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CFP BOARD REPORT
August 20, 2018
In This Issue:
Message from the CEO
Our world is increasingly reliant on digital technologies, and they have transformed the ways we communicate and do business.
At CFP Board, digital technologies have helped us improve our ability to serve our CFP® professionals and candidates for CFP® certification. For verification of our bachelor’s degree requirement, we now accept official electronic transcripts delivered by email from the degree-granting institutions. Our CFP® exam has transitioned from a paper-and-pencil exam to a computer-based format. We continue to work on efforts to streamline our web-based communications and platforms to provide intuitive, easy-to-use processes to apply for and maintain CFP® certification.
Digital technologies have also raised our service expectations. We want to find information with a click or two, or a brief exchange with Alexa or Siri. If we can’t find what we’re looking for with minimal effort, there’s no limit to the other pressing – or not-so-pressing – things that want our attention.
It is important that your clients, and your current or future employers, can verify your CFP® certification. Today, they can do that through CFP Board’s website, by entering your name in the “Verify CFP® Certification” tool and scanning the results.
Later this year, we will introduce a new system that will make that verification process much easier. Digital certificates will allow our CFP® professionals to provide their clients and contacts with one-click access to a verifiable confirmation that they hold CFP® certification.
We are working with a firm that provides bank-level encryption and Blockchain logging that will make it impossible to fake a digital CFP® certificate. And unlike the CFP® certificate hanging on your wall, you’ll be able to share your digital CFP® certificate by embedding a link on your website or in your email signature block, or by using one-click sharing features to share on social media.
Our CFP® professionals work hard to earn and maintain their CFP® certification. As we work to increase the public’s awareness of the value of working with CFP® professionals through our Public Awareness Campaign’s paid advertising and earned media activities, it is important that our CFP® professionals have an easy way to share their achievement. We look forward to sharing with you more details about digital CFP® certificates in the coming months.
Kevin R. Keller, CAE
Chief Executive Officer
Preview New 2018 Public Awareness Campaign Ads during Webinar, August 28
Join CFP Board’s leadership on Tuesday, August 28 at 11:30am (Eastern) for a special preview of the next phase of our Public Awareness Campaign, which has been instrumental in raising awareness of CFP® certification among consumers. Learn how recent research has informed a new brand promise and creative direction, and view the TV, radio, print and online ads that will launch in early September.
>> Register to Attend
CFP Board Ethics CE Program Updated for New Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
CFP Board is pleased to share that pre-approved continuing education (CE) programs on CFP Board’s new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct are becoming available – more than a year before the October 1, 2019 effective date of the new Code and Standards. Beginning this October, all pre-approved Ethics CE programs will address the new Code and Standards. The updated Ethics CE programs will give CFP® professionals the opportunity to become familiar with CFP Board’s Code and Standards prior to its effective date.
Over the past several months, CFP Board has been working with more than 50 current Ethics CE Sponsors to transition Ethics CE programs to content on the new Code and Standards, which were adopted by CFP Board’s Board of Directors in March 2018. The updated Ethics CE programs will feature a new required content package that CFP Board has developed and provided to Ethics CE Sponsors, to ensure CFP® professionals are equipped to understand and comply with the new Code and Standards.
The new content package – developed with the assistance of a blue-ribbon group of CFP® professionals, CE providers and other education experts – contains real life vignettes and case studies to illustrate the applications of the new Code and Standards to the financial planning practice. The standardized content and learning objectives will help ensure that CFP® professionals understand primary elements of the new Code and Standards, including topics like the expanded scope of a CFP® professional’s fiduciary duty when providing financial advice; practice standards for financial planning; required client disclosures; and avoiding, or managing and disclosing conflicts of interest.
The updated Ethics CE programs will continue to be offered as live programs and self-paced online programs by CE Sponsors who have been approved by CFP Board. Because CFP Board requires the new Ethics CE programs to maintain a level of participant involvement throughout the program, paper-based self-study Ethics CE programs will no longer be available after September 30, 2018.
To maintain CFP® certification, CFP® professionals are required to complete 30 CE credit hours each two-year reporting period, including at least 28 credit hours of General CE and 2 credit hours of CFP Board-approved Ethics CE. CFP Board encourages all CFP® professionals to complete an updated Ethics CE program, even those who have already completed an Ethics CE program for their current CE reporting period. When multiple Ethics CE programs completed during the same CE reporting period, the first program satisfies the 2-hour Ethics CE requirement, and additional CE hours are credited toward the 28-hour General CE requirement.
