Canadian securities regulators released a long-anticipated proposal to create a uniform standard for financial planners.

The proposal, floated in late December, aims at eliminating confusion among consumers by creating a competency test for all securities and insurance brokers who present themselves as financial planners.

Once the plan is implemented, anyone using titles such as financial planner, financial adviser, financial consultant and asset manager will have to pass the proficiency exam. Investment advisers, the term used by many brokerage reps, will remain unaffected.

However, to appease the multitude of trade organizations that represent Canadian planners, the regulators offered up a grandfathering clause that exempts those already certified by certain organizations. The rule would affect people entering the business beginning in 2001.

But some planning organizations question the value of other organization's programs. "If the idea is to rid the industry of incompetence and protect consumers, then grandfathering all these people seems ludicrous," says Ron Graham, head of the Canadian Association of Financial Planners.

But Julia Dublin, legal counsel at the Ontario Securities Commission and head of the committee that developed the new standard, says the wide grandfathering clause is necessary because regulators shouldn't pass rules that suddenly prevent people from pursuing their livelihood.

"This is aimed at a whole new generation of planners," she says. "In just a few years, ours will be the only standard that applies."