In a press release this morning, the CFP Board announced the creation of the new "Council on Education" for the purposes of developing a model curriculum, determining continuing education requirements, reviewing course providers, and implementing a peer review process, among other things. Huh? Isn't that what the CFP Board already does!?
The press release, first seen on Financial Advisor Magazine's website, was captioned with the title of "CFP Certification to Get Tougher" - implying that the new process may raise the bar on CFP certification. Notably, the release also implied that the changes may apply to 57,000 current CFP certificants, in addition to new certificants. A full version of the press release can be viewed on the CFP Board's website.
At first, I was quite confused by the press release on the Financial Advisor website. The CFP Board already has a peer review process (albeit one that has been mired in recent controversy, as mentioned briefly in this blog last month). The CFP Board already updates the Topic List for the model curriculum every several years, most recently changing to the current 89 topic list in 2006 in response to the 2004 Job Analysis Survey. The CFP Board already has a continuing education process that is updated over time. So if the CFP Board already has processes to operate and update most of these various areas, why does it sound like they're reinventing the wheel?
A deeper look at the full press release on the CFP Board's website clarifies some of this. It appears that the Council will focus specifically on the development of the education programs for the CFP certification. This will include a focus on registered programs, the actual model curriculum used in the classroom, sponsors for continuing education and the requirements for earning CE, review course providers, and even a peer review process for education programs.
Overall, this sounds like a very positive step. The CFP Board appears to be taking steps to ensure the rigor of the educational programs that deliver the curriculum education to prospective certificants, and also may be taking steps to strengthen its CE program process. In a world where many educational designations and the quality of CE is coming under increasing scrutiny, this appears to be a very positive step for the profession. Certainly, higher standards can also bring about disruptive change, and may tell some people that they can't do anymore what they have always done, but that's a part of progress. If you're a champion for higher standards for the profession, and differentiating the CFP certification from other educational programs, this appears to be a good step.
Nonetheless, I have to admit that my first impulse reading the press release from the Financial Advisor website was quite negative. I read it this morning from Long Beach, California, where I am speaking at the NAPFA National conference, and my first thought was to go across the room and speak with noted industry commentator and guru Bob Veres. Why did I have such a negative initial reaction?
Unfortunately, I think it's been the tendency of the CFP Board over the past 10 years to make dramatic decisions that affect CFP certificants, without necessarily gathering their input first, has put many of us into a frame of mind to expect the worst due to a lack of trust in the decision making process. Perhaps this really is the first step in significantly raising the standards of the profession. But the way Financial Advisor paraphrased the full press release, it sounded far more ominous. Due to years of undermined trust with the CFP certificant community, as a result of poorly communicated impact decisions from the CFP Board, it's difficult to not view everything with a highly skeptical first glance at best. Fortunately, as I've looked into this further, I'm feeling more positive about the latest announcement of the Council on Education. But it's also a strong reminder to me that the CFP Board still has a great deal of work to do to repair their trust relationship with CFP certificants.