Canada’s life insurance regulators have taken the first steps in creating a harmonized approach to the LLQP exam process, one that will see course study become mandatory in Quebec and an open-book modular approach adopted across the country.In doing so, the new LLQP, scheduled to be launched in September 2015, will combine features of both the current LLQP, in use across most of Canada, and Quebec’s slightly different program, regulated by the Autorité des marchés financiers.

The original LLQP was created in the late 1990s and implemented in the early 2000s, with some tweaks via curriculum reviews since then. Now, the Canadian Insurance Services Regulatory Organizations (CISRO), which is made up of provincial government insurance broker licensing bodies, is undergoing a full review of both the study program and the exam.

Ron Fullan, chair of CISRO and executive director of the Insurance Councils of Saskatchewan, says the idea of a harmonized, redesigned exam comes at a time when some of the provinces are already contemplating changes.

“We were at a point where Quebec was about to embark on a review of its own program,” said Mr. Fullan. “We understood in the rest of the country that we needed to do a similar review. In fact, if we had not done one nationally, B.C. might have gone on its own [to hold a review.] So doing it one way is better than doing it three ways.”

On top of that, most provinces have already signed on to the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which will increase labour mobility across the country by allowing Canadians, especially those in regulated occupations, certified or licensed by one province or territory, to be licensed in all provinces. Having a harmonized LLQP plan across the country will help fulfil those goals.

“As part of the AIT discussions, Quebec and Ontario had already started to look at the LLQP and Quebec programs from a curriculum and design standpoint and discovered the two had about 90 per cent similar content,” said Mr. Fullan. “With the two programs more or less on the same level, we thought this might be something we would want to do across the country.”

Some provincial-specific differences, such as the Quebec model that includes civil law, are expected to remain in effect.

While the talks are still high level, there are some changes already contemplated.

For example, it’s standard across most of Canada for people wanting to become life licensed to take a study course in which they become certified as being prepared to write the LLQP in their home province. In Quebec, while there are courses available, it’s not compulsory and those interested can simply sit and write the exam. “So with the harmonization, Quebec is now going to come in line with that and they are going to make the course mandatory prior to writing the exam,” said Mr. Fullan.

In addition:

Under the plan, CISRO will run the national program and a governance committee will rotate among provinces, overseeing day-to-day operations. CISRO will be using a veteran team of subject matter and educational experts from Quebec to take charge of developing the new course and exam questions.

Taking the lead

While regulators will continue to rely on the 14-or-so third-party course providers to deliver material, CISRO is now taking the lead in developing the basic course. This will mean some changes for course providers, which have traditionally developed their own – but similar – material, but it’s unclear yet what that will look like. Mr. Fullan said further discussions will need to take place with the providers to determine how the materials will be used.

Cross-country course providers are eager to become involved in the talks, noting the new program design is still in its infancy.

“ILS is always happy to participate in raising the standards of education for the insurance industry,” said Laura MacRae Dennis, senior VP and COO at online education provider ILS Learning Corporation.As well, many providers agree that the program needs some updating. “I think a harmonized proficiency program is good for the industry and will make it easier for firms that are national,” said Christina Ashmore, director of curriculum and training with IFSE Institute.

Like other providers, Ms. Ashmore said the fact that CISRO is saying that it is creating its own manuals marks a “huge difference” from the past. IFSE, she said, is keen on participating in talks to determine how providers can fit in with any changes.

Throughout the rest of this year, CISRO will be holding workshops across the country to find out from new insurance brokers what kind of entry level issues they have dealt with in terms of training and education and determine possible ways to resolve them. The design of the course documents is expected early next year. Further development will take place after that, with the course set to come into force in the fall of 2015.

  • The current exam, which is four hours in length across most of the country, will adapt to the Quebec modular model of four or five one-hour exams.
  • The new program will use Quebec’s open book approach to the exam. “I’m not sure this is as significant an issue as some may think,” says Mr. Fullan. “I think Quebec’s view is that lots of people bring the book in...but the number actually opening a book to look for an answer is relatively small.”
  • Some fresh material will be added. For example, segregated fund features have changed significantly since the LLQP was first developed and the curriculum will be updated to reflect that.