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Eyes on the horizon

Elizabeth Diffin

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Advisors in Canada are focused on challenges still to come.

During the course of its history, Canada has seen much economic change, from the proliferation of the fur trade in the 17th century to the opportunities that came with the railroad in the 19th century. So it’s no surprise that now, in the 21st century, “change” is again the watchword, as Canadian advisors consider what’s on the horizon.

“The financial services and life insurance industry has changed a lot in the past 10 years,” said Beth Lachance Hesson, CFP, CLU. “Change is continuing, and the insurance professional needs to adapt to these changes to survive and to thrive.”

The 26-year MDRT member from Midhurst, Ontario, points to shifting demographics — it’s estimated that seniors will make up 23% of Canadians by 2030 — as well as technological and digital advancements as two changes that likely will have a substantial impact on the profession.

Elke Rubach, LLM, CLU, a three-year MDRT member from Toronto, Ontario, agrees. She says that robo-advisors and the introduction of artificial intelligence have both been significant, but also present opportunities for human advisors to demonstrate their worth.

“AI will continue to evolve as companies look to streamline their processes,” Rubach said. “However, these will never replace the value of advice, building relationships and active relationship management.”

Perhaps the largest, and most challenging, change comes in the form of regulation.

One of the most telling developments took place in July. The government of Saskatchewan passed The Financial Planners and Financial Advisers Act, which limits who can be called a financial advisor or financial planner. Similar laws were passed in Ontario in 2019 and Quebec in 1998. Five-year MDRT member Tomas Ohannessian, CFP, believes it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the country follows suit.

“Going forward, achieving higher levels of education and professional designations will likely become mandatory prior to entering our industry,” Ohannessian, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, said. “Overall, this will be a positive move that will benefit us as advisors in the public’s eye.”

But not everyone feels as enthusiastic about the increased oversight by the government.

“The regulators are trying to figure out how to protect the consumer, but can’t find the right balance in keeping the bad apples at bay,” said Nickolas Adam Cassis, BSc, CFP, a 10-year MDRT member from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. “Instead, they lay down copious amounts of rules, making it difficult for the good apples to stay in business.”

While he says he agrees with the new regulations, they do present challenges.

“The regulators are constantly making changes to how we are to run our business, and there are always more changes looming in the near future,” he said. “For the most part, those who can adapt will find themselves able to offer better advice and services than those who can’t.”

Cassis finds himself going “back to basics,” so to speak, as consumers grapple with new products and concepts that can be confusing.

“I’m looking backward to the previous generations to see what, if anything, that’s ‘old’ could be made ‘new again,’” he said.

In particular, he leans on a concept taught to him by his father, 45-year MDRT member Kenneth R. Cassis, CFP, CLU, many years ago.

“The first lesson I was taught in the business, by my father, was ‘If your prospect doesn’t have anything they love — family, business, charity — they won’t become a client.’ I think we’ve gotten away from that mentality. There will need to be synergy between the old-fashioned insurance agent, the modern-day financial advisor and the technology that’s quickly coming.”

Hesson agrees it’s important to remember the reasons people buy insurance — and the reason you sell it.

“At times, the increased legislation can be daunting,” she said. “But, all in all, when you think about it, our goal is the same as it was in the past. We want to protect families, making sure that they can maintain their current lifestyles in the case of an untimely death. We want to protect income in case a disability prevents the breadwinner from working. We want to have plans set up so our clients can be happy in retirement. Insurance planning can bring great emotional rewards.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic also necessitated some abrupt changes that many advisors were not anticipating but that ultimately added value to their client experience.

“One of the positive changes happening is the accelerated implementation of technology and its applications to address requirements of social distancing. For example, a witnessed ‘wet signature’ is now rare,” Ohannessian said. “We were forced to move into the ‘practical economy’ in less than six months. The change could have taken 10 years or more during our previous normal times.”

But even with all the changes Canadian advisors have already faced, and the ones yet to come, there’s one thing that stands firm: their commitment to helping clients far into the future.

“Our job and drive is to give advice,” Rubach said. “We make sure the goals of our clients are not just covered short term. We want to help them see the potential and benefit of long-term planning.”


Nickolas Cassis

Beth Hesson

Tomas Ohannessian

Elke Rubach


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