Update on Standards Resource Commission
CFP Board recently formed a Standards Resource Commission to provide guidance to CFP® professionals and firms on the new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, which will take effect on October 1, 2019. Since CFP Board announced the Commission in June, the Commission held its initial meeting and has been working on the development of guidance materials. CFP Board also is pleased to announce that Brian Woldow has joined the Commission. Brian currently leads the Global Wealth & Investment Management Operations and Broker-Dealer Governance Compliance Team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. With this recent addition, there are now fourteen members of the Standards Resource Commission. View the Commission roster >
Join Us at Public Forums on New Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
CFP Board invites you to join us at public forums focused on educating CFP® professionals, firms and the public on the new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, which take effect October 1, 2019. Public forums will be held September 18 in Washington, DC and on September 25-27 in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City and Boston.
These events feature:
- A presentation on the new Code and Standards by a member of CFP Board’s Standards Resources Commission and CFP Board's General Counsel
- Time for dialogue and questions about the new Code and Standards
- The opportunity to provide input on the kinds of resources that CFP® professionals and firms would find helpful in their understanding, adoption and compliance with the new Code and Standards
- Complimentary continental breakfast or refreshments
Details and online registration are available on our website at: www.CFP.net/forums
Focus on Ethics: Avoiding or Managing and Disclosing Conflicts of Interest
CFP Board’s new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (“Code and Standards”), which takes effect on October 1, 2019, specifically addresses a CFP® professional’s obligations concerning Conflicts of Interest. The fourth element of the Code of Ethics states:
A CFP® professional must avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of interest.
This requirement is addressed more fully in Standard A5, which requires a CFP® professional who is providing Financial Advice to make full disclosure of all Material Conflicts of Interest that could affect the professional relationship with a Client and provide sufficiently specific facts so that the Client is able to understand the conflicts and the business practices that give rise to the conflicts and give informed consent to such conflicts or reject them.
A “Conflict of Interest” arises when:
- A CFP® professional’s interests (including the interests of the CFP® Professional’s Firm) are adverse to the CFP® professional’s duties to a Client; or
- A CFP® professional has duties to one Client that are adverse to another Client.
A Conflict of Interest becomes “Material” when a “reasonable Client or prospective Client would consider the information” about the conflict to be “important in making a decision” about the engagement with the CFP® professional, such as whether to retain, or continue to retain, a CFP® professional or whether to implement a recommendation.
In determining whether to infer that a Client has consented to a Material Conflict of Interest:
CFP Board will evaluate whether a reasonable Client receiving the disclosure would have understood the conflict and how it could affect the advice the Client will receive from the CFP® professional. The greater the potential harm the conflict presents to the Client, and the more significantly a business practice that gives rise to the conflict departs from commonly accepted practices among CFP® professionals, the less likely it is that CFP Board will infer informed consent absent clear evidence of informed consent. Ambiguity in the disclosure provided to the Client will be interpreted in favor of the Client.
Informed Consent by the Client: Whether a Client has provided informed consent depends on the facts and circumstances and may be inferred when not explicit. For example, silence after disclosure may constitute informed consent if the disclosure contains sufficiently specific facts that are understandable to a reasonable Client, but may not constitute informed consent if that is not the case. CFP Board intends for its “informed consent” standard to be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with interpretations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. A CFP® professional may refer to regulatory guidance and case law interpretations to gain a deeper understanding of “informed consent.”
Form and Timing of Disclosure: CFP Board recognizes that, in some circumstances, there are logistical challenges to providing written disclosure of Material Conflicts of Interest. Therefore, Standard A5 does not require either the CFP® professional’s disclosure or the Client’s consent to be in writing. However, the standard also makes clear that evidence of oral disclosure of a conflict will be given such weight as CFP Board in its judgment deems appropriate.
In view of the fact-intensive nature of an inquiry into whether a CFP® professional orally disclosed a conflict, and whether a Client provided informed consent, a CFP® professional operating under a Material Conflict of Interest should consider, among other things, (a) avoiding business practices that create Material Conflicts of Interest that are difficult to manage, (b) describing all Material Conflicts of Interest to a Client clearly and in a manner that will allow the Client to understand the conflict, and (c) obtaining written consent to those Conflicts of Interest that a reasonable CFP® professional would consider adverse to the Client’s interests.
While not all Conflicts of Interest may be avoidable, under the new Code and Standards, a CFP® professional must act as a fiduciary at all times when providing Financial Advice to a Client, and the obligation to act in the Client’s best interest remains even when conflicts are present.
On March 29, 2018, CFP Board announced that its Board of Directors unanimously approved a new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (“Code and Standards”), which sets forth the ethical standards for CFP® professionals. The new Code and Standards replaces CFP Board’s current Terminology, Code of Ethics, Rules of Conduct and Financial Planning Practice Standards, effective October 1, 2019. During the time between the announcement date and the effective date of the new Code and Standards, CFP Board will undertake a thorough process to educate and inform CFP® professionals on the new Code and Standards.
