Financial planners looking to become certified or renew their CFP certificates beginning Oct. 1, will be subject to some new standards and changes made to the continuing-education program.

Changes to the curriculum include new learning objectives requirements and instructor eligibility requirements designed to provide certified financial planners with more focused and relevant content in required CE classes.

The change in curriculum is partly a response to complaints received from attendees who felt the programs were not a worthwhile use of time. “CFP professionals don’t want to spend their time in a classroom and not learn anything,” she said. “They want it to be valuable and not totally irrelevant to what they deal with,” said Michele Warholic, the CFP’s managing director for exams, education and talent.

To make classes more specific-issue focused, new CFP content guidelines require instructors to spend at least 50 minutes per session hour on an in-depth review of some aspect of the Board’s ethical standards.

Another change involves the use of case studies. Predictions of actions the Board might take can no longer be used with fictitious scenarios that are used to illustrate issues.

In addition to the content changes, the CFP Board now requires all instructors to have held their CFP certification for more than five years and must not be the subject of a pending CFP Board investigation or been the subject of one in the past five years.

The pressure to be viewed as an ethical financial professional has become increasingly important, and the CFP Board mark “is the gold standard” in the financial planning industry, especially with regard to ethics, said Linda Gadkowski, president of ethics for NAPFA.

Not everyone sees the changes as a positive, however. Michael Kitces, director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc., wrote in a blog posting that the new requirements undermine the value of broad-based ethics knowledge and could limit the number of instructors who would be qualified and willing to teach the courses.

But Warholic said the Board isn’t worried about a shortage of instructors, sponsors or participants and so far has only received four inquiries about the new rules.

“We continue to see an increase in programming and instructors,” she said. “We’re seeing new instructors and new sponsors all the time delivering CE courses in a lot of different formats.”

For more articles on continuing education, see:

Staying certified

School’s in: The case for lifelong learning

Ethical standards heightened