Does Anyone Know What is Required to Become a Licensed Portfolio Manager in Canada?

Someone told me that all you need to become a licensed portfolio manager in Canada is the CSI institute’s CIM designation combined with passing the CFA level 1. I can’t find anything online to confirm this or explain how to get licensed. Does anyone here know? What I’m referring to is more so on the discretionary side of investment management, ie: managing individual accounts for wealthy clients, not on a hedge/mutual fund.

Dude, you need a Series 7. Then you’re given the keys to Wall Street.

I know of a couple guys living in PEI, Canada making $600,000-$1,000,000 a year as discretionary PMs. That would be like $2,000,000 a year or more on Wall St. factoring in cost of living.

Here is what you need to know: But good luck getting the job. Its not like you just pass a test and walk into RBC Dominiom or TD Waterhouse tomorrow. Its a tough road, and lots of these guys are decades of experience, elite skills and what not. You’re not going to go from IT analyst to $2mm/year PM through a test.

Thanks for the link.

But I wasn’t expecting to write the test and walk into a brokerage firm and apply/ask for a PM position. I already have my foot in the door with one of the Big 5 banks’ brokerage firm. I’m looking to buy and/or build a book of business as an Investment Advisor. From there, I can get the licensing requirements for a PM and call myself a Portfolio Manager. I would doubt that anyone would get their license and then look for a PM position without already having a book of business.

If you’re already in with a big five, they’ll sort you out for what you need. CSI pretty much exists as a training institute for big five folks. Now, I’m not sure that a big bank will let you start managing discretionary portfolios from your investment advisor business once you get the papers too. There aren’t a lot of folks that do that sort of thing. Plus the bank will enjoy the 3% robbery commission you’ll be milking from poor financially illiterate people more than some kind of discretionary fee that will expose them to liability. When I explored this route, I learned that the banks in Canada generally run a business of selling 3% fee balanced funds (or a 60/40) with minimal actual advising being done. But I can’t directly say as I didn’t pursue this further due to ethical hangups, perhaps someone else here has better first hand knowledge.

Personally I’d rather make $2M living in NYC than $1M (or less) than being one of the 742 people that live on PEI. Granted when your only discretionary expense is Netflix due to nothing else to do, it makes the bottom line look better.

To OP;

Yes with the CSI CIM designation (I have it) you can be registered as a discretionary PM under PMAC, essentially for private clients with a minimum $500k to invest. You would need to pass all the required CSI courses in addittion to accumulating the work experience. Although the CIM designation (IMO) may be a good start, get the CFA which has alot more credibility.

To be fair, PEI is really nice. I’d take $1M there.

I’ve lived all over the world and I still prefer PEI. Low crime, good golf, nice beaches, pretty easy living really. Yeah winters are a little boring, but travelling to NYC is nice but it’s not a place for me to live long term.

You raise some good points. However, a PM is just a title or designation. I could be wrong, but I don’t think you need to have the PM license to manage discretionary accounts. A PM is just more specialized and more prestigious I guess. Basically, if you have a book of business and get your designation, you can be a Portfolio Manager since it’s already your clients that your managing. So the bank isn’t letting you do anything, you’re just earning a designation and changing the title on your business card.

I’m not sure what firm you’re referring to, but I can honestly say it isn’t like how you explained. These clients are usually multi-millionaires and understand what they’re paying and investing in. A 3% fee is unheard of in discretionary accounts. You might be thinking of what Financial Advisors do at the actual bank, not the brokerage firm? The 3% fee could be an MER and not the firm’s management fee.

How some guys do it is that they charge a percentage of assets to manage accounts. Usually tiered by how many hundred thousand you invest. This fee based structure is where the industry is going and it’s probably best for both clients and advisors.


You could go a couple diffierent routes if you want to manage discretionary accounts. First, you could work at a bank in the Private Client division either as a Portfolio Manager who works with the IC who would be client facing managing discretionary accounts.

