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RAISING THE BAR:

Proficiency Standards, Increased Regulation, and You

High Jumper
by Marshall Beyer December 4, 2018

The investment industry is a dynamic one. New investment products, new technologies, new investment avenues, and new regulations are being introduced all the time. On top of this, layer in shifting client expectations, generational attitudes towards investing, increased product complexity, changing social norms. It’s fair to say that there’s never a dull moment in our industry. But that also means that if any financial professional stops learning and developing their skills, they’re going to miss out on some major changes - and they’ll be left behind more swiftly than you might think.

THE SPEED OF CHANGE

When the original version of the Canadian Securities Course (CSC) was launched, the Investment Advisor (called a stockbroker at the time) was the only gateway for investors to enter buy and sell orders, or to get timely stock quotes. Beyond the obvious technological advances we’ve seen since then, the change in attitude and client expectation is stark: the role at the time was less personal, more transactional. The investment management process, as defined in the earliest CSC textbook, began with security selection that was considered the first step in the process! There was no mention of first understanding client needs, objectives, risk-tolerance, or resources. Back then, the role of stockbroker primarily fulfilled a function that can now be easily automated, and the concept of know-your-client (KYC) was still years away.

Now client discovery is a critical component of the investment management process. The information derived from a robust discovery process will drive all financial recommendations. It has become an important part of the proficiency standard and a competency unto itself. Discovery seeks to understand not only the client’s money issues, but also the personal, family and social issues that impact and influence their financial decisions.

HOW ARE PROFICIENCY STANDARDS SET?

A proficiency standard is simply a description of what learners are expected to know or be able to do in their role. If we take the case of an Investment Advisor (IA), the proficiency standard clarifies what the investing public can reasonably expect from their IA. Hence, proficiency standards are an excellent defense against regulatory violations, as up-to-date standards of learning helps ensure any professional is fit and proper for the role, in the eyes of independent regulators.

Setting proficiency standards and keeping them up to date in our dynamic industry is one of the most important roles of securities regulators around the world; they set the required standard and ensure all licensee candidates are tested against it. This helps protect the investing public and enhances the credibility and efficiency of financial markets, overall.

AN ONGOING PROCESS

The setting of a proficiency standard is an ongoing process that typically begins with the development of a ‘competency profile.’ This identifies the competencies of the given profession and is developed through a thorough job/task analysis.

This kind of analysis involves surveying those currently in the role, their managers, thought - leaders, regulators - anyone with insight into the expectations of the role in our industry. This survey determines the frequency and criticality of tasks performed in the role, alongside the knowledge and skills required to perform them. The resulting competency profile sets a framework for the assessment of potential licensees, and as such, must be updated regularly for individual roles.

An example of such an update can be found in the Investment Advisor competency profile, which includes the core task of providing clients and prospective clients with education, information, and advice on financial products. The range of financial products keeps expanding. In recent years, leveraged and inverse ETFs, and very recently, Alternative Mutual Funds have been introduced to investors and have become part of the knowledge requirements within this competency standard.

Adding new knowledge requirements to the competency standard provides course and examination developers with a framework for building their courses, providing and testing the knowledge required to carry out these role expectations.

It’s the role of the experts at CSI to create courses and exams that meet the latest needs and realities of the financial landscape.

THE TIME IS NOW

Given the dynamic nature of financial markets, the investment industry introduced Continuing Education requirements in 2000. Other regulators and professional bodies have followed suite or ramped up CE already in place.

CE should be viewed as the minimum requirement for financial professionals to keep current. Most advisors and other professionals in the financial industry are, however, opting for certifications provided by CSI and other organizations to provide them with more advanced knowledge and skills to better serve their industry, financial institution and clients.

While navigating the uncertain waters in a shifting landscape, understanding how CSI monitors evolving proficiency standards and adjusts its range of courses from licensing to certification programs to CE accordingly can help act as a lighthouse, guiding your professional development.

Our next #InsightCSI posting will take a closer look at the state of FinTech in Canada today, along with the evolution of financial products on the market. Keep up to date with CSI.