Are you thinking of making a career change to become a financial advisor?
It’s a profession that has gotten more scrutiny in Canada in recent years due to high advisor fees, but I think that there will always be a need and demand for financial advisors for certain clients.
It’s a job that can be quite satisfying, as you work closely with someone to achieve their financial goals, and personal relationships can also develop.
Here is the summary of the steps on how to become a financial advisor in Canada, which I’ll go into much more detail:
- Step 1: Get the Proper Education
- Step 2: Get Certified
- Step 3: Get the Experience
- Step 4: Registration With a Regulatory Organization
- Step 5: Find Employment
- Step 6: Build your Client Base
- Step 7: Continuing Education
Steps to Become A Financial Advisor In Canada
Becoming a financial advisor won’t require having a master’s degree in finance, but you do need certifications to qualify as someone who can give financial advice as a profession. Here are the steps to
Step 1: Get the Proper Education
Although not mandatory, it helps to have an educational background in finance, like a degree in economics, finance, or a related field. Besides a background in finance, you can take on courses that can help you pursue a career as a financial advisor in Canada. Again, it is a broad field and several courses that you can take, including:
- Asset allocation
- Portfolio management
- Canadian securities
- Financial planning processes
Step 2: Get certified
You also need to complete one of the courses below to be considered an accredited investment advisor:
- Wealth Management Essentials (WME) Course
- Conduct and Practices Handbook (CPH) Course
- Professional Financial Planning (PFP)
Completing the CSC and one of these courses will be necessary for employment in the field. The CSC is the foundational course for individuals pursuing a career in the Canadian securities industry. It covers various topics, including investment products, trading practices, and portfolio management.
Step 3: Get the Experience
In Canada, there is no specific amount of experience mandated by law for financial advisors. However, employers and clients typically prefer advisors with relevant experience and expertise in the financial services industry.
Gaining experience in the field increases your credibility and equips you with the practical skills and knowledge necessary to provide sound financial advice.
Here are some ways to gain experience as a financial advisor in Canada:
- Internships: Pursue internships or co-op placements in financial services firms, banks, insurance companies, or investment management firms while completing your degree.
- Entry-level positions: Seek entry-level roles within financial institutions, such as customer service representatives, bank tellers, or junior financial analysts, to gain hands-on experience and build your understanding of financial products and services.
- Job shadowing or mentoring: Shadow experienced financial advisors to learn from their expertise and observe how they interact with clients, develop financial plans, and manage investments.
- Networking: Attend industry events, conferences, and seminars to connect with professionals in the field and gain insights into the financial advisory profession.
- Professional designations: Acquire certifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Personal Financial Planner (PFP), which often require practical experience as part of the certification process.
- Continuing education: Engage in lifelong learning through workshops, seminars, and online courses to stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.
- Join professional associations: Becoming a member of professional organizations, such as Advocis (The Financial Advisors Association of Canada) or FP Canada, can help you access resources, networking opportunities, and professional development programs.
Step 4: Registration With a Regulatory Organization
Depending on the financial services you plan to offer, you may need to register with a provincial or federal regulatory organization. For example, if you’re providing investment advice, you’ll need to register with the appropriate provincial securities regulator.
Suppose that you are registered as an investment advisor in one province, but your career takes you to another province. In that case, you will have to register in that province to continue your practice.
Financial advisors also need to register with the corresponding regulatory body depending on what securities products they sell.
The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA) are the regulatory bodies in Canada. These bodies are not government agencies, but registration with them is necessary.
IIROC provides approval for investment advisors if they want to sell securities, including stocks, Guaranteed Income Certificates (GICs), mutual funds, and bonds. The IIROC sets standards that financial advisors need to get approval.
The MFDA is responsible for regulating operations, standards, and expectations of its registered members to ensure consumer protection.
Read this full guide on MFDA vs IIROC to learn more.
Step 5: Find Employment
Look for job opportunities in banks, credit unions, investment firms, insurance companies, or independent financial advisory firms. You can check job websites like Indeed, or network on LinkedIn.
You can also consider starting your own practice as a financial advisor, but starting out with no connections or practical experience might be very hard.
Step 6: Build your client base
As you gain experience, focus on expanding your client base through networking, referrals, and marketing your services. Establishing strong relationships with your clients is essential for a successful career as a financial advisor.
Maintain high ethical practices, and always keep your reputation intact because it is crucial for your success.
Step 7: Continuing Education
Stay up-to-date with industry trends, regulations, and best practices by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars.
Every financial advisor must complete the CSC to qualify to offer financial advice. Consider pursuing additional certifications to broaden your expertise and enhance your marketability. Here are some examples of some designations you might want to pursue:
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Personal Financial Planner (PFP)
- Canadian Investment Funds Exam (CIF)
- Canadian Investment Manager (CIM)
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
- Chief Compliance Officers (CCO)
- Investment Funds in Canada Course (IFIC)
- Mutual Fund Dealers Compliance (MFDC)
- Life Licence Qualification Program (LLQP)
You can register for all of these exams throughout Canada. CSI Global Education has exam centers all over the country, and you must pass all securities exams within three years of applying for registration.
Pros and Cons of Being a Financial Advisor
Being a financial advisor in Canada has its benefits and challenges. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main pros and cons associated with this career:
Pros of being a financial advisor:
- High earning potential: Financial advisors can earn a significant income, especially as they gain experience and grow their client base. Compensation often includes a combination of salary, commissions, and bonuses.
- Flexibility and independence: Many financial advisors can work as independent contractors, set their own schedules, and choose their clients.
- Job satisfaction: Financial advisors can find their work rewarding as they help clients achieve their financial goals and improve their financial well-being.
