A Liberal party member in the Ontario legislature introduced a private member’s bill on Tuesday that would regulate financial advisors in Ontario.
If passed, the bill would create the Financial Advisors Act, 2014, and would apply to all financial advisors who receive commissions or remuneration for advice in Ontario regardless of the type of product they sell.
“The current system includes a series of disconnected rules that evolved over time and fall under various government ministries. While well intentioned, the status quo is a mishmash of policies that can allow unscrupulous financial advisors to slip through the cracks,” said Rick Bartolucci, the Liberal member of provincial parliament for Sudbury. “My new bill, if passed, would provide clear rules within a standardized system for credible financial advisors and would safe-guard Ontarians.”
The legislation calls for advisors to meet consistent proficiency standards, continuing education requirements, to maintain errors and omissions insurance and abide by a code of ethics. The act would be administered by the Office of the Director, a new regulatory body. The office would act as a centralized base for consumer complaints. As well, it would be able to levy penalties and revoke the licenses for non-compliant registrants.
In a statement, Toronto-based Advocis said it hopes for a centralized database where consumers can check if their financial advisor is registered. Advocis intends to support the bill and suggested that other stakeholders would follow suit.
“I think it’s an excellent piece of legislation to address any concerns that consumers might have about the financial advisor that they’re dealing with across the table,” said Greg Pollock, president and CEO of Advocis, in an interview. “We think this will go a long way to building consumer confidence in the work that advisors do and, in the long term, will address the financial interests of all Canadians.”
This legislation would also further the debate around the regulation of the title “financial planner,” according to Pollock. Currently, Quebec is the only province that regulates use of the term “financial planner.” However, Pollock says this legislation allows for specialization under the registered title of “financial advisor.”
According to Pollock, much like the medical profession in which a doctor registered as a general practitioner becomes a specialist in another field, such as orthopedic surgery, a financial advisor would also be able to formally specialize.
Says Pollock: “There’s absolutely room to integrate financial planners into this legislation.”
Furthermore, the bill would eventually lead to less industry regulation, says Pollock, because the office would act as a single regulator for every financial services sector from securities to insurance.
“We really have a patchwork system in place,” he says. “What this would do is create a profession of financial advisors with one standard, individuals who would be subject to the same code of professional conduct.”