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Financial Planning > College Planning

More CFPs Needed but Board ‘Won’t Lower Standards’: CFP Board’s Keller

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There are 70,598 CFPs, “as of today,” said CFP Board of Standards CEO Kevin Keller in an interview Nov. 6 during the Schwab Impact conference in Denver, but that number “is not enough” to meet the demand for professional advice.

Picking up on the buzz in the industry around digital advice providers, or robo-advisors, Keller said that such advice platforms could be a “way to get good advice,” and that the CFP Board’s own board will discuss robo-advisors at its next meeting since “we need to get our arms around” the trend. However, he pledged that the Board “won’t lower standards” to increase the number of CFPs.

In the interview with Keller and Joseph Maugeri, the Board’s marketing and corporate relations director, Maugeri noted that a “subset” of robo-advisors is providing financial planning to consumers, often using CFPs to do so, but noted that “we certify individuals, not firms.”

Keller said the CFP Board’s goal is to make the CFP certification the “must-have for providing and receiving advice,” and that Maugeri’s job is to “get corporations to embrace” that goal, supporting the Board’s own public awareness campaign.

Who are those 70,598 CFPs? “CFPs mirror” the overall advisor demographics, Keller said —“we have more over-70 CFPs than we do under-30s.”

To attract more young people to the advisor ranks, “Joe brought in 23 firms” to speak to the directors of university financial planning programs. That meeting “was eye-opening for both sides,” Keller said, and said the dialogue between the Board, college programs and potential employer companies reflected the Board’s desire to attract more people to the profession as seen in the Career Center the Board launched in October.

The Center, Keller said, is meant to be “not only a repository” of job seekers that employers can use in hiring, but also to provide education and support on “how to onboard new people.” Keller said the CFP Board is “uniquely qualified” to provide that career help, since its “oversees 220” educational programs in addition to certifying those more than 70,000 CFPs.

Maugeri said “companies are terrified” about the looming advisor talent shortage, and noted that all four wirehouses participated in the Board’s registered programs conference. Keller said that those wirehouses increasingly are putting recent college graduates they hire onto teams, which gives them a better chance of success.

What about the controversy over the CFP Board’s compensation rules?

“We want to be sure the public understands” the services they get from advisors and how they are paying for those services, Keller said.

As for the compensation categories, Keller says “the rules are clear, that the board will “continue to monitor” certificants who call themselves fee-only and that the Board will continue as well its “risk-based random” investigations of certificants to make sure they’re adhering to those “clear” rules on compensation.

Asked to comment on the CFP Board’s advocacy efforts in light of the midterm election results, Keller said “much of the work we do” in Washington is with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and pledged that the Board will continue to work with the Financial Planning Coalition (which comprises the CFP Board, the Financial Planning Association [FPA] and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors NAPFA]) and other “fiduciary-friendly organizations” to “get the SEC to act on Section 913” of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Board works with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he said, along with North American Securities Administrators Association, the state securities regulatory association.

“Michael Shaw [the Board’s managing director, Professional Standards & Legal) has met with 35-40 state securities regulators,” Keller said. A goal the Board’s advocacy efforts, Maugeri said, is to “educate” regulators about the importance of the CFP mark for consumers. “We think it’s working,” he said.

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