April 18, 2011

CFP Board Officially Launches TV, Online Awareness Campaign

Campaign designed to make CFP mark 'the gold standard'; CFP Board continues lobbying efforts on Dodd-Frank

Monday marked the first day that the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards’ large-scale Public Awareness Campaign officially launched on television and online, via such national channels as CNN, Fox News, ESPN, HGTV, MSNBC, and the Travel Channel. Print ads about the campaign have been appearing for the past couple weeks in Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Money, SmartMoney, and The Wall Street Journal.

The CFP Board’s goal in approving the $36 million campaign in November 2010 is partly in response to CFP professionals telling the Board that consumers need to be better informed about CFPs’ role in helping them meet their financial goals. The campaign’s message is “Let’s Make a Plan,” which is supported by www.LetsMakeaPlan.org.

Kevin Keller, CEO of the CFP Board, told reporters during a roundtable discussion at the CFP Board’s headquarters in Washington on Monday, that as a 501c3 non-profit organization, the CFP Board is “advocating for the publics’ interest, not the interests of financial planners, which from time to time causes some confusion.” The CFP Board, Keller continued, is “working on those issues that impact the public at large, especially the elderly.”

The Public Awareness Campaign will also provide clarity to consumers who are looking for guidance on how to choose a financial planner or advisor, which has become harder to do now that there are currently more than “200 designations” for consumers to sift through, Keller (left) said. The CFP Board, he said, wants the “CFP designation to be recognized as ‘the gold standard.’” As of the end of March, 62,600 financial professionals held the CFP mark. The number of CFP certificants, Keller said, has “grown 24 of the last 25 years.” Keller also pointed out that CFPs are business model neutral—that is, CFPs can be fee-only, paid hourly or by assets under management, etc. However, all CFPs must adhere to a fiduciary standard.

The hiking of CFP certificants’ fees has been a somewhat controversial issue, however Tom Crowder, managing director of marketing and business development for the CFP Board, noted at the roundtable the August 2010 study that found 72% of CFP professionals were willing to pay $12 per month to support the Awareness campaign

sponsored by the Board, while the “vast majority” of the remaining percentage were “supportive of a public awareness campaign in general.”

Crowder said the ad campaign is designed to reach consumers that fall into the mass affluent market, which are those with $100,000 to $1 million to invest. 

The cost breakdown of the campaign, according to the CFP Board, is as follows:

  • CFP Board will contribute $9.3 million over two years ($7 million in 2011/$2.3 million in 2012) from its unrestricted net assets (reserves) with additional funding coming from a fee increase.
  • The fee increase for CFP certificants is $145 per year (about $12 per month). All proceeds from fee increase go directly to the campaign.
  • CFP professionals would prefer to their certification fees annually, so the new annual fee of $325 is being introduced in July.
  • Annualized funding for the Awareness Campaign would be approximately $9 million based on the reserve contributions and current number of CFP professionals.
  • The Board of Directors has authorized the campaign for a four-year period, with a formal review at the two-year mark.

Keller noted, too, that the CFP Board—as part of the Financial Planning Coalition—is “working hard to make sure financial planning is a recognized, and regulated, profession.”

Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis (left), managing director of public policy for the CFP Board, added during the roundtable discussion that despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that there was no need for an additional layer of regulation specific to financial planners at this time, the CFP Board, as a member of the Financial Planning Coalition, believes that “there is a need” for financial planners to be regulated.

No doubt this issue will come up when the members of the Coalition—which also includes the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)—meets with staff members of the House Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee on April 27. Mohrman-Gillis said that she and other Coalition members will discuss various issues related to Dodd-Frank during the April 27 meeting, namely fiduciary duty, as well as a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for advisors, which the Coalition is against.
 

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