Queen's Park, Ontario legislature, exterior

Ontario remains intent on regulating the use of “financial advisor” and “financial planner” titles in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a key priority for us to get this done,” Mark White, CEO of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), said in an interview with Investment Executive.

In May 2019, the Ontario government passed the Financial Professionals Title Regulation Act. Since then, FSRA has been consulting “vigorously” on its title protection framework for financial planner (FP) and financial advisor (FA) title users, White said.

Under the framework, FSRA will choose existing financial services designations that would qualify credential-holders to use the FP or FA titles.

White said FSRA is looking at credentialing bodies that demonstrate “a certain rigour” with regard to educational standards, conduct supervision and discipline.

“We’ve identified the core competencies through group consultations with a variety of different licensing and designation bodies,” White said. “We think we are ready to go out and consult more formally.”

Formal consultations will take time. FSRA must go through a 90-day consultation period before bringing a final rule on title regulation to the finance minister, at which point the finance minister would have a 60-day period to review the rule.

But, given that this is Ontario’s first foray into FA and FP title regulation, White said FSRA will likely engage in more than one consultation period before developing a final rule.

“We do expect it would be multiple consultations,” White said. “It would be very unlikely that we go out for one 90-day consultation and then go right to proposing the final rule for the minister, just because this is such a novel framework that we have in Ontario.”

Assuming there are multiple consultation periods, in addition to the finance minister’s 60-day review, having title regulation in effect by 2021 would probably be a “best case” scenario, White said.

“It can get done next year if we start soon — and that would, of course, be my goal — but we do need to make sure all the stakeholders during this disruptive time have the bandwidth to engage with this consultation now,” White said.

The timing of consultations will depend on stakeholder availability, but FSRA itself is ready to act on title regulation, White said.

“We’re ready to go because we think this is a very important piece of consumer protection legislation in Ontario and we want to bring it to fruition.”