mature couple with young financial advisor

The 10th annual Financial Planning Week — a national initiative dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of financial planning — takes place later this month. Since Financial Planning Week was launched in 2009, Canadian society has become more informed about what a financial plan actually is and who among the financial advisory community is qualified to offer this specialized professional service.

But not only has the recognition of the financial planning profession grown dramatically during this past decade; financial planners’ knowledge, skills and abilities also have continued to be honed and advanced in sync with the needs of our society. In this age of the democratization of information, financial complexity and ever-declining social safety nets, the role of the professional financial planner has never been as critical to the health and welfare of Canadians.

Professional financial planners play an essential role in the lives of their clients. Financial planners look at their clients’ entire financial picture to help clients overcome short-term challenges and build long-term plans that let them live life confidently. In the same way that a doctor diagnoses health issues and prescribes solutions based on their patients’ unique health profiles, financial planners identify financial issues and recommend solutions that are customized to their clients’ individual circumstances.

Despite financial planning’s importance and positive impact on the lives of Canadians, the vast majority of Canadians still don’t have access to a qualified financial planner. This majority, who are among the mass market of consumers with less complex financial planning needs, aren’t realizing the benefits of the holistic view financial planners are able to take of their financial circumstances and aspirations. Although this massive cohort of Canadians may be accessing specific investment or insurance advice, they’re missing out on the valuable insights of a professional financial planner, who’s able to provide advice through a 360-degree lens of their clients’ circumstances.

As we enter the second decade of Financial Planning Week, this significant gap in service needs to be addressed through better and greater access to appropriately certified professionals. As previously announced, Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) will become FP Canada on April 1, 2019. At that time, FP Canada will be introducing a new professional financial planning designation that will replace the current FPSC Level 1 certification and is designed to serve this huge gap in the market.

Those who earn this new certification will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, experience and ethical standards that, although not geared to the most complex consumer market segment, will accommodate the professional financial planning needs of the mass market. With the introduction and industry uptake of this designation, the next generation of Canadian consumers will have the access they need to qualified and accountable professional financial planning services.

Professional financial planners and the financial services sector alike must continue to work together to build on the strong momentum that’s been growing steadily since 2009. We have come a long way since the inception of Financial Planning Week. The next 10 years will see another significant step forward in solidifying the financial health of all Canadians — regardless of their income, net worth or the complexity of their needs.