Changes in the CFP Program: What You Need to Know

In January 2020, the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certification programs changed. If you were already on the path of a CFP program working towards your CFP certification, it’s important to know how these changes might impact your education journey depending upon where you are in the process. Alternatively, if you’ve been considering taking a CFP program to work towards your CFP certification it’s equally important to know how the new structure of the CFP process will establish your path forward and the choices available to you to reach a CFP designation.

Understanding FP Canada and its Programs

There are several ways to earn CFP certification according to FP Canada, the body that certifies financial planners and provides standards, education, tools and resources for financial planners across the country. Find the organization, and answers to many certification questions, at fpcanada.ca. These paths may go through the QAFP (Qualified Associate Financial Planner) certification process or may be direct through the CFP program.

The QAFP program offered through FP Canada is the replacement of the previous FPSC Level 1 program and any financial planners with the FPSC Level 1 certification were converted automatically to a QAFP certification in January. To earn a QAFP requires one year of qualifying work experience, the required education program and passing a national exam. The QAFP certification offers those working towards their CFP a designation earned along the journey they can share. For those who wish to serve a broad cross-section of clients, the QAFP may be the goal without a desire or need to work through the Certified financial planner program. Maintaining QAFP certification requires continuing education each year as well as adherence to standards and ethics.

The education component required for QAFP certification includes the FP Canada- Approved Core Curriculum Program and the new QAFP Professional Education Program which will be available in mid-2020. Then, if desired, a financial planner may move on to earning their CFP certification. It’s one of the three paths to becoming a CFP.

The Three Paths Through the CFP Program

To become a CFP, a financial planner may take their QAFP and then work towards their CPF. FP Canada calls this the QAFP Bridge Path to CFP and this option will be available in 2021. Once the QAFP is earned, the financial planner will need to complete the required education, take the CFP exam and apply for CFP certification. The CFP education required for this path is the FP Canada-Approved Advanced Curriculum Program and the CFP Professional Education Program.

The CFP Professional Education Program is offered through a number of post-secondary institutions in partnership with FP Canada to ensure the course is up-to-date with the most current course elements and information and is accredited. This means students will learn the elements required by FP Canada while also preparing for the CFP exam.

The second path to become a CFP is the direct path. This does not require earning a QAFP or taking the QAFP program or exam. The FP Canada- Approved Core Curriculum Program which is included in earning a QAFP designation is one of the required education components in the direct path as is the FP Canada-Approved Advanced Curriculum Program. Both must be taken before the next stage of education (but either can be taken concurrently with the required Introduction to Professional Ethics course). The next steps include the CFP Professional Education Program, then the CFP exam and application for certification. While this process does skip the QAFP Professional Education Program, there is no designation earned along the way.

The third path outlined by FP Canada is the Alternate Paths method. The alternate paths route takes advantage of previously earned qualifications and designations to omit certain education components or advance the financial planner directly to taking their CFP exam. For example, those with a Pl. Fin. (financial planning program designation in Quebec), are able to proceed directly to the CFP exam. Those with CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Fellow of the FCIA (Fellow, Canadian Institute of Actuaries) or other FP Canada outlined designations may skip the first two course requirements and proceed to the CFP Professional Education Program. Finally, a foreign CFP professional must complete the Introduction to Professional Ethics before they can proceed to the CFP exam.

Education Exemptions for other Designations

Some designations allow financial planners to skip certain portions of the education within the various programs required by FP Canada for certification. For example, those with a mutual funds licence, a securities licence or a PFP (Professional Financial Planner) designation will be able to apply for exemptions from certain aspects of the core curriculum and/or advanced curriculum. If you have a related designation, check with FP Canada for exemptions and how to apply.

Other Requirements Coming for the CFP Program

There will be post-secondary education requirements implemented for both QAFP and CFP certification in the future, however, these won’t be required until 2022. Students who apply for QAFP certification after Mach 31, 2022 will need a post-secondary diploma (or higher) from an accredited college or university. This requirement is not necessary for those with more than 15 years of relevant work experience.

The same requirement will stand for those applying for CFP certification. The post-secondary education requirement will also be waived for these applicants if they have more than 15 years of relevant work experience. They will also be exempt from the requirement if they started one of six college programs outlined by FP Canada before 2019 and complete that program before March 2024.

Working towards becoming a Certified Financial Planner is a significant commitment. While the rules have changed about the process and the required courses to achieve certification, FP Canada has outlined the necessary steps and timelines on their site. This will make it easier for those already in the process to becoming a CFP to understand what they need to do, while also outlining the steps needed by those considering taking a CFP Program and working towards CFP Certification.

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