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Financial Certifications: Demystifying who does what in the financial industry

Knowing the “who’s who” in the financial industry is important. For many reasons. Protect yourself by understanding the differences. Find the right expert with the proper financial certifications and knowledge to help you reach your goals. Below is a comprehensive list of various professionals and what services they provide.

Debt Management

If you’re struggling with debt, a specialist in debt management can help you get back on track. They can help you create a budget, put together a plan to pay off your debts, and negotiate with your creditors on your behalf. A good debt management advisor works with you to create a personal plan that fits you and your goals.

Credit Counsellors

A credit counsellor helps people manage their money. They often work for non-profit agencies and offer education and guidance. They negotiate with creditors on their client’s behalf. These negotiations often result in new credit terms, like lowering or eliminating interest, that help clients get out of debt sooner.

Licensed Insolvency Trustees

A Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) holds a license from the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Working with an LIT is required if you’re considering bankruptcy or making a consumer proposal. They can go over your options and guide you through the process.

Accredited Financial Counsellor

An Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) helps people reach their money goals. They teach good money practices and help with specific long and short-term financial goals.

An AFC can help with many things, like:

Financial Therapist

A financial therapist blends the services of a therapist and a financial planner. They aim to help people address the emotional parts of managing money.

A financial therapist can help you with the following:

  • Addressing financial traumas
  • Adjusting to a new financial situation
  • Improving your money habits
  • Changing how you think, feel, and behave with money

Financial Planners

Financial planners work with clients to create a comprehensive, long-term plan for their finances. This can include everything from budgets to housing and insurance to investing. While they may not offer all these services they consult clients on all aspects of finances. For example, they don’t sell insurance but will advise clients on what insurance coverage would be recommended.

The terms “financial advisor” and “financial planner” are often used interchangeably. It’s important to note that these designations don’t always mean the person has any financial certifications. There are cases when people call themselves a financial advisor or planner without the knowledge, skills, and background to back it up. Verifying someone’s education, training, and professional experience will help ensure you’re working with someone who has the expertise to help you.

Certified Financial Planner

A certified financial planner is a well-recognized professional designation in Canada. To become a CFP, you must have three years of work experience. CFPs complete 25 hours of continuing education every year. They can provide advice for many things, including life insurance.

Personal Financial Planner

The PFP designation is another top financial certification accepted by major banks. It shows they have the skills to handle all aspects of a client’s finances.

To become a personal financial planner, you must: 

Registered Financial Planner

Registered financial planners need at least three years of experience to qualify. First, they need to:

  • Submit a mock financial plan for peer review
  • Meet education requirements
  • Pass a national exam

RFPs focus on six practices: 

  1. Financial assessment
  2. Taxes
  3. Estates
  4. Risk management
  5. Investment
  6. Retirement planning


Chartered Professional Accountant

Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) help clients with money data, taxes, and business finances. They work in various accounting roles.

Chartered General Accountant

A Chartered General Accountant (CGA) title is for accountants who meet certain requirements. CGA-Canada determines these education, experience and exam requirements. 

CGAs have knowledge in many areas of accounting, including:

  • Finance
  • Taxes
  • Management
  • Financial reporting
  • Auditing 
  • Business strategy

Many companies work closely with a CGA, and some larger companies have CGAs on staff. 


Chartered Investment Manager

A Chartered Investment Manager (CIM) helps clients manage investments, mutual funds, and fixed-income securities. They handle financial planning and portfolio management. 

The CIM designation is a standard recognized by Canadian securities regulators. CIMs can manage all aspects of a client’s investment portfolio, including hedge funds.

Chartered Financial Analyst

A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a financial certification granted by the CFA Institute. It’s a prestigious title in the finance world. There’s a three-part exam that tests:

  • Investment tools
  • Asset valuation 
  • Portfolio management
  • Private Equity
  • Wealth management and planning


Financial professionals need to stay up-to-date on new regulations and industry changes. This lets them provide the best possible service to their clients. In fact, their licenses require it. So, it’s important to make sure that whoever you hire is up to date on the latest developments in the industry.

Check the website of the overseeing regulatory body of your financial consultant. This will allow you to verify their qualifications. A list of provincial securities regulators is on the Canadian Securities Administrators’ website.

Most professionals are members of the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP).

More tips for finding the right financial professional:

  1. Determine your financial goals and needs
  2. Research the different types of financial certifications
  3. Check their credentials and experience
  4. Consider their availability and communication style
  5. Check out other people’s references and reviews


Finding the right financial advisor may take some effort, but it’s worth it. They can make your money journey easier, more enjoyable, and more impactful. It is important to work with someone who understands your needs and goals.

Overwhelmed by debt? We can help. Speak with one of our certified credit counsellors today.

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