CFP Board to launch marketing campaign to increase certificants by 5%

New $1-million initiative, financed by operating funds, complements public awareness effort

Jan 14, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Credentials, education
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Nearly two years ago, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. launched a major public awareness campaign to raise the consumer name identification of the credential it grants. In 2013, the organization is mounting another big marketing campaign — this one aimed at persuading investment advisers to become CFPs.

The CFP Board wants to increase by about 5% the number of CFP mark holders, which currently totals approximately 67,300 in the United States.

“It's a campaign to market the CFP certificate to existing financial advisers who are not certificants and to job changers,” CFP Board chief executive Kevin Keller said in an interview with InvestmentNews on Friday.

The organization has tapped Marketing General Inc., which specializes in working with trade associations.

Other details have not yet been determined, in part because this is a different approach for the CFP Board, according to Mr. Keller. Previously, the organization's marketing came through the more than 200 educational institutions that offer CFP courses.

The board is committed to promoting its brand among practitioners.

“We will spend more than $1 million in 2013 to grow the number of CFP professionals,” Mr. Keller said.

Unlike the four-year, $40 million public awareness campaign, which is financed by an increase in CFP fees, Mr. Keller does not anticipate a mark-holders will be charged for this year's adviser marketing campaign.

“This will be budgeted out of our operations,” Mr. Keller said. The CFP Board will have a budget of about $29 million in 2013, up from $13 million in 2007, when Mr. Keller was appointed chief executive.

The CFP Board maintains the educational and ethics standards related to the CFP designation and also has an enforcement arm. During Mr. Keller's tenure, the number of CFPs has grown by 24%.

That increase, which occurred despite a severe economic downturn, is in part attributable to the fact that once advisers go through the one- or two-year educational and testing process to get CFP certification, they tend to hang on to the credential. The retention rate is about 97%.

“That helps our growth numbers — that we're not constantly having to replace 10% or 20% who are not renewing each year,” Mr. Keller said.

CFP Board chairman Nancy Kistner said that the organization's growth goal is tied to what she says is an increasing need for competent and professional investment advice.

“We view it as evolving based on public demand,” said Ms. Kistner, managing director and wealth planning solutions market director at U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

The growth effort also underscores the One Profession, One Designation initiative promoted by the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. In December, NAPFA announced that it would accept only CFPs as new members.

While the CFP Board tries to increase its credential market share, the CFA Institute last week launched a new designation called the Claritas Investment Certificate, which can be earned by those who provide support to investment advisers, such as marketing, sales, legal, compliance, operations, human resources and information technology professionals. About 70 companies and 3000 candidates are involved in the pilot program.

The International Association of Qualified Financial Planners grants the QFP designation to financial advisers who possess one of five credentials: the CFP, ChFC, PFS, a master's degree in financial services or a master's with a concentration in financial planning.

Competitors have accused the CFP Board of trying to monopolize the credential market and effectively reduce the number of advisers who are deemed legitimate by the public. Not surprisingly, Ms. Kistner sees her organization's push to make the CFP mark preeminent in a different light.

“In our view, we don't find it limiting at all,” Ms. Kistner said. “We view it as a clarity issue.”


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