Most people think that all financial planners are "certified," but this isn’t true. Anyone can call himself or herself a "financial planner." Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks. When selecting a financial planner, you need to feel confident that the person you choose to help you plan for your future is competent and ethical. The CFP® certification provides that sense of security by allowing only those who meet the following requirements the right to use the CFP® certification marks.
As a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP), Rita acts as a fiduciary when providing financial advice to clients, therefore acting in the best interests of clients. A CFP® is required to fulfill the following duties:
- Duty of Loyalty: A CFP® professional must:
- Place the interests of the Client above the interests of the CFP® professional and the CFP® Professional’s Firm;
- Avoid Conflicts of Interest, or fully disclose Material Conflicts of Interest to the Client, obtain the Client’s informed consent, and properly manage the conflict; and
- Act without regard to the financial or other interests of the CFP® professional, the CFP® Professional’s Firm, or any individual or entity other than the Client, which means that a CFP® professional acting under a Conflict of Interest continues to have a duty to act in the best interests of the Client and place the Client’s interests above the CFP® professional’s.
- Duty of Care: A CFP® professional must act with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence that a prudent professional would exercise in light of the Client’s goals, risk tolerance, objectives, and financial and personal circumstances.
- Duty to Follow Client Instructions: A CFP® professional must comply with all objectives, policies, restrictions, and other terms of the Engagement and all reasonable and lawful directions of the Client.
How does CFP Board’s Code of Ethics Benefit me?
Through the Code of Ethics, CFP® professionals agree to act fairly and diligently when providing you with financial planning advice and services, putting your interests first. The Code of Ethics states that CFP® professionals are to act with integrity, offering you professional services that are objective and based on your needs. They are required to provide you with information about their sources of compensation and conflicts of interest in writing.
CFP® Certification Requirements
CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical financial planning knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. Other options for satisfying the education component include submitting a transcript review or previous financial planning-related course work to CFP Board for review and credit, or showing the attainment of certain professional designations or academic degrees.
CFP® professionals must pass a comprehensive two-day, 10-hour CFP® Certification Examination that tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format. Based on regular research of what planners do, the exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance.
CFP® professionals must have three years minimum experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks (or, effective September 2012, two years of personal delivery experience that meets additional requirements). As a result, CFP® professionals possess financial counseling skills in addition to financial planning knowledge.
When it comes to ethics and professional responsibility, CFP® professionals are held to the highest of standards. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics. The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put your interests ahead of their own at all times and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary”—acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients. CFP® professionals are subject to CFP Board sanctions if they violate these standards.
Ongoing Certification Requirements
Once certified, CFP® professionals are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations. Every two years, they must complete a minimum 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients. Two of these hours are spent studying or discussing CFP Board’s Code of Ethics or Practice Standards. In addition to the biennial continuing education requirement, all CFP® professionals voluntarily disclose any public, civil, criminal or disciplinary actions that may have been taken against them during the previous two years as part of the renewal process.
Copyright © 2013, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.