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Canadian CPD: Future Cash Grab or Competency Builder?

Cora Pettipas, CFPBy Cora Pettipas, CFP, Canada

The Canadian continuing professional development (CPD) regime is changing drastically this year, and if you are a CFP professional in Canada you need to take note. I question the implications of these changes; especially as they could decrease flexibility and increase costs for CFP professionals in the longer term.

The Way it Was

Up until September 2013, CFP professionals needed to acquire 30 hours of continuing education (CE) credits per annum (CE is our term for CPD). CE credits were broken up into two categories: verifiable and non-verifiable. You needed 20 verifiable (formal learning like courses and conferences) and 10 non-verifiable (informal learning like reading trade publications and research).

A financial planner could determine what activities and courses would constitute as annual CPD activities for CE credits, as long as 20 were verifiable and met the CFP Professional Competency Profile 56 page guide.

In the past, I have fulfilled my CE credits three main ways; by acquiring other financial designations through the CSI, from teaching CIFP financial planning courses, and from completing courses in my Master’s Degree in Finance and Controlling. I really appreciated this flexibility, as I could determine (as long as it was justified) what would satisfy my CE credit requirements and what could help me get to the next stage of my career by helping me focus on improving the skills I wanted to sharpen the most.

The New SystemCanadian CPD

Starting January 2014, you need 25 credits per annum, and they all have to be verifiable (no informal or non-institutional learning). In addition, FPSC has added a CE pre-approved service where CE activities can be selected through approved providers (meaning they apply to FPSC, were vetted by FPSC, and the provider paid them the appropriate fees (page 8).

CFP professionals will have to achieve 25 verifiable CE credits per annum, and have the choice of using an independent provider or a pre-approved provider.  Non verifiable, self-directed learning will no longer be counted.

My concern is what this new system implies, and where it could inevitably go. It implies that research and self-directed learning through trade journals has no CE value. Client case-by-case research into financial planning situations is a great learning opportunity for planners, and I am unsure of why it is not counted. It may be that it is hard to quantify and ‘prove’ that kind of learning, even though this practitioner experiential learning is arguably of most value to a planner.

My second concern is that this is just a transition step to a full CE pre-approval system, where CFP professionals could only get their CE credits from approved providers for specific activities. If you have designation and regulatory registration cross pollination, like most Canadian CFP professionals, it would be dangerous if you can only use your CE credits in other areas for the professional if they are also pre-approved by FPSC. Some education providers are direct competitors like the CSI; that is, a Canadian Financial Planning designating body. This is possibly why the CSI is not currently on FPSC’s approved provider list. I think this would be a shame, as CSI is the sole approved education provider of IIROC registrants (advisors that are licensed to trade securities, not just mutual funds, in Canada).

The Danger of What this Could Evolve Into

If this system continues to trend this way, I fear that FPSC will mandate CE credits have to be granted only by pre-approved providers and activities. Like others, I would not be able to acquire CE credits the way I did in the past, as none of the three main ways I gained CE credits would be considered ‘approved’ activities at this time. Under the current system, I will probably use my Doctoral courses in Finance and CSI refresher online courses, as verifiable credits for the next few years, since these activities are in line with my professional goals.

If I had to adhere to a smaller list of approved education providers, with a narrow offering range, I would have to change my CE credit strategy, as would many other Planners.

Recommendations

This new CE system is trending to be restrictive, more expensive, and with less value. I am weary of professional development schemes that just become a ‘cash grab’ from advisors, adding no real benefit other than saying ‘CE Credit Approved.’ It demeans legitimate professional development into a currency.

I strongly prefer the older system of choosing your own CE activities (with an ‘unverifiable’ portion), as each planner knows best what they need to improve upon, and the costs can be better managed. I also hope FPSC does not go further and only rely on their approved programs.

The real costs of CE credit regimes that are rigid and impractical to a professional’s career go beyond 25 hours a year and the fees of the activities. Time is a limited resource and time taken frivolously away from clients is wealth lost for both the client and the financial planner.

Read FPSC’s Response to Canadian CPD: Future Cash Grab or Competency Builder?

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