The second route would be to work as an Advisor with your own book of business and be registered through PMAC as a IC/PM and you could manage discretionary accounts. Typically, the minimum AUM per client would be $500k, but most clients would be a million plus. Yes, Fee Based or dealer service agreements are the primary business models where fees are fully diclosed and reported on client accounts, and non-reg fees are tax deductible. Fees are very competitive and typically operate on a sliding scale as AUM increases. If this is the route you want to take, I sure hope you are well connected and have lots of wealthy prospects in the pipeline.

^ +1

I’m a Wholesaler and I work with these guys every day. The industry has changed, growth targets inside the large IIROC firms for new and experienced advisors are very aggressive. Done are the days of fat cats just sitting on their $150M books and eating trails. Pay grids are also dropping across the board; I remember talking to one of my clients with a $250M+ book complaining about his income taking a massive hit. It’s also much harder to get referrals from branch networks as they now have lofty sales targets of their own and want to keep all clients in house. And even if the referral channels are still alive in your region, you’re going to have to compete with the experienced Investment Advisors who have had dealings with those branches for decades.

Fee based business models are definitely the future and already a business standard with most sophisticated advisors. Tradeseek, I would strongly encourage you look into buying a book. The average age for an advisor in Canada is 58 so there will be opportunities aplenty. Just start networking like a machine.

Also, if you choose to go down this Investment Advisor path, make sure your “value add” is more than just an old school broker “trying” to add alpha. Key word “trying,” most guys aren’t nearly as good as they think they are. The average HNW client in Canada deals with 4 advisors and data shows they are consolidating. To be the advisor they consolidate with, you want to be offering tax/estate planning, business succession planning etc. the full gambit.

Increased fee transparency (Thanks to CRM2) and client awareness on fees is going to force some Advisors who are not adding value out of the business, along with Advisors just churging DSC. Kan-yeezy is correct that as an Advisor you need to add value to your client experience with good planning and service.

What is just as important is that you have a clear process in place to explain and illustrate your process and value to clients so that they understnad how you are looking after them in a clear and concise manner.

I agree that buying a book is likley the fastest way to get into the game, but its not easy.

Agreed with CRM2. Totally forgot to mention it. Game changer.

Also agreed on buying a book is not easy, especially with the due diligence one has to do to make sure the revenue stream is clean and easily transferable. But nonetheless it would be the path I would go down if I wanted to be an Investment Advisor.


Since you already have your foot in the door with a big bank this is definately a step in the right direction. Start networking with the senior Advisors and learn from them. Find a couple that are a good fit from a personality and business philosophy fit and see if their is an opportunity to join a practise as an associate advisor. Also, get the PFP or CFP (if you want to be an IA).

The MOST important thing in this business is RELATIONSHIP. I cannot stress this enough.

If you can start as an Advisor and help manage the clients affairs and build your relationship with the client, sucession planning is a breeze. Buying a book from an Advisor where you don’t have a strong (or any) relationship with the client will result in high client attrition after the current advisor retires.

I’ve read through this thread, but I’m still not clear on something - what are the actual regulatory courses or certifications you need to be a PM/manage discretionary accounts?? I ask because I recently cleared the CFA L3 (waiting on work experience), and I’m wondering if I still need to go through all the CSI courses to obtain CIM designation or does the CFA charter suffice? I’m currently a Research Analyst working under a PM in private wealth and he wants me to take all these courses next as he believes they are necessary in order to take over his practice one day.

^ Is the PM acting on a discretionary basis? If you have the CFA I’m not really sure why you would need to have the CIM; perhaps take the CFP if you will be taking over the practice at some point.

Yes, the PM has both a managed platform (majority of our assets) where he acts on discretionary basis, and non-managed.

And thanks, I don’t really understand it either. I don’t really wish to take anything additional that I would not actually need, to become a PM for individual clients. I’ve emailed CFA institute but perhaps I should also contact my firm’s compliance/head office with this question, as they run the PM platform and may have a unique set of rules/regulations, who knows.

^ Check out the Portfolio Management Association of Canada:

I would contact them to inquire about registering as an Associate Advising Rep. (for some general info, and also find out about the process of registration).

(Note: you still may need to complete some of the CSI courses, such as the CSC, Ethics and WM Essentials in addition to the PMAC requirement). I don’t know where you are located so you may need to satisfy some provincial regulatory requirement.