CFP Board cracks down on continuing-ed courses

After receiving complaints about some CE offerings, the standards board has started randomly assessing continuing education courses each month

Apr 14, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

By Lisa Shidler

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. has begun randomly auditing up to 50 continuing-education courses each month following criticism from advisers about substandard courses they've taken.

“We had concerns we received from different professionals at events and meetings, and they made comments about the CE quality and consistency across the board,” said Michele Wetherald, managing director of examinations and talent for the CFP Board. “We take CE courses very seriously.”

As a result of these complaints, the CFP Board in January began conducting an audit of 5% of all proposed classes each month, up to 50. So far, Ms. Wetherald said, more than 90% of the courses have met its standards. Those that didn't had only minor problems such as needing to remove a few slides or add educational material.

“Our goal with the audit compliance is, we want to make sure that when we accept it for credit, that the CFP professional knows it's been accepted by us and held to rigorous standards,” she said.

The CFP Board accepted 5,742 hours of continuing-education programming from Jan. 1 through April 13.

To maintain a CFP license, advisers must take 30 hours of continuing-education courses every two years. They must also have at least two hours of ethics programming within those 30 hours.

When a proposed CE course is audited, officials explain to vendors that it is a random audit, said Vanessa Williamson, education and qualifications manager for the CFP Board. “What we've found to date is, the programs look good and are in compliance with the CFP Board. We've had a few instances in which we've offered friendly reminders on things to keep an eye out on.”

The added scrutiny on these courses is necessary, said James Barnash, a consultant with Stride Consulting Inc., which works with about 35 advisory firms. He points out many of the internet-based solutions aren't providing quality education for advisers.

“Advisers are not learning from them,” he said. “Advisers are taking these courses, but they're not learning anything.”

Michael Kitces, an adviser with Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc., which manages about $750 million in assets, also said many of the continuing-education classes aren't quality courses.

“There's lots of CE out there, and it's not very good, and it's not very relevant," he said. "We talk about CE being commoditized. But good educational content is not a commodity, and it's hard to find.”

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