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The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, known as Advocis, has officially launched its Professional Financial Advisor designation (PFA), the association said in a release on Tuesday. The designation is expected to be a potential approved credential as title regulation of “financial advisor” starts to come into force in Ontario and spreads to other provinces.

“[G]overnments are moving forward to protect consumers with regulations that require all financial advisors to hold a valid credential,” said Greg Pollock, president and CEO of Advocis, in the release. “The PFA designation will help ensure the quality of advice available to Canadians.”

In May 2019, Ontario passed legislation that restricts the use of “financial advisor,” “financial planner” and similar titles to those with approved credentials from recognized credentialing bodies.

Saskatchewan tabled similar legislation in December 2019, and other provinces are expected to follow suit.

In Ontario, rules about approved credentials and credentialing bodies are being developed and are expected to come into force at year-end.

Advocis says the new rules will affect a large majority of advisors. “[T]hree-quarters of licensed or registered advisors do not currently hold a professional designation of any kind,” Pollock said in the release.

The association’s PFA designation was informed by a pilot program initiated in 2018, which attracted more than 350 participants, the release said.

The program’s curriculum includes financial planning foundations, taxation and investment planning, and retirement income planning. Candidates also develop practice management skills, including sustaining client relationships, prospecting and marketing, and business planning. Further, the program places a “strong” emphasis on compliance and ethical practices, the release said.

The program can be completed in 24 months, in combination with working full time. It costs $900 for Advocis members, plus an exam fee of $150 (taxes apply to both costs). Non-members pay $1,360 and $350, respectively.

PFA designation holders receive advanced standing for the Chartered Life Underwriter designation program as well as nine of the 12 core curriculum modules within the Advocis Core Curriculum Program for certification as a Qualified Associate Financial Planner and Certified Financial Planner.

Applications for the PFA program are open through March 31, and courses start April 1.