CFP Board, Under Pressure, Drops CE Plan

Board won’t enter the CE space “at this time”; announces multiyear plan to improve offerings

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CFP professionals are breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards said Wednesday that it would not administer its own continuing education. It did add the caveat, however, “at this time,” leading to more concern from those that hold the CFP mark and other interested parties.

The announcement came as part of a larger release about initiatives it will implement to improve the quality of continuing education for CFPs that it says “will help ensure their continuing competency in providing financial planning services to the public.”

At its November meeting, the board of directors unanimously approved a multiyear plan to upgrade the quality of CE that will engage the CFP Board staff, Council on Education, CE sponsors registered with CFP Board and CFP professionals. The plan does not, at this time, include CFP Board developing and delivering CE programs, it added.

CFP professionals need to have access to the highest quality continuing education programs,” Board of Directors Chairwoman Nancy Kistner said in a statement. “The establishment of appropriate standards for and delivery of continuing education are inherent in CFP Board’s mission to benefit the public. And we believe these initiatives will elevate the quality of continuing education opportunities for CFP professionals in all delivery formats.”

A letter signed by more than 40 faculty members from schools with CFP programs voiced strong concerns about the possibility the board left open to enter the CFP CE space as a provider.

“I want to share the concerns of faculty teaching financial planning in colleges and universities across the country regarding CFP Board's entry into the CE business,” Vickie Hampton, chairwoman of the personal financial planning department at Texas Tech University, wrote in an email to ThinkAdvisor. “Although we are pleased that the Board has decided not to enter the continuing education arena, we are seriously concerned with the caveat 'at this time.'”

“We do not believe the Board should ever become conflicted by offering continuing education as long as it is the regulatory body for the CFP marks," she added.  “We do, however, applaud the Board’s efforts to work with certificants and providers to increase the quality of CE.”

As part of their certification, CFP professionals are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education coursework every two years prior to re-certifying. Of these 30 hours, two of them must be on CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct. There are currently more than 1,400 CE sponsors offering more than 15,000 CE programs registered with CFP Board on an annual basis, of which 60 are focused on CFP Board’s ethical and practice standards.

Over the next three to five years, CFP Board will work “to align CE for CFP professionals with CE standards and program review processes currently used by the established professions.” CFP Board’s implementation of this program will include a number of short- and long-term initiatives to be implemented in partnership with CFP professionals and CE sponsors, including:

  • A complaint procedure for CFP professionals to report issues with CE programs;
  • Updates to the registration processes for CE sponsors and CE programs to establish heightened expectations and quality standards, provide clear learning objectives, and define instructor criteria;
  • Enhanced auditing of CE programs by CFP Board staff, with increased focus on issues related to complaints received from CFP professionals;
  • Collaboration with CE sponsors to redirect the culture of the CE business to focus on quality;
  • A recognition program for CE programs that meet high quality standards and receive positive feedback from CFP professionals; and
  • Updates to CFP professionals on the aggregate results of CFP Board’s auditing of CE programs.

“We have heard from CFP professionals and CE program providers alike that we need to improve the quality of continuing education," said Board CEO Kevin Keller. "We are dedicated to making this happen and have set an aggressive course to meet this goal.”

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Check out the blog post A Commission-Only Crackdown? Really? by Bob Clark on ThinkAdvisor.

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