Tashia Batstone
Alex Stead

This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

FP Canada has a bold vision for the future of financial planning — and that’s what attracted Tashia Batstone to the organization at a critical juncture for the profession.

In May, Batstone took over as FP Canada’s new president and CEO, succeeding Cary List, who had been at the helm of the national professional body for the past 15 years.

Batstone joins FP Canada as the organization is on the cusp of having financial planning recognized as a profession by the governments of Ontario and Saskatchewan. Both provinces have introduced legislation to regulate the use of the “financial planner” title.

FP Canada has been consulting with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) with the aim of ensuring the province imposes a high standard for financial planners, Batstone said. She added that she’s had some “excellent conversations with FSRA,” which is developing requirements professional bodies must meet in order to be approved as credentialing bodies for financial planners in Ontario.

“I’m very confident that FP Canada can meet those requirements,” Batstone said. “We’re looking forward to working with FSRA to make sure that we do get recognized [as a credentialing body].”

Title regulation is essential to consumer protection, Batstone added: there’s currently an “alphabet soup” of financial designations and consumers may have trouble distinguishing one credential from another.

“There are a lot of designations that may be leading to confusion in the marketplace over what skills and qualifications various people might possess,” Batstone said. “I believe it’s paramount when you’re choosing a financial planner that you can trust that the individual you’re going to work with has the skills and competencies necessary to make sure you get the right advice.”

Batstone is hopeful that once Ontario has implemented a framework to regulate financial planners, the rest of Canada will follow suit. (FSRA has indicated title protection rules could be in place by this time next year.) FP Canada is engaging with other provinces regarding title regulation, and Ontario’s system could serve as a template for the rest of the country, she said.

“You can’t just have consumer protection in Ontario — you want to make sure all Canadians [have] the same level of access to a qualified financial planner,” Batstone said. “You want a level playing field right across the country.”

Batstone is no stranger to professional bodies: before joining FP Canada, she was senior vice-president, external relations and business development, with CPA Canada, which is the national organization for chartered professional accountants. While she was with CPA Canada, Batstone got to know List and developed an admiration for her predecessor’s accomplishments.

“I knew the incredible amount of work that Cary and the team had done over the last few years to enhance professional financial planning and the role of FP Canada,” Batstone said.

When List announced his retirement and FP Canada began its search for a new leader, Batstone said she found herself drawn to the organization’s vision. She was impressed by FP Canada’s Imagine 2030 concept: a goal to bring financial wellness to all Canadians by the year 2030.

“It’s important to me as a leader that I be part of a purpose-led organization,” Batstone said. “That’s very much what I saw in FP Canada.”

The goal of making financial planning more accessible to everyday people is one that FP Canada takes seriously, Batstone noted. In January 2020, for example, the professional body launched the qualified associate financial planner (QAFP) designation.

While certified financial planners (CFPs) are able to tackle the complex financial planning needs of high-net-worth clients, QAFPs are more than capable of addressing the needs of other households, Batstone said.

“One of the things I like about the QAFP is that you have a financial planning professional who is able to deal with your everyday needs,” she said. “A CFP professional has the skills to do really complex work for people who have more sophisticated needs, but that doesn’t mean the rest of Canada doesn’t deserve to have someone work with them as a financial planning professional.”

As of Dec. 31, 2020, there were 3,643 QAFPs across Canada.

But making financial planning accessible is about more than introducing new certifications; it’s about serving diverse communities, Batstone said. One of her goals is to “diversify the demographics” of FP Canada’s membership.

“One of the things I would like to see is a real push toward more diversity within the profession,” Batstone said. “We truly believe in financial wellness for all Canadians, and Canada is very diverse. We need to echo that diversity in our membership.”

Batstone’s appointment is a step in the right direction: she’s the first woman to serve as president and CEO of FP Canada. She said being the first woman to lead the organization is a “great honour” that comes with great responsibility.

“I do think it’s important because it does send a message about the diversity within the organization and the financial planning profession, and the ability of women to take on these roles at senior levels,” she said.

Batstone said she looks forward to travelling across the country in her new role once pandemic restrictions ease. Currently, she’s working from her home in St. John’s, Nlfd., but she also has a condo in downtown Toronto — a city she can’t wait to return to when the world gets back to normal.

When that time comes, Batstone will be commuting from St. John’s to Toronto — something she’s been doing since she joined CPA Canada in 2012. Back then, her two kids were in their early teens and her husband encouraged Batstone to pursue the opportunity in Toronto, even if it meant travelling to a different province for work.

“I remember when the opportunity first came up, my husband looked at me and said, ‘You’ve always supported me in my career and I’m well-established now. It’s now your turn and I will support you 100%,’” she said. “For women in senior leadership roles, having that kind of support makes a tremendous difference in your ability to take on more responsibility.”

Batstone’s kids are now in their 20s — her daughter is in medical school and her son studies film in Toronto. Batstone likes to think the example she set by taking a chance on a job away from home inspired her kids to chase their dreams.

“I think seeing me live my dreams helped them realize the importance of taking chances and doing things a little differently sometimes,” Batstone said.