Canadian securities regulators closed out the most recent decade on a high note. Here’s hoping they sustain their enthusiasm for investor protection in the years to come.
Getting to that point took most of the post-global financial crisis era, but the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) are finally taking action on regulatory concerns spelled out in a pair of consultation papers issued back in 2012. The issues examined in those papers were raised in part by the financial crisis of 2008-09, which revealed fundamental flaws in the financial services industry’s conduct – although many of the concerns about conflicts of interest, standards of care and industry incentive structures predate the crisis.
Now, the regulators are finally doing something about these long-standing vulnerabilities.
At the end of 2019, the CSA’s client-focused reforms (CFRs), which will explicitly require the industry to prioritize clients’ interests in several areas, formally took effect.
At the same time, the CSA committed again to its plan to ban deferred sales charge mutual funds and to eliminate trailer fees for discount brokers. The regulator has pledged to introduce these reforms sometime this year.
In both cases, phasing in the new provisions will take a couple of years. As for the CFRs, the self-regulatory organizations still have to develop their own measures to align with the CSA’s new standards for suitability, conflicts, know your client and know your product.
Nevertheless, these initiatives should eventually improve the treatment of investors and help divert the industry from some of its baser instincts. In doing so, the investment business may take another step toward status as a genuine profession.
The CSA’s latest efforts – while admirable – can’t be the end of its work. There’s much more to be done in a variety of areas, including enhancing advisor proficiency, regulating referral arrangements and improving investor access to redress.
The CSA can justly be proud of its work at the end of the past decade. Hopefully, these efforts mark the beginning – not the end – of its decisive action to improve investor protection.