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CFP Board seeks to convince clients its designation is best

C, F and P may be the three most popular letters among advisors.

But even though more than 80,000 professionals have earned the certified financial planner designation the CFP Board sees room to grow and promote the credentials it administers.

The board will soon launch a new advertising campaign aimed at boosting the public's awareness of the CFP designation. It's the board's third large-scale advertising effort.

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About 51% of the board’s new campaign will include television advertisements on channels such as CNN, Fox, Bloomberg, ESPN and the DIY Network.

"Television continues to drive awareness like no other medium," Matt White, CEO of advertising agency White64, said during a CFP Board presentation.

The initiative, known as "With a CFP Professional," will launch on Sept. 4 and will also include online and print advertising.

Increasing public demand for credentialed professionals could add yet more incentives for advisors to study for the CFP exam.

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In fact, the board has seen an increase in advisors earning the designation. In 2017, 4,930 advisors earned the designation, up from 4,722 for the prior year. That figure was also a big increase over the 3,583 advisors who became CFPs in in 2013, according to the board's data.
Based on Cerulli Associates' number of 320,000 advisors nationwide, this now means one in four advisors have a CFP certification.

The advertising campaign costs $11.7 million. The board said $145 of each CFP professionals’ dues were earmarked to fund the effort.

Commercials the public will soon see feature clients at milestone moments, such as the beginning of their career or retirement. Each person featured explains their financial goals while moving through an imaginative space that is filled with objects representing their individual desires.

The print ads will look much the same.

Some planners and firms already see the CFP designation as the go-to professional benchmark.

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“I took the CFP about nine years ago. I have never been as proud to accomplish anything in my life besides having my children,” says planner Monica Dwyer of Harvest Financial Advisors in West Chester, Ohio. “It was more rigorous than the degrees that I received. I like the fact that it is considered the gold standard in terms of certification for financial planners and that the members are held to a fiduciary standard.”

But while a CFP credential is an added bonus to an advisor’s career, it isn’t a requirement in the same way someone would need an M.D. to practice medicine. Dynasty Financial, RBC, Edward Jones and Wells Fargo do not require their advisors have a CFP designation, the firms said. Raymond James also does not require it, but the 7,719-advisor firm does encourage brokers to earn a CFP.

While the board is promoting the credentials, it is also preparing advisors and the public for its newly updated standards.

Those changes, which were unveiled earlier this year and take effect Oct. 1, 2019, sparked heated debate among planners, with some critics pushing for stricter standards of conduct.

"Unless the CFP Board begins to enforce a higher standard, that advertising campaign will fail in the long-run," says advisor and Financial Planning columnist Allan Roth.

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