I stand corrected. In my December 26 ThinkAdivsor blog, I offered four trends for advisors to watch for in 2014, including “A Big Year for the CFP Board: This year, look for the Board to repair its public image…” Well, we’re not even out of January yet, and the CFP Board’s “year of not doing anything dumb” is already over.
Those readers of Melanie Waddell’s and Michael Kitces’ work will know I’m referring to the Board’s January 9th announcement of a new CFP Exam that will now be given on a “computer based testing platform,” given at 250 test sites (compared to the 50 current sites, “offering individuals more accessibility to complete initial certification requirements”) and that will provide “a greatly improved experience that tests their knowledge of financial planning.”
Critics such as Kitces (in his January 14 “Nerd’s Eye View” blog, and the CFPs interviewed by Waddell (January 17 ThinkAdvisor.com “Did CFP Board Shorten Exams to Lure Certificants?”) cite other features of the new exam: the testing time will be shortened 40%, from the current 10 hours over two days to six hours in one day, and the number of questions will be decreased a corresponding 40%, from 285 to 170. While the Board has offered an explanation of sorts for the changes, and proferred assurances of “retaining the rigor of the CFP Certification Examination,” these critics remain skeptical of both the quality of the new exam and the Board’s motivation for the changes. While I’m no expert on professional testing, I do know a thing or two about media relations: and in the Board’s long history of subpar PR, this fiasco has to rate right down at the bottom of the list.
To begin with, the Board’s own press release makes no mention of the decrease in test questions—only the shortened hours—leaving one with an impression of the less-than-full-disclosure we’ve come to expect from less-than-professional financial advisors. Not a good start for a body that purports to enforce the ethical standards of CFPs.
Then it get’s worse.