11.3.4 Find the right financial professional

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Finding the right financial professional is important, so take the time to choose one who has the necessary qualifications and experience and whom you feel comfortable with.

For simple financial advice, such as savings deposits, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) and government savings bonds, discuss your needs with your financial institution. Shop around to compare what different institutions are offering.

For broader advice, do some more research first. Click the links for details.

1. Ask for referrals

Your friends, family or work associates and other professionals may be able to suggest a financial professional. However, don't assume that someone who's right for them is right for you.

2. Check other sources

If you don't know anyone who can refer you to a financial professional, try these resources:

  • Industry regulators—By law, sellers of mutual funds, life insurance, stocks and bonds must complete training and be registered. Regulators in each province and territory have lists of people who are registered to sell these products. Finding out if your representative is registered and in good standing is an important first step in your research.
  • Industry groups—Financial professionals belong to professional groups in their industry. 
  • Telephone directory—If all else fails, consult the internet and telephone directories. Here are some headings to look under:
    • Banking
    • Bonds—investment
    • Brokers—stocks and bonds
    • Brokers—mortgages
    • Credit counselling
    • Financial planning
    • Insurance agents
    • Investment advisory services
    • Investment dealers
    • Investment management
    • Stocks and bonds

3. Pre-screen the financial professional

Check to make sure the individual is registered for the type of advice you need. For example, you can check with your provincial or territorial regulators to see if an individual or firm is registered to sell investments, insurance and similar products. Most regulators also have a public file that lists people and businesses that have been disciplined. See the Disciplined List on the Canadian Securities Administrators' website.

Once you have a list of potential financial professionals, contact some for brief telephone interviews. This can help you reduce your list and decide which ones you'd like to meet. Use questions like these to help you narrow your search:

  • Are you registered to offer financial planning (or to sell investments, insurance, etc.)? Who are you registered with?
  • What type(s) of services or products are you registered for?
  • Are you free to advise me on a wide range of financial strategies and companies, or are you restricted to companies you represent?
  • What are your formal qualifications?
  • How much experience do you have?
  • What types of clients do you have?
  • How many clients do you have?
  • What hours do you work and when are you not available?

4. Do an in-person interview

Once you've narrowed down your list, arrange a face-to-face meeting with two to four of the potential financial professionals. Keep the interview relatively short (about half an hour should do) and focus on questions like these:

  • What is your approach to financial planning?
  • What fees will I have to pay, and what total cost should I expect?
  • How often will you contact me?
  • Will you be handling my account personally or will an assistant handle my account?
  • Can you provide me with references from your existing clients?

Remember: you are hiring this person, so the relationship has to work for both of you.

5. Check referrals

Calling references is an essential step. It's a great way to learn more about a potential financial professional and to check out any concerns that may have arisen from your in-person meeting. Ask questions like these:

  • How long has the financial professional worked with you?
  • How satisfied are you with his/her services?
  • What are his/her strong points? Weak points?
  • Does the financial professional have any special areas of expertise?
  • Have you ever been disappointed or surprised by anything in your relationship with the financial professional?
  • How often does he/she call regarding your account?
  • How quickly are your calls returned?
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