Why CFP® Certification Matters
WHY CFP® CERTIFICATION MATTERS
Most people think all financial planners are "certified," but this isn't true -- nor are all certifications the same. Anyone may call him or herself a "financial planner," but only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of the CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks, which represent a high level of competency, ethics, and professionalism. CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct require CFP professionals to look out for your interests above their own.
Unlike many financial advisors, CFP® professionals are required to develop their theoretical and practical knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university with a curriculum approved by the CFP Board. Planning professionals with training outside of the CFP Board’s approved list may meet the education requirement through a review process, which looks at transcripts, previous course work, and other professional designations.
CFP professionals must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Exam, which tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. The exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance. The average pass rate for this difficult exam is only 55 percent to 60 percent. This comprehensive exam ensures that CFP® professionals are highly qualified to develop a plan for your finances.
CFP® professionals must have a minimum of three years’ experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks. This hands-on experience guarantees that CFP® professionals have practical financial planning knowledge, so you can count on them to help you create a realistic financial plan that fits your individual needs.
When it comes to ethics and professional responsibility, CFP® professionals are held to the highest of standards. CFP Board's Code of Ethics outlines CFP® professionals’ obligations to uphold principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence. The Rules of Conduct require CFP professionals to put clients’ interests above their own, 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 sanctions if they violate these standards.
CFP Board's rigorous enforcement of its Standards of Professional Conduct — including releasing disciplinary information to the public — distinguishes the CFP® certification from the many other designations in the financial services industry. Anyone who seeks CFP® certification is subject to a background check, and those whose past conduct falls short of CFP Board's ethical and practice standards can be barred from becoming certified. After attaining certification, a CFP® professional who violates CFP Board's ethical and practice standards becomes subject to disciplinary action, which could include the permanent revocation of certification. Through diligent enforcement of its ethical and practice standards, CFP Board provides you with the confidence that your CFP® professional is both competent and ethical.
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CODE OF ETHICS & PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
CFP Board adopted the Code of Ethics to establish the highest principles and standards. These Principles are general statements expressing the ethical and professional ideals certificants and registrants are expected to display in their professional activities. As such, the Principles are aspirational in character and provide a source of guidance for certificants and registrants. The Principles form the basis of CFP Board's Rules of Conduct, Practice Standards and Disciplinary Rules, and these documents together reflect CFP Board's recognition of certificants' and registrants' responsibilities to the public, clients, colleagues and employers.
Principle 1 – Integrity: Provide professional services with integrity.
Integrity demands honesty and candor which must not be subordinated to personal gain and advantage. Certificants are placed in positions of trust by clients, and the ultimate source of that trust is the certificant’s personal integrity. Allowance can be made for innocent error and legitimate differences of opinion, but integrity cannot co-exist with deceit or subordination of one’s principles.
Principle 2 – Objectivity: Provide professional services objectively.
Objectivity requires intellectual honesty and impartiality. Regardless of the particular service rendered or the capacity in which a certificant functions, certificants should protect the integrity of their work, maintain objectivity and avoid subordination of their judgment.
Principle 3 – Competence: Maintain the knowledge and skill necessary to provide professional services competently.
Competence means attaining and maintaining an adequate level of knowledge and skill, and application of that knowledge and skill in providing services to clients. Competence also includes the wisdom to recognize the limitations of that knowledge and when consultation with other professionals is appropriate or referral to other professionals necessary. Certificants make a continuing commitment to learning and professional improvement.
Principle 4 – Fairness: Be fair and reasonable in all professional relationships. Disclose conflicts of interest.
Fairness requires impartiality, intellectual honesty and disclosure of material conflicts of interest. It involves a subordination of one’s own feelings, prejudices and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests. Fairness is treating others in the same fashion that you would want to be treated.
Principle 5 – Confidentiality: Protect the confidentiality of all client information.
Confidentiality means ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access. A relationship of trust and confidence with the client can only be built upon the understanding that the client’s information will remain confidential.
Principle 6 – Professionalism: Act in a manner that demonstrates exemplary professional conduct.
Professionalism requires behaving with dignity and courtesy to clients, fellow professionals, and others in business-related activities. Certificants cooperate with fellow certificants to enhance and maintain the profession’s public image and improve the quality of services.
Principle 7 – Diligence: Provide professional services diligently.
Diligence is the provision of services in a reasonably prompt and thorough manner, including the proper planning for, and supervision of, the rendering of professional services.