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A charter for confusion

Mr R Bullivant, Chartered Insurance Institute

In the PFS Newsletter, you have asked for feedback from members.

Thank you for your letter of October 2005 inviting me to apply for the chartered financial planner title.

This should be a moment when I should be proud to do just that but I feel compelled to write to you to express my disappointment and disgust at the way CII/PFS has conducted itself in bringing about and choosing the name of this title and its pretence at what the title stands for. I will therefore not be applying for the chartered financial planner title.

I have been very pleased that CII and PFS (previously Sofa) have provided a framework of financial advisory exams which have contributed to the uplifting of standards and knowledge in the financial advice market for many years.

I have supported and benefited from this commendable framework of exams and academic excellence; completing FPC in January 1990, AFPC/MSFA in January 1995 and AFSA (now APFS) in January 2002. I am currently working towards the fellowship level (FPFS) where I require just one more half-credit to complete the final stage of my exams.

However, the way in which the CII and PFS have been conducting themselves of late is in a manner which I would not associate with an organisation that holds itself out to be both professional and ethical.

Earlier this year, CII announced that the old Financial Planning Certificate was to be renamed the Certificate in Financial Planning (and since short-ened in the financial press on numerous occasions to CFP).

Now you have chosen for the chartered title the name chartered financial planner (and you, and the Privy Council, state it must not be shortened, presumably to CFP).

In your Financial Solutions newsletter (October 2005), Peter Hales, president of the CII, said: “Chartered financial planner status introduces a new, internationally recognised benchmark of quality and ethical practice for professionals involved in giving financial advice.”

And on the same page of that newsletter, you state (in a slightly inflammatory way): “We must bear in mind that this title is only awarded at degree level and is therefore somewhat higher than the CFP – another reason why a chartered title holder would wish to differentiate themselves from CFP holders by not causing confusion.”

On page 10 of the same newsletter, John Ellis (public affairs director) states: “We said that ‘we will have one set of designations, making it much easier for us to get the message to consumers that membership of the new body is an essential part of selecting an adviser’.”

The CII brochure (May 2005) states: “One of the main aims of the AFPC is to help advisers gain a broad understanding of the core disciplines involved in the provision of high quality financial advice.”

Nowhere in your material promoting the chartered financial planner title or in the guidance notes, chartered financial planner – the peak of the profession booklet, which accompanied the invitation to become a chartered financial planner, is there any requirement for those applying for the title to have displayed any financial planning expertise or qualifications.

So my questions are:

The certificate in financial planning mandatory entry level qualification was shortened on numerous occasions in the financial press to CFP, do you feel that it is likely that the chartered financial planner title will also be shortened to CFP?

Does chartered financial planner status introduce a new, internationally recognised benchmark?

As you surely know, the certified financial planner licence is already an internationally recognised qualification held by 80,000 individuals worldwide and by 500 professional financial planners in the UK and certified financial planner licence holders are also legally able to use the shortened designation CFP.

If chartered financial planner is “a benchmark of quality and ethical practice for professionals involved in giving financial advice”, why then have you decided to call it by the title chartered financial planner?

If “another reason why a chartered title holder would wish to differentiate themselves from CFP holders by not causing confusion”, then why have you chosen a title that will inevitably cause such confusion?

Have you chosen one set of designations making it easier for consumers to select an adviser? Or indeed financial planner?

Will consumers needing strategic financial planning advice (that is, not necessarily requiring any advice about financial products) who approach a chartered financial planner actually receive generic financial planning advice?

You state “One of the main aims of the AFPC is to help advisers gain a broad understanding of the core disciplines involved in the provision of high-quality financial advice.”

So what is there, as part of the minimum requirements to be eligible and apply for chartered financial planner status now, that demonstrates any financial planning expertise or qualifications?

And, as a result of the above, are the CII/PFS truly:

  • Acting in the best interests of consumers?
  • Acting in the best interests of the profession of financial planning?
  • Acting in their own best interests without regard to either or both of the above?

It all seems pretty clear to me (often actions speak louder than words) and it is a great disappointment to me, and I know that I am not alone in thinking in such a way.

The CII and the PFS should urgently review the name given to the chartered financial planner title, it is misrepresentative and misleading and it will cause inevitable and unwarranted confusion for consumers.

Ian O’Connor, APFS, CFP

Certified financial planner

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