Eighty three percent of registered voters polled by the Financial Planning Coalition say they support increased regulation for financial planners. This held true even among 44% of respondents who say they have used a financial planner in the past, according to the results of a survey that the coalition released last week.

The Financial Planning Coalition is made up of three industry organizations: the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards, the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. It collaborated with the Global Strategy Group to do an online survey in January of 404 voters in the Washington, D.C. area. “We are fiercely advocating the pro-consumer aspect of regulation,” Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, managing and public policy director for the CFP Board said in an interview. “We wanted to demonstrate that there is public support for pro-consumer regulation.” 

In conjunction with the survey, the coalition put its key findings in a letter to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs urging lawmakers to back their longtime goal of establishing federal oversight of all professionals who practice financial planning. “There is broad support for the regulations proposed by the Financial Planning Coalition, which would include provisions to ensure that financial planners pass tests measuring competency, establish ethical guidelines for the industry and discipline financial planners who fail to follow these set regulations,” according to the letter. “We urge you to introduce language directing the formation of a financial planning oversight board in upcoming financial reform legislation. New standards to increase the requirements for becoming a licensed financial planner will help reduce current unethical practices, and protect consumers and their hard-earned investments.”
Last November, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the committee, introduced financial reform legislation. It has not come before the full Senate. 

According to the survey, 91% of voters agreed that regulations and standards for financial planners are necessary to prevent abuse and to better serve consumers. Specifically, that same group of respondents said they agreed with the coalition’s goals to propose legislation that ensures financial planners pass tests measuring competency; establishes ethical guidelines, has the ability to discipline financial planners who fail to follow the guidelines, and makes all of the information available to consumers.

Fifty-four percent of voters also said they held a favorable opinion of financial planners which was higher than that of investment advisors (39%) and stock brokers (22%). Among voters who say they have used a financial planner in the past, 46% want the same amount of regulation, and 1% says they would like to see less. Only 7% of respondents overall said they did not support increased regulation for financial planners, mainly because they generally oppose government regulation of industry under any circumstances, said Scott Elder, principal of New York City-based Global Strategy Group.

“We were very pleased to see that the public supports regulation to make sure that they are not defrauded or misled by those who hold themselves out to be financial planners,” Mohrman-Gillis said.