The alphabet soup of designations grows

Financial advisors soon will be able to develop greater expertise in two areas. The Canadian Institute of Certified Executor Advisors (CICEA), based in Brampton, Ont., has introduced a new designation, while the Toronto-based Canadian Securities Institute (CSI) is expanding the curricula for two of the designations that it offers.

The new kid on the block is the recently introduced certified executor advisor (CEA), designed and offered by the CICEA. An advisor with the CEA designation is able to help executors of wills with the duties involved in settling an estate.

The CEA program has been approved for 30 hours of continuing education credits by both Advocis and the Financial Planning Standards Council, says Mark O'Farrell, the CICEA's president.

The CSI is on a different path in its aim to incorporate information regarding exempt-market securities into its course content. The CSI is working with the National Exempt Market Association (NEMA) to insert more information about the exempt market and private investing into the curricula for the chartered strategic wealth professional (CSWP) and the chartered investment manager (CIM) designations.

Advisors looking to take either of these courses probably will see this content beginning in late 2014, according to Marshall Beyer, the CSI's senior director of regulatory relations and academic standards.

The decision not to create another designation was a conscious one for NEMA, says Cora Pettipas, the association's vice president: "We didn't want to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of good, solid designations out there."

Similarly, O'Farrell admits he was concerned about adding to the already existing alphabet soup of designations with the CEA. But he doesn't consider this new designation to be just another designation; rather, he wants it to be embraced by the 17 professions the CICEA estimates will help executors during the course of settling an estate. Beyond advisors, this includes lawyers, funeral directors, auctioneers and mental health counsellors, among other.

The CEA program details how these professions are involved in helping an executor. Topics covered include duties of an executor (such as funeral arrangements), property (including digital elements) and challenges of estate administration (such as stress).

O'Farrell sees two ways in which advisors can grow their business through this designation. In cases in which the testator is alive, the executor can encourage this person to visit an advisor who holds a CEA, so both parties are aware of what to expect when it's time to settle the estate. There also are unique planning opportunities regarding life insurance, trusts and other services involved with estates.

Then, when the testator dies, the advisor can offer to provide financial guidance to the beneficiaries, which may lead to client growth.

"We have $1.5 trillion that's scheduled to transfer to the next generation over the next 20 years," O'Farrell says. "For financial advisors to be able to help facilitate that, and help reduce the stress of executors and beneficiaries as a result, just makes perfect sense."

Regarding the revised CIM and CSWP courses, both the CSI and NEMA are avoiding the route of adding yet another designation. Both organizations want the courses to have more content on exempt-market securities.

The CSI and NEMA still are determining what this content will look like. Decisions have to be made on whether it will be a separate section or part of the existing section within both courses pertaining to alternative investments.

"These courses are pretty big," Beyer says. "I can't say at this point which [section of the] courses this content may land in, but [it'll be in there] somewhere."

He expects to see the growing interest in the market reflected through the CSI's next competency profile, which will be conducted in 2014. The CSI undertakes this profile every five or six years to see how often advisors are doing certain tasks or selling certain products in order to determine the content of the CSI's courses.

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