Education firm launches several initiatives to clarify designations, revamp courses and help participants map out their careers

By Wendy Cuthbert | Mid-October 2011

CSI Global Education Inc. has launched several new initiatives in an effort to allay concerns it might come under increased scrutiny by regulators over the credibility of certain designations, as has occurred in the U.S.

The initiatives, which include several upgraded designations, a credentials mapping tool and several marketing endeavours, took almost two years to develop, says Roberta Wilton, president and CEO of CSI.

CSI's intention was to clarify the "alphabet soup" of designations it offers, Wilton says, and also to ensure that these are of the highest calibre. "We're very aware," she says, "that there is increasing attention being paid to what these [designations] mean."

Wilton stresses the importance of demonstrating to the public that the CSI designations require a commitment of time and effort and adhere to high standards: "The external world is certainly conscious today that going through a lunch-hour seminar leading to a certification may not really make a lot of sense."

When CSI had acquired the Institute of Canadian Bankers from Thomson Canada Ltd. in 2007, it gained a list of courses and credentials — another reason for CSI to clarify its offerings, Wilton says, and ensure that the CSI name remains credible.

NEW TOOL FOR NEWCOMERS

"It was important for us to make sure we didn't just sort it out for ourselves," Wilton says, "but also sort it out for the marketplace."

To that end, CSI has created the new "financial services career map," an online tool that helps newcomers and those with years of experience working in the financial services industry explore multiple career options. The tool organizes careers by sector — retail, back office, corporate/institutional and middle office — and helps users narrow the choices among 38 industry jobs.

The information page for each job title makes recommendations for training programs that would lead to that position. For example, a candidate who wishes to become a mutual fund rep would be advised to take the Canadian securities course or the investment funds in Canada course. The page also outlines the job's responsibilities, licensing requirements and salary range.

The challenge was to make this information complete, Wilton says, without making it complicated: "We have a very large number of students who call us regularly, and they're often confused, [asking], ‘What should I do next? What does this mean? How do I prepare for a career?'"

The career-mapping tool helps to answer those kinds of questions, Wilton adds, by providing guidance regarding the paths that lead to certain goals — for both industry veterans and novices.

Another tool, launched this past summer, is the CSI's eReference tool. CSC graduates would purchase annual subscriptions to the tool, which provides refresher courses on CSC material. The tool also provides an online community through which users can connect with one another.

As well, CSI has upgraded two of its designations.

One of the designations CSI took on when it acquired the ICB is the Canadian investment manager. CSI has added requirements to the CIM to bring it in line with CSI's other designations.

CSI has added two year's work experience, a code of ethics and compliance, and continuing education to the CIM's requirements. It also renamed the designation as the "chartered investment manager," which erases the suggestion held in the former name that individuals who hold the designation are limited to working with Canadian portfolios.

Also, the fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute designation, held by 3,380 Canadian financial services industry professionals, has been updated to reflect its singular qualities. Unlike other CSI designations, the FCSI is not associated with any particular career path. Instead, it is a distinction that can be held by financial services professionals throughout the industry.

GIVING BACK TO THE PUBLIC

The FCSI now is open to non-CSI designation-holders who meet the other FCSI requirements, such as seven years of experience (two years more than was previously required), a history of contributing to the industry and an impressive record of volunteer work. Says Wilton: "This is a designation that represents leadership, tenure in the industry, giving back to the industry and giving back to the public."

To clarify education requirements and recommendations, CSI has introduced 11 course bundles to help professionals achieve the various designations under the CSI umbrella. These include the personal financial planner, CIM and certified financial planner designations. CSI now offers courses in packages, in which the courses are priced lower than if they were purchased individually.

On the marketing side, CSI has introduced new iconography for its designations and certificates.

CSI also plans to put more effort behind its training initiatives. CSI always has promoted its continuing-education options to financial services industry professionals, Wilton says, but it now plans to revamp its marketing to reflect its efforts to clarify its designations and promote the career-mapping tool.

"It's all about the same thing," Wilton says, "which is to be extremely clear about what path people can take."

In addition, CSI has applied for accreditation by the American National Standards Institute, the organization that oversees standards for products, services and systems in the U.S. CSI expects to receive ANSI accreditation for its PFP designation by April 2012. That would speed up the process should CSI choose to offer the PFP in the U.S. It would also make it easier for CSI to apply for ANSI accreditation of its other designations.

"We have strong recognition in Canada by regulators and the Street, and even consumers to a degree," Wilton says. "But, increasingly, we have to be able to answer the questions: ‘Who gives us the right and authority to come to market with a designation, and how can the public have the confidence that CSI is qualified to do that?'"  IE