A pair of the major accrediting bodies for financial planning in Canada have agreed on common ethical and practice standards for planners, in a document titled Canadian Financial Planning: Definitions, Standards & Competencies.

Released Tuesday by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC), which administers the CFP designation, and the Institut québécois de planification financière (IQPF), which administers the F.Pl. designation in Quebec, the standards define what constitutes financial planning, plans, and planners. They also establish a common code of ethics and practice standards for planners.

The groups report that “considerable industry consultation went into the formation of a single set of definitions”. In addition to that set of definitions, they have also agreed on common standards of ethics, practice and competence for planners. Those standards set out the ethical principles that planners should follow, including that they should put clients’ interests before their own. They also detail the processes that planners are expected to follow in their planning activities.

“This is the first unified source for clarity on financial planning definitions and professional standards in Canada,” says Jocelyne Houle-LeSarge, president and CEO of the IQPF. “It sets a standard for ethics and competence that serves not only certified professionals, but all consumers who want to benefit from their skills and expertise.”

Currently, planning is only regulated in Québec, where the IQPF is the only organization granting financial planning diplomas and establishing ongoing professional development standards. Ontario’s government has consulted on possible regulation in this area. But, at this point, the activity is largely unregulated in most of Canada. This lack of standards has long bedeviled investor advocates, regulators, and industry players that aspire to professional recognition for planners on par with lawyers and accountants.

“We’ve achieved unprecedented consensus within the financial planning profession to unify standards that will help give Canadians absolute clarity, confidence and certainty when engaging a qualified financial planner,” says Cary List, president and CEO of the FPSC. “Together we will use this as a foundation to elevate financial planning as a distinct professional practice in Canada that holds itself to the highest possible ethical and performance standards.”