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The CFP Board is overhauling conduct standards. Do you even care?

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A revamp of the CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct is long overdue, but the effort is largely missing a crucial element: input from ordinary advisors.

Having completed its public hearings, the CFP Board's Commission on Standards will likely create the most significant version of CFP standards to date. It will govern over 75,000 advisors in the U.S. who hold the mark.

So when I attended on July 27 one of eight meetings held across the country by the board at the Marriott Marquis in San Diego, I expected to be among dozens of planners.

You can imagine my surprise when instead I arrived to find just a group of 20 — including seven attendees representing the board.

I wondered if the small gathering was due to membership apathy or the CFP Board not adequately promoting the tour. The board certainly wasn’t expecting a big crowd since it only reserved a small meeting room, though the meeting was supposed to gather public comments. Was this just for show?

Read more: CFP Board appeals for feedback on revised conduct standards

Among the smattering of attendees were Rich Rojek, who once headed the board's standards group, and Tom Warschauer, finance professor at San Diego State University.

Rojek’s comments fueled a discussion centered on the new definition of planning: "Financial planning is a collaborative process that helps maximize a client’s potential for meeting life goals through financial advice that integrates relevant elements of the client’s personal and financial circumstances."

He didn’t care for the inclusion of the words "life goals." He felt not every financial planning engagement necessarily included them.

Here are some key points of discussion that you missed:

1. The fiduciary duty will extend to all financial advice.

2. A CFP is considered providing financial planning when the client has a reasonable basis to believe the professional is doing so.

3. Whether you only provide financial advice or planning, you must be a fiduciary. Advisors don’t necessarily need to do financial planning to provide advice, but if you are doing financial planning, you are always considered to be providing financial advice.

4. There are instances when advisors are not held to the fiduciary standard. For example, in a group meeting for a 401(k) plan, since they are not educating individual employees.

Click here for a document to compare proposed revisions to the current standards.

Any changes will affect thousands of advisors yet only a handful showed up. Many CFPs complain about the board and its policies. Well, you don’t have the right to complain if you don’t bother showing up to voice your opinion.

You have one channel left to be heard: Add your comments online through August 21 on the CFP website here.

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