying CE includes the product knowledge that planners may use to advise on and sell products or comment on products held by their clients. CE in this category may be focused on any financial planning product, including investment, insurance or debt. Ideally, CE should present a balanced view of the product that includes features and benefits as well as client suitability, risks and costs. The content of CE should help you make product recommendations based on the fit of the product with your client’s situation rather than on the product’s returns, which you don’t control.
Qualifying CE includes the knowledge and skills used in building professional relationships and growing a professional practice. CE in this category may include activities focused on prospecting skills, business development behaviours, actions and/or processes, business planning skills, networking skills and sales skills.
Qualifying CE includes the knowledge and skills gained from volunteering with community organizations, industry associations, charitable groups or others to help Canadians understand the importance of financial planning and enhance their financial well-being. CE in this category may include involvement in pro-bono teaching or development of education programs, community involvement, development of published financial planning research, or involvement in financial planning-related committees, task forces, or focus groups. Non-approved activities may still meet annual CE requirements, although these activities are subject to audit by FPSC.
CFP’s use the FPSC-Approved CE Search Tool to find CE activities approved. Choosing FPSC-Approved activities provides assurance that the CE activity you take is application-based and specific to the standards, principles and rules outlined in the FPSC® Code of Ethics, FPSC® Rules of Conduct or FPSC® Financial Planning Practice Standards found in the Standards of Professional Responsibility for CFP Professionals and FPSC Level 1 Certificants in Financial Planning. If the course is not FPSC-approved, CFPs are responsible for assessing whether it meets the requirement.
CFPs can be audited each year.
FPSC will audit a percentage of CFP professionals and FPSC Level 1 certificants are chosen randomly for CE audit to ensure that they are compliant with CE requirements. XTRAcredits.com is an approved CE provider and has met all the criteria under the FPSC Continuing Education Guidelines. CFPs can access a growing list of continuing education courses with flexible learning options; webinar, live event or on-demand online available anytime and anywhere.
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XTRAcredits is the yellow pages for everything and anything continuing education and professional development credit related. XTRAcredits.com offers a catalogue of approved on-demand professional development courses for continuing education credits anytime and anywhere.
More about FPSC. Committed to maintaining its own quality standards, FPSC is one of only six certification bodies in Canada to have received ISO 17024 accreditation from the Standards Council of Canada for meeting globally recognized standards for certification bodies. Based on internationally recognized criteria and procedures, this accreditation assesses and recognizes the credibility, impartiality and technical competence of FPSC’s certification services.
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