- Diverse career opportunities: Financial advisors can work in various settings, such as banks, credit unions, investment firms, insurance companies, or start their own businesses. They can also specialize in different areas of finance, such as retirement planning, wealth management, or insurance.
- Continuous learning: The financial services industry is constantly evolving, and financial advisors must stay up-to-date with new products, regulations, and best practices.
Cons of being a financial advisor:
- Building a client base can be tough: Establishing and maintaining a client base can be challenging, especially for new advisors. This often requires significant networking, marketing, and relationship-building efforts.
- Regulatory requirements: Financial advisors must comply with various regulatory requirements, such as licensing and registration, which can involve considerable time and expense.
- Income uncertainty: Many financial advisors earn a substantial portion of their income from commissions and bonuses, which can fluctuate depending on market conditions and client performance.
- High-stress environment: Financial advisors often deal with clients’ sensitive financial matters and may face pressure to meet sales targets or generate investment returns.
- Long hours: Building a successful financial advisory practice may require working long hours, particularly in the early stages of one’s career.
What Do Financial Advisors Do?
Financial advisors play a crucial role in helping clients manage their financial goals and navigate complex financial decisions. Here’s a list of some key services and tasks that financial advisors may perform for their clients (note that not all advisors will do all of these tasks):
- Financial goal setting: Assist clients in defining their short-term and long-term financial objectives, such as saving for a home, funding education, or planning for retirement.
- Financial analysis and planning: Evaluate a client’s financial situation by assessing income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and risk tolerance to create a comprehensive financial plan.
- Investment management: Develop and implement investment strategies that align with a client’s risk tolerance, financial goals, and time horizon.
- Retirement planning: Help clients plan for their retirement by estimating retirement expenses, determining appropriate savings rates, and recommending suitable investment vehicles.
- Tax planning: Advise clients on tax-efficient strategies to minimize tax liabilities and maximize after-tax returns on investments.
- Estate planning: Assist clients in developing strategies to preserve and transfer wealth to their beneficiaries, while minimizing tax implications and probate fees.
- Risk management and insurance planning: Assess a client’s risk exposure and recommend appropriate insurance products to protect against potential financial loss, such as life, disability, or long-term care insurance.
- Debt management: Provide guidance on managing and reducing debt, including strategies for paying off high-interest loans, refinancing, or debt consolidation.
- Education funding: Help clients save and invest for their children’s or grandchildren’s education, including setting up and managing Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) or other savings vehicles.
- Budgeting and cash flow management: Offer advice on creating and maintaining a budget, tracking expenses, and optimizing cash flow to achieve financial goals.
- Employee benefits and pension planning: Assist clients in understanding and maximizing their employee benefits, such as pension plans, group insurance, and stock options.
- Charitable giving strategies: Advise clients on philanthropic strategies and help them structure their charitable giving in a tax-efficient manner.
What Type Of Financial Advisors Exist?
You might have heard the term financial advisor a lot but never realized that it is a broad term that covers several specializations. Here are some of the most important specializations within the field:
- Financial planner
- Bank financial advisor
- Mutual fund salesperson
- Investment advisor
- Financial coach
- Insurance advisor
Financial advisors, investment advisors, financial coaches, and financial planners might seem like they are all the same. However, a deeper understanding of each of these will help you understand how they differ from each other.
Understanding the differences between the work each of these professionals does can help you make an informed decision about which path is better suited for you.
What Is An Investment Advisor And What Do They Do?
As the name suggests, an investment advisor is someone who specializes in investments and gives you advice on high-quality investment opportunities. Investment advisors can help you understand different types of securities, like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
Investment advisors traditionally work for investment firms. They work with you to help you create an investment portfolio that consists of assets that can help you meet your financial goals based on your circumstances.
An investment advisor receives commissions or a flat fee for their services by providing you with sound investment advice.
Considering how similar the name is, many people think that financial coaches are the same as financial planners. However, financial planners might not have specialized training specifically for insurance and investments. Rather, they play more of a coaching role to help their clients become financially stable through:
- Helping them identify their goals
- Creating a budget for their cash flows
- Identifying their needs
- Factoring in their lifestyle, spending habits, and personality
- And managing their relationship with their finances
Financial coaches also help their clients set up financial plans and learn how to stick to them, but they don’t always sell financial products to earn commissions.
From budgeting to managing debt, financial coaches traditionally help their clients tackle several financial problems and challenges. They can also provide you with education on investment and help you create a retirement plan.
Most importantly, financial coaches give you the tools and motivation you need to get better control over your finances.
Helping people manage their relationships with money is a key part of what financial coaches do. Consider a person who constantly keeps racking up credit card debt each month without getting atop it.
Consider another person who is so afraid of taking on debt that they barely have a credit history. Both situations do not present a healthy relationship with money.
A financial coach can help these people improve their relationship with money by offering them guidance and equipping them with the tools they need to develop a healthy relationship with their finances.
Note that financial coaches generally don’t need to be licensed, so there is less compliance for them.
Many people ask how long it takes to become a financial advisor. This is the golden question for anyone eager to switch careers. Reading this post on how to become a financial advisor in Canada might have helped you realize that it isn’t something you can become in a few months.
There are several steps involved in this career path, and you’re effectively going to create a specialty within a specialty, depending on the practice you plan to pursue.
You have to have the right education, experience, and certifications. The number of courses and designations can also differ based on the role you want to pursue as a financial advisor.
To give you an idea, the CSC exam alone requires an average of 100 to 200 hours of preparation, and that’s where your journey begins. So besides a year of education, you need experience and certification before you can become a financial advisor in Canada.
If you’re looking to pursue a different profession, check out some online career paths you can take for remote working.