WASHINGTON -- The number of colleges and universities offering bachelor's degrees in financial planning has expanded considerably, but the field is still struggling to come into its own as an academic discipline, CFP Board officials said at the group's conference last week for registered educational programs.

In response, the board is marshaling its resources to bolster the academic community, says CEO Kevin Keller. The centerpiece of those efforts is a planned financial planning center that Keller says will aim "to define and support a true career path in financial planning."

"We think that it is vital to the continuing emergence of the profession of financial planning," Keller says. "We envision a future where the financial planning center can be the academic home for financial planning faculty."

The plans for the academic center, to be housed in the CFP Board's Washington office, come as the group is seeking to foster collaboration between academia and industry. To that end, the board invited advisory firms to send representatives to this year's registered program conference, and convened a "speed-dating" session in which faculty members and industry officials could compare notes on how to expand the pipeline of entrants into the planning field.

"We believe that CFP Board is uniquely positioned to build bridges between the academic community and the firms," Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, the CFP Board's managing director of public policy and communications, said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. "So one component of the center is to do just that."


The next step for the financial planning center will likely come in November, when the CFP Board's board of directors meets. Mohrman-Gillis says she expects the board to discuss moving forward with the center, although she says it is too early to tell whether the panel will formally greenlight the project.

Along with the center, the CFP Board is working with the publisher John Wiley & Sons to launch a peer-reviewed academic journal devoted exclusively to scholarship on the field of financial planning.

That journal, Mohrman-Gillis explains, seeks "to expand the body of knowledge for the financial planning profession, to allow for ... more in-depth research on both the theory and the practice of financial planning."

The CFP Board's financial planning center and the academic journal could, at least in part, help address the challenges that some faculty members face as they look to build out their programs, Mohrman-Gillis says.

"Essentially, to expand in the academic world you have to do research," she says. "It has to be peer-reviewed research and it has to be of a very high quality.

"So this is to create sort of a journal, if you will, that will allow for publication for faculty," she adds. The intention, she says, is "to advance the opportunity for financial planning faculty to have positions in more universities and colleges throughout the country -- and then to address the career path for financial planners. At this point in time, there's a lot of work that needs to be done."

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