Consumer Research Drives Relaunch of CFP Board’s Financial Planning Website
CFP Board enhances consumer-facing website, letsmakeaplan.org with a complete redesign, improving functionality and expanding content to benefit consumers
Relying on extensive consumer research and user testing, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) recently launched its redesigned and updated consumer-facing website, LetsMakeAPlan.org (LMAP). The refreshed website includes updated content and a modernized interface with a mobile friendly design to improve user experience, educate consumers on financial planning concepts and provide resources to find and evaluate CFP® professionals.
CFP Board partnered with Heart + Mind Strategies LLC to conduct an intensive consumer research study from June-September 2020 to inform the redesign of the website. The research found that consumers preferred that LMAP provide content that enables them to gain a better understanding about financial planning, information on how to evaluate the best way forward with a financial professional, and guidance in searching for a CFP® professional that fits their circumstances.
CFP Board constructed the new website to account for these areas. CFP Board expanded LMAP’s content to cover topical knowledge and guidance that consumers are seeking from a financial planner, including retirement planning, investment advice and management, and tax and estate planning. The resources for finding and evaluating a CFP® professional also feature an updated set of questions to prepare consumers for a possible engagement with a financial planner, which can be used as the basis for a conversation with a financial planner.
“The LetsMakeAPlan.org website was created in 2011 specifically to support consumer awareness of financial planning and access to CFP® professionals, making it vital to include the consumer’s voice in the redesign of the site,” said CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller, CAE. “This consumer driven approach follows the recommendation made in 2019 by our Independent Task Force on Enforcement that CFP Board should conduct consumer testing on LMAP.”
Our research suggested that consumers need, but often lack, knowledge on how to pay a financial planner, if they can afford financial planning and how to assess if the return is worth the investment. The redesigned website provides new educational information and guidance on the different ways a client may pay a financial planner. In a future site update, CFP Board will be adding a feature that will add new information to CFP® professionals’ listings about how a consumer pays for the planner’s services, such as hourly fees, flat fees or a percentage of assets under management, among other options. These payment types will also be included in an optional search filter for the “Find a CFP® professional tool.
“Last March, CFP Board removed compensation method information from the listings of CFP® professionals on the ‘Find a CFP® Professional’ tool,” added Keller. “There were several reasons for our removal of compensation method information, including CFP Board’s neutral stance on business models and compensation methods. The fact of the matter is that the three compensation method categories previously in the listings may have been understandable to advisors but may not have been meaningful for consumers. Consistent with our communications on this topic in March, we conducted consumer research to address this, and as a result, our redesigned site now provides educational content on how to pay for financial planning services.”
LMAP will continue to include the disciplinary history of CFP® professionals as well as a direct link to the certificant’s profile in FINRA’s BrokerCheck and the SEC’s IAPD (Investment Adviser Public Disclosure) websites. This disclosure on LMAP also encourages consumers to visit their state securities regulator’s website for more information about brokers and investment advisers, their state insurance department website for more information about insurance professionals, as well as the website for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for more information about any enforcement actions against individuals who are subject to OCC oversight.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is the professional body for personal financial planners in the U.S. CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification – one of the most respected certifications in financial services – so that the public has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning. CFP Board, along with its Center for Financial Planning, is committed to increasing the public’s awareness of CFP® certification and access to a diverse, ethical and competent financial planning workforce. Widely recognized by firms and consumer groups as the standard for financial planning, CFP® certification is held by more than 87,000 people in the United States.
Director, External Communications