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CFP Board Touts ‘Amazing’ Boost in Brand Recognition

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In a Saturday interview with the media during the FPA BE national conference in Boston, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards CEO Kevin Keller and Chairman Rich Rojeck expressed their satisfaction with an increase in consumers’ unaided awareness of the CFP designation — awareness that now matches that of CPAs.

Keller called the awareness increase — from 17% in 2011 to 34% in 2015 — “amazing,” and said the leadership of the CFP Board expects that number to go up, especially after it restarts its advertising campaign, which will run on National Public Radio and ESPN.

Keller said the Board had set a five-year goal of reaching 33% awareness among consumers in 2011, and that he expects the board of the organization to increase that goal now that it has been exceeded a year earlier.

The $10 million advertising budget, part of the Board’s public awareness campaign, had prompted some grumbling among CFP certificants when it was first announced. Keller mentioned that the Board has a 97% renewal rate among certificants, pointing out that the percentage has risen “since we raised fees” on certificants, largely to pay for the Board’s advertising campaign. Moreover, Keller said the Board had received “good feedback” from certificants on the awareness campaign.

The numbers on consumer awareness came from a Brand Tracking Report conducted by Ipsos. Unaided awareness measures a person’s knowledge about certifications and designations without prior prompting. The Ipsos study focused on what Keller called the CFP Board’s “target demographic,” i.e., a “mass affluent initiator” (MAI) who has investable assets of $100,000 to $1 million, is 35 to 64 years old, and has a “psychographic,” Keller said, that makes them more likely to seek out the services of a financial professional. Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, the Board’s managing director of public policy and communications, said the MAI tend to “trust experts, like to work with teams” and are “open to advice.”

The May 2015 unaided awareness numbers were: CFP: 34%; CPA: 34%; chartered financial analyst: 12%; chartered life underwriter and chartered financial consultant: 1.2%.

After being prompted about those designations by survey investigators, Keller said 79% of MAIs said they were aware of CFPs, while CPAs got a 95% awareness.

Rojeck and Keller were also heartened by the findings of a more recent telephone survey of 1,002 American consumers conducted in June and released a week ago. While the demographics of those surveyed didn’t match the Board’s MAI target, it did find widespread support for what would be called a fiduciary standard of care. However, 60% said they believed financial advisors acted in their companies’ best interests, while only 25% felt advisors acted in their clients’ best interests. Forty percent of those surveyed said they used a “financial advisor,” loosely defined, and 41% said they felt advisors had become more important over the last five years. The Board conducted a survey with similar questions in 2010. Only 34% of respondents in the recent poll said they expect the economy to improve over the next six months; 44% had that expectation in 2010’s survey. However, 73% of those surveyed felt they were either “somewhat” or “very” prepared for their financial futures, up from 64% in 2010.

Over all, Rojeck said the board of the CFP Board felt confident that they were making good progress on their “AGRA” goals. Those goals include, A, awareness among mass affluent consumers of the value of the CFP; G, growth, by year-end there should be 73,000 CFP certificants in the U.S.; R, for recognition “that we are a profession;” and A for the authority carried by CFPs.

Rojeck said that in light of Cerulli data that 18,000 advisors will retire over the next five years, the CFP demographic remains overly “old, pale and male.” However, he said that at the “Board staff level, we are not worried about” any decline in the number of CFPs. Yes, the median age of a FP member is 53-54, but the Board has seen the average age of CFP test-takers going down. Finally, he admitted concern that among CFP certificants, “we’re not highly diverse, with only 6% of certificants African-American, 6% Hispanic, and 23% women. Regarding women, Rojeck said that the Board’s Women’s Initiative Council (WIN) founded in 2013, is one of the six councils of CFPs “that directly advise the CEO” of the Board.

Keller reported that the Board’s Career Center job board includes 1,000 “active” resumes, with 100-150 jobs posted on the site at any given time.

CFP Board’s source for financial planning jobs is actually called the CFP Board Career Center ) rather than “Career Connection.” 

The Board’s goal regarding membership is to achieve “growth with integrity,” Rojeck said.