In Canada, Strong Demand for Financial Advisors

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Demand for financial advisors is expected to be brisk even as the growth in the overall Canadian job market slows.

The need for professionals to help people with their financial and retirement planning is outstripping the supply of candidates. Positions are opening up because of the retirement of Baby Boomers and the general labor shortage, according to Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada.

"Banks are hiring aggressively," says Taylor Train, an Advocis vice president. "Insurance companies are hiring aggressively ... We can't manufacture these people fast enough."

Train argues now is a particularly good time for young people and career changers to enter the industry. "They are all over the place," he says, pointing out demand remains strong for all financial services jobs in Toronto and Western Canada, where the population is growing. "I don't believe we have enough people trained, designated and accredited to service the Canadian economy as it should be," he adds.

Advocis is working with partners, such as Toronto-based Seneca College's Centre for Financial Services, to expand educational opportunities for people wanting to enter the field or advisors interested in making themselves more marketable. For instance, Seneca offers a bachelor's degree program in applied business in financial services management, as well graduate certificates.

Among the certifications prospective employers are demanding are Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Life Underwriter (which deals with estate planning) and Registered Health Underwriter (which deals with living benefits such as disability insurance). Since the CLU program was introduced in 2003, enrollment has doubled, Advocis says.

"You can get hired without them but they are becoming more prevalent," Train observes. "It's become very much highlighted in the minds of the consumers." Those without the credentials, he says, are "becoming the dinosaur during the mammal revolution."

Pay and Bonuses

New advisors can earn salaries of between $40,000 and $50,000 (Canadian) per year with more experienced people getting compensation in the six-figure range. Underscoring how much the job market has tilted in favor of employees, CIBC recently implemented a bonus retention program for its 1,250 investment advisors. However, the program hasn't been universally praised. One broker told the Financial Post it's "an amazing admission of failure on the part of management and deserves a close and critical analysis."

Though Advocis doesn't have any hard data, its claims highlight the strength of the Canadian financial services sector compared with the U.S. Sub-prime mortgages were rare in Canada, though banks did invest in those sold by their American counterparts. They've had to take write downs because of it.

Scotiabank economist Adrienne Warren expects the sector, which added 20,000 jobs last year, to continue to add jobs this year albeit at a somewhat slower rate. Employers added 15,000 jobs in March while, the U.S. economy lost a bigger-than-expected 80,000 jobs - the most in five years - according to government statistics

"The financial services industry is adding jobs. But at a fairly modest pace," says Warren, who expects overall job-market growth to cool. "We'll probably see a little more of a slowdown in the finance industry given the difficulties it's facing, but we're not looking at job declines."

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