New impetus for implementing regulatory change

by Nicolas Heffernan21 Jan 2015
In its push for implementing change to the regulatory system in Ontario, the auditor general’s report gave Advocis a welcome boost.

In her report Bonnie Lysyk said FSCO has a lot of responsibilities and perhaps should divest itself of at least supervising some of these tasks.

FSCO's legislative mandate is to provide regulatory services that protect the public interest and enhance public confidence in the sectors it regulates.
FSCO regulates the insurance sector; pension plans; loan and trust companies; credit unions and caisses populaires; the mortgage brokering sector; co-operative corporations in Ontario; and service providers who invoice auto insurers for statutory accident benefits claims. FSCO is accountable to the Minister of Finance.

Advocis’ president and CEO said the industry organization is more than capable of taking up the slack.

“I think a lot of the fundamentals are in place in an organization like Advocis,” said Greg Pollock, pointing out it’s been a professional association for well over 100 years, has education and continuing education programs in place and investigates complaints from the public about its members. “I think we could see a relatively smooth transition if some of these responsibilities were to be transferred from FSCO to an organization like Advocis. I don’t think it would be all that difficult.”

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Advocis already has a framework prepared in its report, Raising the Professional Bar, with many of its recommendations mirrored in what the auditor general produced.

“I think one of the criticisms has been is this more regulation and if this is just more regulation we already have a lot of regulation we don’t think that more is going to hit the mark,” said Pollock. “But in terms of the proposal itself and what it will do in order to benefit Canadians and consumers, it was very, very well received. And it continues to be well received.”

If Advocis were to step in, it would extend to advisors primarily focusses on life insurance as an investment vehicle. It’s unclear if Advocis were successful, whether the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association would step in as well.

Advocis’ report was released two years ago and during that time there have been discussions with regulatory bodies across the country, including Ontario.

“Certainly some of the regulators have been receptive to the concept,” he said. “They would argue that the devil is in the details. Who will do what? How will those responsibilities get transferred and so forth? We certainly have made no assumptions or are making no assumptions in terms of how that might work, but certainly we are open to that dialogue.”

With things of this nature it will take time. Pollock is anticipating a two to three year process at least. The key question is how to engage everyone in the process.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” said Pollock. “Can you do that more quickly? I don’t know. Definitely in terms of an organization like Advocis the infrastructure is in place but there are other stakeholders to consider as well and that needs to be discussed.”