Advisors hit the books to better serve their aging clients

par Susan Yellin | December 13 2016 07:00AM

Photo: Freepik

In 2010, Melanie Hall-Szyszkiewicz was dealing with an aging mother and the normal physical and cognitive issues that go along with seniors getting older when she decided she could benefit from taking the Elder Planning Counselor (EPC) course.

Already a certified financial planner with Investors Group Financial Services Inc. in Kelowna, B.C., Hall-Szyszkiewicz says she was right to believe that the course would help not only her and her mother, but also her clients, most of whom are predominantly what she calls “elders,” a title usually given to the grandparent generation.

Complex issues

“It really shed a huge light beyond my personal experience that I was having…the whole complexity of issues facing individuals going into the elder part of their lives.”

Hall-Szyszkiewicz is just one among an increasing number of financial advisors who are hitting the books to get designations aimed specifically at helping their aging baby boomer clientele.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians aged 65 and over increased more than 14% between 2006 and 2011 to about five million. The proportion of seniors 65 years or older is expected to continue to increase in the future and represent as much as one quarter of the population by 2036 and up to 28% of the population by 2061. By 2036, the number of seniors is expected to more than double those in 2009.

Many financial advisors are seeing the greying of the Canadian population and recognize that older clients – their clients – have many different needs.

Hall-Szyszkiewicz learned that getting older was not just a matter of estate planning and transferring of wealth. Much of the EPC course dealt with issues such as diminishing capacity – or good capacity but diminishing mobility.

Deeper conversations

The EPC course, she says, helped her learn to ask more questions about what her clients were doing in their lives and how they were preparing for the future – medically, emotionally, legally and financially. “It allowed for much deeper, more intimate conversations about how I could help them and whether they were ready and the steps they needed to take to be prepared.”

Hall-Szyszkiewicz then took the Registered Retirement Consultant (RRC) designation – a course that has seen a tremendous amount of interest recently, says Keith Costello, president & CEO at the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners, which administers the program.

Since 2010 about 3,300 people have graduated from the course – a number that is expected to multiply to about 8,000 within 18 months. “We have seen dramatic growth,” says Costello. “This is our fastest growing business line.”

He says people in various sectors, including banking, insurance and pensions, are taking the course. “It’s being used for that fast-growing demographic of retirees which in Canada, and across the world, is the fastest-growing demographic and the whole issue of intergenerational wealth transfer.”

Estate planning

Costello says the approach taken with the RRC is that it deals with retirement lifestyle planning, different from comprehensive financial planning. It gives both advisors and clients the opportunity to have a conversation more on the qualitative side of retirement than the quantitative side.

Specifically, it looks at how clients plan for retirement, how they use their financial assets during retirement and how they make financial decisions related to retirement. The course also provides a detailed look at the estate planning process.

Costello says advisors do not have to have their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation as a prerequisite for the RRC, although most do have their Canadian Securities Course, basic life insurance and/or mutual fund licence. Those applying must have at least one year of experience in the industry.

The CFP has a section on retirement planning but Costello says the RRC hones in on a more specific area. “The biggest need for Canadians over the next 20 years is retirement planning focus and I think you need some extra special knowledge when you do, complementing the CFP.”

Costello adds he is working on making the RRC an international designation.

Other courses the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) cites as dealing with seniors include Certified Executor Advisor, Registered Financial and Retirement Advisor, Certified Professional Consultant on Aging, Certified Retirement Counselor and Certified Senior Advisor. Many of the courses are self-study.

The MFDA has set out a series of good practices of policies and procedures when dealing with seniors’ designations. It includes the need for advisors to receive approval of business titles and designations prior to using them and to complete an annual questionnaire disclosing the titles and designations. Titles and advertising material that deal with seniors need to be reviewed to ensure they’re not misleading to investors.

Best practices

Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) has also issued a bulletin identifying supervisory best practices aimed at improving transparency on the use of business titles and financial designations.

IIROC examiners “will review any business titles that convey an expertise in senior-related issues or retirement planning to ensure that any individual claiming such expertise is appropriately qualified and competent.”

Hall-Szyszkiewicz says the two courses she has taken have been helpful not only as refreshers but also to add different dimensions to financial planning for seniors.

“Any education is good. Any updating of your knowledge is good,” she says. “When you’re a financial advisor you’re like their complete, total life coach, so there are all sorts of conversations.”

Two other designations:

Certified Professional Consultant in Aging (CPCA)

Barbara Fuller of Burlington, Ont.-based Fuller Financial was one of the first Canadians to receive this designation back in 2004.

Gaining that accreditation involved a three-day intensive course, plus self-study and an exam involving the financial, health and social aspects of aging. Fuller also must complete CE credits every year.

While she says the CPCA is pretty common-sense thinking, it did teach her to put herself in a senior’s shoes: for example, many seniors don’t see or hear as well as they did previously and need to be talked to differently; others may have trust issues if they were taken advantage of financially.

While she doesn’t put the CPCA on the same level as her CFP, Fuller says she would recommend people take the course especially if they did not grow up around older folks.

“I was lucky to have had grandparents and great-grandparents,” says Fuller. “It’s important to know how to talk to them and what they have gone through to get where they are. They think differently about their savings habits and what they are passing on to their children.”

Certified Executor Advisor, CEA

With 85% of his clientele 60 years of age and over, it only made sense to Kirk Polson that he should get his Certified Executor Advisor (CEA) designation.

Polson, who already had his CFP, CLU and CH.F.C., took the course because he wanted to upgrade his knowledge about the administrative process of dealing with executors. His aim was to help out his clients and their adult children, many of whom took on the position of executor following a parent’s death.

The CEA goes a step further than information contained in the CFP course, says Polson. It’s aimed at advisors helping out clients who happen to be executors while emphasizing the liabilities that can occur when advisors step into the role of executor themselves, says Polson of Markham-Ontario based Polson Bourbonniere Financial, which is affiliated with HollisWealth, a division of Scotia Capital.

Helping adult-children executors may also help retain some of the assets he helped their parents acquire, notes Polson. “If they see that you have knowledge and ability to handle this issue, that gives you more exposure as a financial advisor.”

Polson says the CEA was a course well worth taking because it expands the advisor value proposition – helping clients learn how to deal with financial holdings, investments, properties and trusts, as well as when to get in touch with a lawyer and/or an accountant.

Polson took the self-study course over four months and wrote the online exam. There are two other advisors in his office who are in the midst of taking the CEA course.

Related to the same topic …