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The Toronto-based Responsible Investment Association (RIA) is introducing a course and designation for mutual fund advisors wishing to enhance their knowledge of responsible investment (RI) principles and products.

Advisors who take the RIA’s online “Canadian RI Fundamentals” course will be eligible to receive the association’s new responsible investment specialist (RIS) designation.

The development of the new designation comes in response to demand from financial services firms and the growing use of RI strategies in the financial services sector, says Dustyn Lanz, director of communications and member affairs with the RIA.

“We found that financial institutions increasingly want their investment teams to be knowledgeable about responsible investing,” Lanz says. “And that means being knowledgeable about [RI] products to address the needs of clients who were asking questions about those options.”

There has also been an increase in the level of Canadian investments that involve RI strategies, according to the RIA’s most recent Responsible Investment Trends Report, which was released in 2015. Almost one-third (31%) of total Canadian assets used RI strategies in early 2014, compared with 20% in early 2012.

The course for mutual fund advisors has a strong focus on the RI landscape in Canada. It defines concepts related to RI, provides profiles on each of the Canadian fund companies that specialize in RI products and includes suggestions on integrating RI investment strategies into an advisory practice.

The course is suitable for advisors who are new to RI as well as those who have already made this type of investing a key component of their business. Vancouver-based Vancouver City Savings and Credit Union, and Kitchener, Ont.-based Mennonite Savings and Credit Union have encouraged their advisors to take the course, according to Lanz.

“These are organizations that have been involved in RI for a long time,” he says. “They have chosen this course as a way to further enhance their advisors’ knowledge around responsible investment.”

The course has been approved for CE credits for the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), the Institute for Advanced Financial Education and the Financial Planning Standards Council, all of which are based in Toronto.

The RIS designation is the association’s second designation for financial advisors. It introduced the responsible investment advisor certification for IIROC-licensed advisors and portfolio managers in 2014.

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