Financial Planners - How to tell the Difference

By: Peter F. Baigent Cfp, Clu, Chfc, Rfp.

First Published Fall 1993

Eight years ago I was discussing a Financial Planning recommendation with a Judge. He made the comment that he was reluctant to accept recommendations from a 'Financial Planner' because he knew of a lawyer in Vancouver who had been disbarred for misuse of his client's trust funds and was now doing business as a 'financial planner'. Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a 'Financial Planner. This is true of many professions. Anyone can hang out a shingle as an Accountant. But, they cannot call themselves a Chartered Accountant unless they have completed a course of studies and are a member in good standing of their professional association. It is a shame that, after all of the financial degrees and courses I had taken that I still had to compete with a disbarred lawyer. When I left the meeting with the Judge I was determined to do something to make sure I would stand out above the crowd.

It is sad to say but many in our business are not very honest and even more are motivated to sell the client only those products that pay them the most money. Some stockbrokers would have people believe they are 'Financial Advisors' when in fact they are simply stock salespeople. Most have almost no training in Taxation or Estate Planning, both of which impact a great deal on any investment recommendation.

Many Life Insurance Agents hold themselves out as 'Financial Advisors' after taking a single course on insurance. Banks promote some of their people as 'Financial Advisors', when in fact they have taken a simple course in Mutual Funds and have in most cases no experience beyond that bank's products. There are some very good and well qualified people in all of these professions and financial institutions. But, the point is, how do you tell the difference?

Shortly after the incident with the Judge, I joined the Canadian Association of Financial Planners (CAFP). As a member I was required to subscribe to their code of ethics and answer to their disciplinary committee. In this way my clients would know that I had attained a certain level of competence and that they could report me to the Association if I did something wrong. The Association grants the RFP (Registered Financial Planner) degree. To maintain that degree I must be a Regular member of the CAFP and have at least one Academic degree (such as CFP, CLU, CA. etc) in one of the Financial Planning disciplines. 1 must then have at least two years experience with a financial planning firm and have passed a six hour competency exam, which covers all areas of financial planning. In addition, I must produce proof of at least $1,000,000.00 of Errors & Omissions Insurance, subscribe to the Code of Ethics and adhere to the “Six Step Financial Planning Process". Each year I must prove that I have kept up to date with new developments through their requirements for continuing education.

Ten years ago there was no Financial Planning industry as it emerged because the average investor required someone to guide them through the complexity of the tax regulations and investment choices. I think the growth of the financial planning industry is due in no small part to the growth in service industries. As everything in our daily lives becomes so specialized we need to turn ever more to people who specialize in areas we need help in. Today the association is recognized as the national organization for the regulation and development of financial planning in Canada. It is possible to phone in any major city in Canada to Inquire if someone is a regular member, an associate member in good standingFeature Articles, or is even a member at all. In British Columbia the Association is called the British Columbia Association of Financial Planners. The phone number is (604) 684-8843.

Last month I was honored to be elected President of the British Columbia Association of Financial Planners. Bring on that disbarred lawyer!

Copyright 2004 – www.money-software.com

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