It looks like the CFP Board of Standards isn’t getting into the business of  becoming a continuing education program provider -- at least for now.

The board issued a statement Wednesday announcing “a suite of new initiatives to improve the quality of continuing education for CFP professionals,” notably adding that “the plan does not, at this time, include CFP Board developing and delivering CE programs.”

Asked about CFP Board's future plans for developing CE programs, spokesman Dan Drummond says, "We're still very focused on continuing education, but at this time we're  concentrating on  the quality of CE, and working with our stakeholders to improve it."

Drummond also notes that the newly announced  initiatives would be implemented over a three- to five-year time period.

FPA OPPOSITION

The CFP Board’s flirtation with becoming a continuing education provider earlier in the year stirred considerable controversy in the financial planning community. The CFP Board “cannot justifiably act as both a regulator for continuing education providers and as a CE provider themselves,” FPA president Michael Branham declared at the association’s annual conference in Orlando in October.

In a subsequent blog post on the Financial Planning website, Branham wrote that the CFP Board’s “potential foray into the CE marketplace is a bad idea that could cause irreparable damage to the CFP designation and the future of the profession. If the CFP Board were to enter a competitive landscape with more than 1,200 CE providers -- a list that includes the FPA -- it would raise serious conflict-of-interest concerns.”

The FPA responded to the CFP Board announcement Wednesday with a statement saying it "fully supported" the CFP Board's resolution; it did not mention the CE provider controversy.

CFP BOARD PLANS

The CFP Board says it will be “working to align CE for CFP professionals with CE standards and program review processes currently used by the established professions.”

It says its short- and long-term initiatives will include:

  • A complaint procedure for CFP professionals to report issues with CE programs.
  • Updates to the registration processes for CE sponsors and CE programs to establish heightened expectations and quality standards, provide clear learning objectives and define instructor criteria.
  • Enhanced auditing of CE programs by CFP Board staff, with increased focus on issues related to complaints received from CFP professionals.
  • Collaboration with CE sponsors to redirect the culture of the CE business to focus on quality.
  • A recognition program for CE programs that meet high quality standards and receive positive feedback from CFP professionals.
  • Updates to CFP professionals on the aggregate results of CFP Board’s auditing of CE programs.

“We have heard from CFP professionals and CE program providers alike that we need to improve the quality of continuing education,” Kevin Keller,  the CFP Board’s chief executive officer  said in  a statement. “We are dedicated to making this happen and have set an aggressive course to meet this goal.”
CONCERNS PERSIST

Today’s announcement still raised concerns within the financial planning community, however.

Vickie Hampton, a professor and chair of the Personal Financial Planning department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, says she and other faculty teaching financial planning in colleges and universities across the country “are seriously concerned with the caveat ‘at this time’ in the CFP Board announcement.”

Hampton and more than 40 financial planning professors sent a letter to the board on Tuesday saying, “we do not believe the board should ever become conflicted by offering continuing education as long as it is the regulatory body for the CFP marks. We do, however, applaud the board’s efforts to work with certificants and providers to increase the quality of CE.”

Currently, CFP professionals are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education coursework every two years prior to re-certifying, including two hours dedicated to the CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct.

There are presently more than 1,400 CE sponsors offering more than 15,000 CE programs registered with CFP Board, including 60 focusing on CFP Board’s ethical and practice standards.

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