Standards of Professional Conduct - CFP Board

About CFP Board


Standards of Professional Conduct

As part of the CFP® certification process and the terms and conditions imposed upon certificants and registrants, CFP Board maintains professional standards necessary for competency and ethics in the financial planning profession, as outlined in CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct.

Through its Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility (Code of Ethics), CFP Board identifies the ethical principles certificants and registrants should meet in all of their professional activities. Through its Rules of Conduct, CFP Board establishes binding professional and ethical norms that protect the public and advance professionalism. CFP Board's Financial Planning Practice Standards (Practice Standards) describe the best practices expected of certificants engaged in financial planning and refer to those sections of the Rules of Conduct that provide ethical guidance. Through its Disciplinary Rules and Procedures (Disciplinary Rules), CFP Board enforces the Code of Ethics, Rules of Conduct, and Practice Standards and establishes a process for applying the Standards of Professional Conduct to actual professional activities.

Code of Ethics

CFP Board adopted the Code of Ethics to establish the highest principles and standards. These principles are general statements expressing the ethical and professional ideals certificants and registrants are expected to display in their professional activities. As such, the principles are aspirational in character and provide a source of guidance for certificants and registrants. The principles form the basis of CFP Board's Rules of Conduct, Practice Standards and Disciplinary Rules, and these documents together reflect CFP Board's recognition of certificants' and registrants' responsibilities to the public, clients, colleagues and employers.

Rules of Conduct

The Rules of Conduct establish the high standards expected of certificants and describe the level of professionalism required of certificants. The Rules of Conduct are binding on all certificants, regardless of their title, position, type of employment or method of compensation, and they govern all those who have the right to use the CFP® marks, whether or not those marks are actually used. The universe of activities engaged in by a certificant is diverse, and a certificant may perform all, some or none of the typical services provided by financial planning professionals. Some Rules may not be applicable to a certificant's specific activity. As a result, when considering the Rules of Conduct, the certificant must determine whether a specific Rule is applicable to those services. A certificant will be deemed to be in compliance with these Rules if that certificant can demonstrate that his or her employer completed the required action.

Violations of the Rules of Conduct may subject a certificant or registrant to discipline. Because CFP Board is a certifying and standards-setting body for those individuals who have met and continue to meet CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements, discipline extends to the rights of registrants and certificants to use the CFP® marks. Thus, the Rules are not designed to be a basis for legal liability to any third party.

Practice Standards

The Practice Standards describe best practices of financial planning professionals providing professional services related to the six elements of the financial planning process. Each Standard is a statement relating to an element of the financial planning process, followed by an explanation of the Standard and its relationship to the Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct. CFP Board developed the Practice Standards to advance professionalism in financial planning and enhance the value of the financial planning process, for the ultimate benefit of consumers of financial planning services.

Disciplinary Rules

The Disciplinary Rules describe the procedures followed by CFP Board in enforcing the Rules of Conduct. The Disciplinary Rules provide a fair process pursuant to which certificants are given notice of potential violations and an opportunity to be heard by a panel of other professionals.

Fitness Standards for Candidates and Professionals Eligible for Reinstatement

The Fitness Standards for Candidates and Professionals Eligible for Reinstatement describe the specific character and fitness standards for candidates for certification to ensure an individual’s conduct does not reflect adversely upon the profession or the CFP® certification marks.


CFP Board's rigorous enforcement of its Standards of Professional Conduct — including releasing disciplinary information to the public — distinguishes the CFP® certification from the many other designations in the financial services industry. Everyone who seeks CFP® certification is subject to a background check, and those whose past conduct falls short of CFP Board's ethical and practice standards can be barred from becoming certified. After attaining certification, a CFP® professional who violates CFP Board's ethical and practice standards becomes subject to disciplinary action up to the permanent revocation of certification. Through diligent enforcement of its ethical and practice standards, CFP Board provides the public with the confidence that CFP® professionals are both competent and ethical.


To assist CFP® professionals in understanding and complying with the Standards, CFP Board has developed a number of resources, including:

  • Compliance Checklist
  • Sample Client Disclosure and Agreement Forms
  • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
  • Multimedia Presentations
  • Webinar Events
  • Anonymous Case Histories providing summaries of actual disciplinary cases

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Did You Know?

Among clients who work with an advisor, 87% of those working with a CFP® professional are satisfied or very satisfied, compared with 72% of those who work with an advisor without certification.
Anyone can call themselves a “financial planner.” Only professionals who meet CFP Board’s rigorous standards can call themselves CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
The 2013 Household Financial Planning Survey shows that those with a financial plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those without a plan.