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New Advisor Designation Drawing Criticism

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Michael Kitces headshot of financial planner

The College for Financial Planning’s new Accredited Behavior Financial Professional (ABFP) designation is causing at least a few industry experts to wonder whether there is actually a need for such an accreditation.

“I’m a fan of education, but did we really need another set of letters — ABFP for “Accredited Behavioral Financial Professional” — to make the point?” Michael Kitces, head of planning strategy at Buckingham Wealth Partners and co-founder of XY Planning Network, tweeted Saturday.

“Would clients even seek this” designation when selecting a financial advisor, Kitces went on to ask.

In response, Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners, tweeted: “Behavioral finance is like financial planning but more so: don’t talk about it to clients and try to convince them they need it, just do it….. I’m not discounting the value of BeFi at all…my point is it’s not a consumer friendly term and I’m not a fan of the ‘we’re here to save you from yourself’ approach (even if that’s exactly what some people need).”

And Chris Reddick, owner of Chris Reddick Financial Planning in San Antonio, Texas, tweeted in response: “This is the problem with the industry [too] many certifications. This is confusing to the public.”

But Kitces’s colleague, Jeffrey Levine, director of advanced planning at Buckingham Wealth Partners, disagreed: “Judging from the comments to Michael’s post, it looks like I might be in the minority, but I’m genuinely interested in this program. As for letters… I don’t really know. If content is deep enough and it’s a meaningful accomplishment to complete, I’m ok w/ it. Otherwise, nah.”

The College for Financial Planning, which is owned by Kaplan, recently launched an accredited behavioral finance training program for advisors that awards graduates of its eight-week course with an ABFP designation.

The program is available through Kaplan College’s online learning platform and includes live online and on-demand classes, electronic course books and publications as well as HD videos, module quizzes and practice and final exams.

Kaplan did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.