The Institute

The Institute for Advanced Financial Education (The Institute), provides a platform of standards and advanced knowledge through designation programs and accreditation services. With over 5,000 CLU, CHS, CH.F.C., and PFA designates in good standing across Canada, The Institute is the leading designation body in Canada for financial services practitioners in the specialty areas of Advanced Estate, Wealth Transfer, and Living Benefits.

Vision Statement

To be a leading provider of education, designations and standards for professional financial services practitioners.

Governance Structure

Board of Trustees

Comprised of volunteers with an Institute designation in good standing, the Board provides leadership to The Institute, with support in meeting strategic direction through volunteer and staff resources. This includes:

  • Oversight & Management of policies related to granting an Institute designation
  • Continuing obligations to maintain an Institute designation
  • Enrollment criteria for designation programs
  • Operation of The Institute’s CE Accreditation Services

EjazEjaz Nadeem has over 30 years’ experience in the Wealth Management Industry, Ejaz has a passion for helping individuals realize their dreams of financial success and independence. He specializes in developing, coaching and mentoring successful sales people, leading sales teams to outperform, managing distribution channels, developing sales strategies and developing strategic relationships.

Ejaz entered the financial services industry in 1990 through London Life’s University Training Program in Edmonton, Alberta. In 1993, he joined Prudential of America as a Sales Manager in the Edmonton office. He also served on the board of directors of Edmonton Life Underwriters Association (ELUA) from 1991-1994 where he was the Editor of ELUA magazine. In 1995, Ejaz moved to Saskatchewan to help credit union system establish their wealth management distribution network, including life insurance, mutual funds and securities, through Credential Financial Inc., a credit union system owned wealth management dealer. Ejaz’ success in Saskatchewan resulted in his appointment and his move to Ontario in 2001 as Regional Vice President, Sales and Distribution for Ontario and Eastern Canada. He left Credential in 2009 to join FirstOntario Credit Union as Managing Director of Wealth Management. Ejaz is an Advocis member since 1990.

He has served on the boards of directors of GAMA International Canada, Advocis Greater Hamilton Chapter and Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) Golden Horseshoe. Ejaz was also a member of Hamilton-Burlington United Way Campaign Cabinet. Besides a Master’s degree in Economics from University of Alberta, Ejaz has completed Levels I and II of the CFA program, and holds CFP and CLU designations.

JohnJohn is responsible for managing the existing agency Business, including the insurance support distribution team (Estate Planning Specialists) that supports Canadian Wealth Management’s client facing professionals. His team works closely with the Wealth Management Services Business in providing Wealth Preservation and Wealth Transformation solutions using tax effective Life Insurance products. Prior to joining RBC Wealth Management Financial Services Inc. in October 2002, John held various business development, distribution and operational roles at RBC Insurance and its’ legal entity subsidiaries from 1996-2002. Prior to joining RBC Insurance, John held various sales, relationship management and operations roles at Royal Trust. He began his financial services career in 1980 when he joined London Life Insurance Company. John has bachelor’s degrees from the University of Western Ontario and Laurentian University and has also completed the executive program at the University of Western Ontario Ivey Business School. He also has a Chartered Life Underwriter designation, passed the Canadian Securities Course in 1987 and achieved the Certified Senior Advisor (subsequently renamed Certified Professional Consultant on Aging) designation in 2005. He is a 2011 graduate of the Family Business Centre at the UBC Sauder School of Business, and was awarded the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation.

SaraSara La Gamba has led an impressive career as a financial advisor since 2009. She joined the industry with Freedom 55 Financial and then became President of King Financial and Benefits Inc in 2012. At SPM, Sara works as a Senior Advisor to help her clients achieve their financial goals with personalized, professional service. Learning has been a life-long passion for Sara and education continues to play an integral role in her professional journey and development.

Sara is a proud and enthusiastic member of Advocis. It’s a membership she holds with great pride since the time she joined the association in the early days of her career. During that time, she began volunteering with The Institute of Advanced Financial Education. She currently chairs the Standards and Accreditation Committee, sits on the Awards committee and is a member of the Advocis Legal Regulatory Policy committee. Sara also allocates her time as a Vice-Chair and treasurer for The Institute. She played a key role in her local Advocis chapter, joining the board in 2012 and serving as Toronto Chapter President from 2015-2017. Sara is also a proud member of CALU and sits on their Government Relations Committee.

Sara graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and lives in London Ontario with her husband Nathan and her two sons, Jackson and Owen. She enjoys golfing, skiing, volleyball, and cycling in her free time.

Izumi Miki McGruer HeadshotAfter graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1990 with a BA English Literature and subsequently successfully establishing her financial advisory practice in Vancouver with London Life, Izumi transitioned to management and is currently a Managing Director with Freedom 55 Financial whose responsibilities are aligned with the Vancouver Georgia and Vancouver Island Financial Centers of Freedom 55 Financial.

Izumi is a past president of the Advocis Greater Vancouver Chapter, a past director on the National Advocis-The Financial Advisors Association of Canada board and is a past Chair of the National Advocis Chapter Leadership Council. On the Institute for Advanced Financial Education, Izumi currently serves as the Chair of the Conduct and Discipline committee and also sits on the Editorial Advisory Panel for Forum Magazine. Locally, Izumi is the co-Chair of the Advocis Estate Planning Conference, she is an active mentor with the BCIT Financial Planning Program since 2000 and in 2018 completed her term as a voting member of the Insurance Council of British Columbia.

