If the CFP Board’s goal in proposing to offer CE credit itself is to improve continuing education credit, there are many strategies available. Perhaps the most important is simply to recognize that ultimately, the quality of continuing education lies not in the slides that a presenter at a planners’ conference uses, but in the presenting speaker himself.
That means that the CFP Board needs to do more to scrutinize who is delivering the CE credit in the first place. To oversee educational presentations without scrutinizing the educator is like overseeing financial planning by ignoring the financial planners and just reviewing their written financial plans; in both cases, the reality is that even good materials are useless in the hands of an untrained and inexperienced planner or educator, while the best in both categories may rely little on their written materials if at all while delivering a quality experience.
To improve CFP continuing education, then, the key step is for the CFP Board to shift from merely reviewing presentations and content, to reviewing the presenters of the information.
For instance, many state insurance departments require that the speaker have a graduate degree in the subject matter (or some comparable advanced designation or certification), or five+ years of experience before being approved as an educator. By contrast, the CFP Board has no apparent speaker requirements whatsoever. In addition, the CFP Board could require that when event organizers submit names for CFP CE credit after a presentation is delivered, the organization must also submit the evaluation results of the speaker regarding his/her topic, expertise, presentation skills, supporting materials, and whether the speaker was objective and avoided selling financial products.
Consistently low scores, or a consistently high comment rate from attendees that the speaker was selling his/her products, could result in a “three strikes and you’re out” policy where persistently bad speakers or sponsoring organizations would ultimately be denied offering CE credit altogether. I suspect major financial services firms would be far more likely to oversee for themselves who they put up on the podium if there was a risk that inappropriate wholesaler sales-pitch presentations could get the organization barred from delivering CE credit!
Reviewing speakers after their sessions and gathering the results of evaluation forms could also be fed into a central “Speaker’s Clearinghouse” maintained by the CFP Board, allowing conference organizers to search the database to screen presenters based on their scores, or to identify top educators to contact for their own upcoming events. This would allow the best CE providers to naturally rise to the top, the low quality to decline into obscurity, and ensure that problematic speakers who deliver sales-pitches-in-lieu-of-presentations can’t just keep hopping from one organization to another delivering poor content that fails to deliver value to attendees and sours certificants on the benefits of quality continuing education.
An Unmanageable Conflict Of Interest
Given the avenues available to improve the quality of CFP continuing education by improving the oversight of speakers and the results/outcomes of presentations, it’s hard to see why the CFP Board’s “potential” proposal to begin offering CFP CE credit directly to certificants is an appropriate course of action. Althoughthe organization’s willingness to at least broach the conversation and look before it leaps is commendable and consistent with Keller’s leadership in recent years, the prospective conflict of interest for this initiative is quite significant. After all, continuing education sponsors operate at the sole discretion of the CFP Board, which has the unilateral right to approve, control, or revoke the sponsor’s status, and approve or deny any/every presentation the sponsor submits.