Where do you stand on the value of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification? Controversial comments from Association of Independently Owned Financial Planners (AIOFP) executive director Peter Johnston that the CFP is a “cash cow” have stirred up a passionate debate amongst the financial planning community.
The Wealth Professional online forum has been inundated with responses to Johnston’s comments, with passionate comments coming from financial advisers on both sides of the CFP debate.
Cameron McAusland kicked off the debate by commenting that “any industry that requires further education comes at a price – what does Mr Johnston expect? I get frustrated with people having a go at the FPA or the AFA when the goal is to improve the education levels of all industry participants.”
Roger Armitage, however, followed up with the statement that he is “not a fan of the FPA or the CFP”.
“I have two points about the FPA and the CFP,” he wrote. “Firstly, there is no tertiary institution in Australia that I am aware of that will not allow a mature age student entry into a post grad course based on industry experience without an undergraduate degree. The FPA have positioned themselves above Australia's universities in this.”
“Secondly, I would like to see some stats from the FPA about how many current CFP's received their mark due to being FPA members in the early days rather than any study or qualifications. I bet there are a lot of senior planners who fall into this category.”
Sonya Treble raised her objections to “not being able to publicise that you carry the qualification without paying for your membership with the FPA”.
“I was the one who paid for the courses, studies the materials and passed the exams to achieve the qualification,” she wrote. “Once you have a degree or qualification from another institution, (e.g. uni), you have it for life. A Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Law for instance (both of which I have) are not contingent on my being a member of any professional organisation. I think is totally outrageous and have objected to it for years to no avail.”
Numerous readers, however, went on to defend the FPA’s role in lifting the standards of the financial advice profession.
Peter O'Toole, for example, questioned the validity of Johnston’s comments.
“Peter Johnston's negative comments regarding the value of the CFP designation are not factually based,” he wrote.
“Research shows that the vast majority of CFPs believe that the designation enhances their reputation. Peter’s comments, as pointed out by another participant in this discussion, are in any case trying to have a bit each way.
“The FPA is a member based non-profit organisation working for the public interest and its members. Its overriding objective is to raise the standing of financial planners to that of a universally respected profession. The negativity of some of these comments is inexplicable. The road to a respected profession is not necessarily smooth as demonstrated by this debate. We all have the right to our individual views but they should be factually based & constructive.”
John Hewison added that “without doubt, the FPA has been the driving force for a lift in professional standards and the achievement of credibility for the financial planning profession in this country”.
“The FPA is a not-for-profit organisation and part of the cost of continually developing the standard, including the CFP program, requires funding. The FPA does not obtain government funding like education institutions so the comparison is ludicrous.
“I hold a Masters degree in financial planning but I treasure the CFP mark as a symbol of relevant specialist education and a commitment to professional standards and discipline – all of which comprise the elements of a profession. The only pay-back I expect is the recognition by my clients that my colleagues and I have attained the appropriate standards that they should expect from their professional adviser.
“What the FPA has achieved over 20 years is to be applauded and most recently the recognition by government and the regulator for the need to lift the legal standard for licensees. I would have thought that responsible industry players would have the good sense to recognise the FPA's fine work both here and on the international stage in respect to the development of a profession. Of course it is much easier to criticise for the sake of one's vested interest.”
Former FPA chairman Ray Griffin followed up with an impassioned defence of the CFP certification, which addressed Johnston’s criticisms. He argued that “any argument against the CFP designation which is based on clients not asking a planner if they hold the CFP designation, quite simply, misses the point”.
“It could well be that some potential new clients will already know that the planner they are about to me for the first time is a CFP. They could, for example, glean such information from websites and FSGs, just to name two areas,” he wrote.
Click here to read Griffin’s comments in full.
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Former FPA chairman hits back at CFP criticism