One designation to rule them all?

By Paul Wilson

ProducersWEB


I wrote a blog recently about some controversial comments made in Australia by Peter Johnston, executive director of the Association of Independently Owned Financial Planners (AIOFP), who referred to the CFP designation as a “cash cow.”

The designation is currently back in the news after American College president and CEO Larry Barton went after incoming Financial Planning Association CEO Lauren Schadel regarding CFP-related comments she made last week. Who knew one little designation could be the source of so much drama?

In the August 22, 2012 issue of InvestmentNews, Schadel said “one profession and one designation is the best way to build the financial planning profession.”

In a press release the next day, Barton labeled Schadel’s remarks as “ill-informed and detrimental to consumers.”

“It is apparent than Ms. Schadel believes that one designation, the Certified Financial Planner designation, is a panacea for all planners. Not true,” Barton says. “FPA also wants to define ‘planning’ as a separate profession instead of recognizing it as the discipline it is, one used throughout financial services. The FPA already has enough challenges, and believing in a monopoly just adds to their headaches.”

He goes on to say that a single designation would be most detrimental to Americans in lower and middle income tax brackets who could not afford fee-only planners.

“Financial planning shouldn’t be artificially defined as a separate profession. Instead, FPA and other organizations should encourage the process of planning to be used as broadly as possible, regardless of the designations an advisor may choose to pursue,” he adds.

Alternative designations mentioned by Barton include the CLU, ChFC, CPA and CFA.

With whom do you side? Is it best to unify under one designation or would this “isolate the hundreds of thousands of advisors who don’t fit [the CFP’s criteria)”?

On the other hand, does the fact that The American College developed the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation affect the credibility of Barton’s argument? (For the record, The American College also provides CFP certification education.)

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Hurry, before another educational ruckus breaks out!