In her community, Izumi serves as a director on the Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festival Society, she is a University of British Columbia Arts Mentor and Blossom Program mentor and was a nominee in 2013 for the YWCA Women of Distinction award. Izumi believes strongly that “privilege comes with responsibility” and that our role as financial advisors puts us in the uniquely privileged position of having the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Therefore, her volunteer involvement with Advocis and the other organizations she remains committed to represents an opportunity for her to participate and contribute to the responsible stewardship of our industry as well as the community she lives in on behalf of the clients and advisors she serves.

Chris George HeadshotChris specializes in working with dentists and other medical professionals in their personal and corporate financial planning. Chris assists his clients with their personal and corporate cash flow planning, debt elimination, tax-efficient insurance strategies, and their retirement and estate planning. Chris makes it his business to know a dentist’s business. Chris is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Life Underwriter, Certified Health Insurance Specialist, and a Registered Trust and Estate Practitioner. In June 2011, Chris earned 1st place in Canada on the CFP national final exam, which earned Chris a spot on FP Canada’s President’s List. Chris is an active member of Advocis, STEP Canada, an active member of CALU, Vice-President of the Fraser Valley Estate Planning Council, and is the BC Area Chair for the Million Dollar Round Table, where Chris assists and mentors advisors wanting to reach MDRT. Chris also volunteers on the Advocis Standards and Accreditation Committee. Chris is a very active speaker, and presents to dozens of events each year on financial planning. Chris’ work is always scheduled around his family, as he firmly believes family comes first. Chris and his wife and children love travel frequently and extensively, and prioritize a work/life balance.

Since September of 2017, Scott has been with Transport Canada in the Investigation Services department  providing investigational and policy advice to the Inspectorate.

Scott has spent most of his career as a member of the RCMP with 25 1/2 years of diverse experience as an investigator and operational unit commander in Ontario, Manitoba, and Northwest Territories. He has strong established networks and relationships within law enforcement, criminal legal circles, regulatory agencies, government bodies at Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels in Manitoba. Scott has worked to establish and maintain community-based policing measures, e.g. crime prevention, promoting community relations and liaising with client groups through strong communications skills. He was also responsible for conducting specialized fraud investigations and enforcing provisions of the Criminal Code (CC) including fraud, corruption, and breach of trust related offences, Federal and Provincial Statutes and, where applicable, municipal bylaws. Scott is a natural team leader who leads by example and has actively supervised Regular/Civilian Members (R/M- C/M) of the RCMP and Public Service employees in various roles.

With an extensive background in leading complex investigations, conducting interviews and allocating human resources to complete investigations in a timely and efficient manner, he was appointed as an Institute Trustee in 2022.

Barbara Leighton Headshot Barbara is a professional recognized for ability to provide preventative, proactive advice, training and undertake investigations to mitigate compliance risk, while simultaneous growing business opportunities.  She is skilled in mediation to balance interests of multiple stakeholders when collaboration is critical.  Barbara prides herself on being a strategic and critical thinker, motivator, oral and written influencer who makes complex concepts understandable and practically relevant. Since December 2021, Barbara has been AVP, Compliance, with PPI where she leads the team responsible for development, implementation, monitoring and maintenance of all regulatory policies, procedures and processes for enterprise-wide compliance program. Barbara is also tasked with providing technical and practical expertise to inform conduct and business practice for employees and advisors, as well as education programs, to support both insurance and wealth business in the evolving financial services industry. Barbara was appointed as an Institute trustee in 2022.

Shannon started in this business, after leaving a very successful career teaching High School. She decided to make the switch to work at Kevin R Williams Financial Services as an Associate Advisor in August 2011 and has not looked back. She attained her Life and Mutual Fund license before December 2011 and then immediately jumped in to working towards her CFP.

Through all of this, she volunteers her time going back to high school to teach students about Investments and Insurance and considers this one of her greatest joys. She would like to see more young kids get a Financial Education and wants to continue using her background in Education to do this, which she did by running in the 2016 Municipal Election, to sit on the District Education Counsel. In June 2017, she wrote and passed her final CFP exam, all while on maternity leave with her first child.

She was appointed by the Financial Planning Standards of Canada in June 2021 to the CFP Exam Board, after volunteering her time on various FP Canada committees from item writing, standards setting and marking the CFP exam. She wrote and passed her CLU exam in June 2020 and then following it up with the RIS designation in 2021. She believes education is important in her career and is always striving to learn something new, so she expects to add a 5th initial soon!

Shannon was featured on the cover of Forum Magazine in December 2020, where she discussed being a single Mom, working as a Financial Advisor through the pandemic. When not at work, you can find her in the curling club, traveling, or at home with her son Jack, who is her greatest achievement.

National Committees

The Institute currently has the following national committees with volunteer members:
  • Executive Committee
  • Nominations Committee
  • Conduct & Discipline Committee
  • Standards & Accreditation Committee
  • Awards Committee


Relationship to TFAAC

As a member of the TFAAC family prior to its incorporation, The Institute operated as the designation body/business unit of The Financial Advisors Association of Canada (TFAAC). Focusing on setting standards for the designation and education world, The Institute serves as the enforcement body for The Institute and Advocis Code of Professional Conduct (CPC).