Canadian provincial insurance regulators are working together to launch a new, standardized licensing program in September, 2015. The new program was announced this past July by the Canadian Insurance Services Regulatory Organizations (CISRO), an umbrella group of insurance regulators from all Canadian jurisdictions. It will certify new life insurance agents in every province, including Quebec.
Currently, a prospective life agent must go through two different qualification programs if he or she hopes to practice all across the country. In all provinces and territories except for Quebec, an agent must complete a Life Licensed Qualification Program (LLQP) through a provincially approved provider. The LLQP requires the candidate to complete a classroom or online course, and then pass a provincial exam.
But if they also wish to practice in Quebec, they must undergo another qualification program. That program uses content similar to the LLQP, and is provided by the government run Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), rather than independent, provincially approved course providers. The only significant difference is that in Quebec, attending a course is optional; applicants may choose to go straight to the exam.
CISRO decided to launch a harmonized regime after realizing that the LLQP and the Quebec program curriculums were almost identical. This overlap became apparent during a recent review of Canada’s insurance licensing regimes, as required by the Agreement on Internal Trade — an interprovincial initiative intended to support the exchange of labour and goods between provinces.
“When we realized they were over 90% similar, a harmonized initiative made the most sense,” says Ron Fullan, executive director of Insurance Councils of Saskatchewan, who headed the initiative.
The new harmonized program incorporates elements of both the LLQP and AMF programs. It will be mandatory for all applicants to attend a course run by a provincially approved course provider and write a standard provincial exam.
Sam Albanese, industry director for the financial practitioners program at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto — an LLQP course provider — says he supports the CISRO initiative.
“It’s about time we had a harmonized system, since the products and the consumer needs are the same whether you are in Quebec or Ontario,” says Albanese.
The biggest change to the LLQP program will be the switch from a closed book exam to an open book, module-based exam. Under the module model, which is currently being used in Quebec, the material is sectioned into different modules. Students who do not pass a certain module can rewrite that specific portion of the exam.
“It allows students to focus on the sections they have trouble with and stick with the program, rather than doing the entire exam all over again,” Albanese says.
The only concern some education providers have with the open book exam is that students will only be able to use the booklet created by CISRO. Under the old LLQP program, course providers like Seneca invested heavily into developing their own study materials.
Students may not want to pay for extra course materials if they are unable to use them in the exam, says Albanese. “When the LLQP was introduced, we spent thousands on our study materials, and this will be a loss of revenue for us.”
“If they are going to take this away, they need to give us something back,” says Albanese.
Fullan says the details are still being worked out with respect to how CISRO will administer a standardized manual and how education providers will be compensated. “Education providers can still sell these materials, students just can’t take them into the exam,” he said.
A full copy of CISRO’s presentation about the harmonized program can be found on its website at www.cisro-ocra.com.
This is the first in a three-part series on insurance regulations. Tomorrow: Where insurer-MGA regulation is headed.