client meeting

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) is monitoring how other provinces are implementing title protection legislation and says it’s open to strengthening Ontario’s regime.

In response to a question about increasing the minimum standards for the financial advisor title as in Saskatchewan, which has proposed requirements related to planning for the financial advisor title, Wendy Horrobin, FSRA’s head of licensing and risk assessment, market conduct, said the regulator will continually assess Ontario’s regime.

“We’re reviewing the framework already,” Horrobin said at FSRA’s annual conference held Monday. “We’re gathering evidence right now.” The regulator previously announced it would review title protection at the end of March to assess areas of improvement.

FSRA will review Saskatchewan’s title protection proposal, as well as other proposals that emerge, and a principle of continuous improvement will be applied to title protection over time, she said. Any changes will be “based on evidence.”

The question came during a panel where three of five credentialing bodies (CBs) under Ontario’s title protection regime discussed their experiences in a session focused on the province’s title regulation of “financial advisor” and “financial planner.”

Tashia Batstone, president and CEO of FP Canada, said her organization’s focus is “100%” about consumer protection and that FP Canada “advocated very strongly with FSRA” to include a best interest standard in the title protection rules.

Marie Muldowney, managing director with the Canadian Securities Institute, said her organization has put more emphasis on putting clients’ interests first, communicating it in course materials.

Anthony Williams, vice-president with the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning, said consumer protection and professional ethics have “come to the fore,” extending to his organization’s conferences and workshops.

Best interest was raised again during a question period: How does FSRA supervise the principle of putting clients first?

Title protection rules require approved-credential holders to deal with clients “competently, professionally, fairly, honestly and in good faith,” said Horrobin, who moderated the panel.

FSRA expects approved CBs to put the client-first principle at the core of what they do, she said. “Part of meeting that standard is to put the client’s interest first when preparing a financial plan or providing financial advice.”

Metrics to assess the principle include ensuring CBs hold those with credentials accountable to a code of conduct.

CBs should also actively communicate the principle to credential holders. “Whether it is having seminars, webinars [or continuing education] programs, it’s at the forefront of continuous learning for credential holders,” Horrobin said.

She also said CBs should verify that consumers are satisfied.

“This has been I think the criticism of late: that there’s just a sales process going on” when it comes to advice, she said. “That is obviously what we don’t want to see.”