Resources Outline Impact of 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on the CFP® Exam
CFP Board has released two resources for CFP Board Registered Programs and CFP® Certification Examination candidates with information about the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on the CFP® exam, beginning with the November 2018 exam administration.
- The new CFP Board Key Elements | Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 document, developed by a diverse group of CFP® professionals brought together by CFP Board, outlines learning objectives that provide guidance on 25 critical elements of the tax law changes, from the perspective of the content covered by CFP® exam.
- The updated Tax Tables document that will be provided to candidates during the November 2018 CFP® exam now reflects 2018 tax law.
In May 2018, CFP Board announced that the November 2018 CFP® exam will be the first to incorporate the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, providing CFP Board’s education partners ample time to integrate the new laws in their coursework, and giving exam candidates adequate time to prepare.
The November CFP® exam testing window is November 6-13, 2018, and registration is open through October 23, 2018. To qualify to sit for the exam, candidates must have successfully completed a course of study from a CFP Board Registered Program. The education verification deadline is October 10, 2018. Learn more and register at www.CFP.net/exam.
CFP® Examination Update
The most recent administration of the CFP® Certification Examination took place during a testing window of July 10-17, 2018. The pass rate for the July 2018 administration of the exam was 56.1%, with 1,613 individuals receiving a passing score. View historical exam statistics at www.CFP.net/exam-statistics.
The July 2018 CFP® exam was the last to test 2017 tax law, and as with other exam administrations that precede significant changes, the number of candidates was high. The 2,877 candidates who sat for the July exam represented the highest number since the November 2011 exam, the last exam before the capstone course requirement took effect.
The final CFP® exam administration of 2018 will take place during the testing window of November 6-13, 2018. The November 2018 CFP® exam will be the first to test the federal tax law changes resulting from the Tax Cuts & Job Acts 2017. Discounted Early Bird Registration is available now through September 12, 2018. Please encourage your qualified colleagues to continue their pursuit of CFP® certification, and remind them to register for the CFP® exam early for the best date and site availability. Learn more and register at www.CFP.net/exam.
Resources for Colleagues on the Path to CFP® Certification
Growth in the number of CFP® professionals strengthens the profession and the certification. Share these resources to help a colleague along the path to CFP® certification.
- Share our Why CFP® Certification guide that outlines the reasons pursuing CFP® certification is a great career move.
- Share the CFP® Exam Candidate Preparation Toolkit, which helps candidates develop study strategies, manage time and build support from employers and peers as they prepare for the CFP® Exam.
- Share this video of CFP® professionals discussing the different pathways they took to gain the professional experience required for CFP® certification.
- Refer your colleagues to CFP Board so we can introduce them to CFP® certification on your behalf.
Financial Planning Coalition Responds to SEC’s Package of Rule Proposals
The Financial Planning Coalition – comprising CFP Board, the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) –submitted three letters addressing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed rule “Regulation Best Interest”; the proposed IA Interpretive Guidance; and the proposed Form CRS Relationship Summary.
This package of proposals provides the SEC the long-awaited opportunity to raise the standard of conduct applicable to broker-dealers who provide personalized investment advice; reaffirm the fiduciary obligation of investment advisers; enhance investor understanding by requiring both broker-dealers and investment advisers to deliver a relationship summary document to retail investors; and reduce investor confusion by restricting the use of certain titles by broker-dealers.
Faced with growing responsibility for their own investment decisions and an increasingly complex universe of financial products and services, Americans today must depend on competent and ethical advisors to help make decisions critical to their financial security. When they seek financial advice, however, they face a marketplace in which it is virtually impossible to distinguish a salesperson from an advisor, or between those advisors who are legally obligated to provide advice in the investor’s best interest versus those who are not. The Coalition supports the goal of helping investors understand the type of financial professional they are dealing with and what they should expect from their relationship.
In the letters submitted to the SEC, the Coalition expresses its concerns regarding the package of rule proposals, and lays out its recommendations to strengthen the proposed rules, including encouraging the Commission to follow the lead of the CFP Board in revising its Standards to extend the fiduciary obligation of a CFP® professional to all Financial Advice.
The Coalition holds a longstanding interest in this issue and in numerous comment letters over the last several years has expressed its support for a fiduciary standard of care for all financial professionals who offer personalized investment advice to retail investors. A clear fiduciary standard equally applicable to all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice, including broker-dealers, would help clarify the investment decisions Americans face every day.
CFP Board in the News
CFP Board’s public relations, earned media and social media activities support CFP Board’s Public Awareness Campaign to increase public recognition of CFP® certification and highlight the importance of working with a CFP® professional when seeking financial advice. The fiduciary duty of CFP® professionals was highlighted in the recent Forbes article, “What The Demise Of The DOL Fiduciary Rule Means For You: 4 Questions To Ask Your Advisor Now.”
Read notable media mentions of CFP Board and the CFP® certification >